Oren J Mechanic at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center

Oren J Mechanic, MD, MBA, MPH, director of telehealth and medical director of Harvard Medical School Physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, is one of 10 up-and-coming healthcare leaders featured in the feature annual Managed Healthcare Executive .

Oren J Mechanic, MD, MBA, MPH

I grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, a small college town that lives and breathes Carolina basketball. My ambitions and my love for my hometown carried me for eight years to the University of North Carolina for my bachelor’s and medical degrees. I earned an MPH in Dartmouth and then trained at the Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), where I earned a fellowship in health policy and management. I practiced clinically at BIDMC and was a core faculty member of the Clinical Skills Assessment Course at Harvard Medical School.

I am currently the Director of Telehealth at Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians, an organization focused on the innovative development and implementation of local telehealth that has provided over 500,000 virtual visits since the onset of COVID-19.

Why did you decide to pursue a career in healthcare?

In college, I was a night shift clerk at a local emergency department. Clinical care quickly became a passion, and I longed to be at the bedside of everyone who went to the emergency room. This desire finally came true during his medical studies. There is nothing more rewarding than providing medical care to a patient at the bedside.

The inner workings of the health system were also revealing. From pre-authorization forms to EHRs (electronic health records), healthcare operations seemed cumbersome. I wanted to better understand aspects of care that were rarely covered in medical school. As such, I pursued an MPH and MBA and gained perspective on everything from research methodology and quality improvement models to revenue cycle and compliance.

Ultimately, my passion for healthcare is to provide exceptional patient care and experiences; being an operational director and a doctor gave me this opportunity.

What professional achievement are you most proud of and why?

I am proud of our organization’s success in providing access to innovative care for our patients during the pandemic. We systematically engaged stakeholders, including clinicians, patients, families, and interpreters, to launch a new virtual visitation platform, while tracking its outcomes, equity, safety, and workflows. It was a daunting task, considering the short time we had. But with foresight and preparation, a few telehealth visits quickly grew to nearly 600,000. Innovation continues as we explore new ways to deliver care, like remote patient monitoring, artificial intelligence and asynchronous medicine.

What is the hardest part of your current job?

Telehealth has been a beacon for access to care for patients. While it has had significant success, I fear the ever-changing landscape of parity and regulations is discouraging some of our nation’s advances in virtual care. Our clinicians, hospital systems and patients have embraced telehealth and are working to ensure that it remains of paramount importance to the body.

What is your organization doing to address equity in health care?

One of our corporate initiatives is to reduce disparities in care. Telehealth has been an opportunity to improve access. In support of our primary care and geriatrics clinic, for example, we have implemented a patient navigation program to reach patients who have not had successful video visits. Our program has identified thousands of patients and onboarded them to the platform before their appointments, increasing video visits, reducing the time clinicians spend on technical troubleshooting, reducing missed appointments, and improving access to care, especially for vulnerable and underserved patients.

If you could change one thing about healthcare in the United States, what would it be?

Value-based healthcare must always be at the forefront of our concerns for the well-being of our patients. One of the keys to improving value is better cost transparency. The world of drug cost, insurance and reimbursement is unclear to most patients and clinicians, making it difficult for many of us to make truly informed medical decisions and has effects in endorsement on rising healthcare costs and payer premiums.

How to avoid burnout?

For me, balance is achieved by identifying my pillars of fulfillment. My daughter is the apple of my eye and spending time with her and my wife brings me great joy. Clinical medicine is also very important to me, especially if I can provide a treatment modality, a diagnosis, and reassure and comfort a patient. Teaching and training the next generation of physicians is also very rewarding.