News & Media

James Forshee, MD: Blending Medicine and Management

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Medical administration has never been a common jumping-off point for physicians -- most that migrate toward the boardroom do so gradually and often after many years spent focused primarily on the practice of medicine.

That wasn't James Forshee's, MD, path.

From the beginning, medical administration was the plan for Doctor Forshee, who now serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for Priority Health.

Well, maybe not the very beginning -- Doctor Forshee started as a family practice physician assistant working at a brand new managed care HMO, which, at the time, was a relatively new model for delivering care.

"My initial experience working in the managed care setting was very eye-opening for me," said Doctor Forshee. "It was a new, exciting environment, and I knew immediately it was something I wanted to participate in more fully, so I made the decision to go to business school."

And so, for the next eight years, Doctor Forshee practiced medicine full-time as a physician assistant while pursuing his MBA at the University of Michigan, and during that time, it became apparent that his education wouldn't stop there.

"After getting my MBA, I again made the decision to go back to school to earn my medical degree. Up to that point, I had loved immersing myself in the policies, procedures and decision-making processes that went into managed care, but it had become clear to me that someone who fully understood both the business and clinical side of medicine would be of great value in the boardroom."

With that resolve, Doctor Forshee set about earning his medical degree, and upon completion of his family practice residency, he promptly returned his focus to the administrative side of medicine.

"I very much enjoyed caring for patients. I just saw the opportunity to be involved in that care more at a population health basis, and that was something I knew I wanted to pursue."

And he has achieved that aim - in his current position with Priority Health, Doctor Forshee is responsible for the care of nearly 800,000 patients.

And it's both a challenging and exciting time to have that kind of responsibility.

"We're operating in a very turbulent environment right now. There's still a lot of uncertainty around what the health care delivery and experience will look like even one to two years from now. Successfully navigating through that kind of volatile landscape is obviously an ongoing challenge for everyone."

Given that reality, Doctor Forshee has made it a point to see that organizational actions and directives are at least consistently anchored to a strong guiding philosophy, and for Priority Health, that driving set of principles is the Quadruple Aim.

"The dynamics at play in health care are favorable in the sense that the goals of everyone involved are in relative harmony. Patients, physicians and executives all generally want the same thing -- high-quality, cost-effective encounters that produce great health outcomes. These goals drive the business decisions we make, and I firmly believe that is what's best for our patients and our physicians."

And so far, the results have been impressive, but Doctor Forshee sees the potential for Priority Health to have a far greater impact on the well-being of the community. The key lies in unlocking the power of social determinants of health (SDH). In recent years, various studies have demonstrated that SDHs have a far greater impact on health outcomes than any actual medical encounter. And while that may seem disheartening at first glance, Doctor Forshee views the groundbreaking discovery as nothing short of exciting for the medical community.

"We've already been able to have a tremendous impact on the condition of our patients, so discovering there are new areas we can address that can truly make a difference in the health of our communities leaves me extremely optimistic about the future of health care. Now it's our job as physicians and health care executives to grow in our understanding of these factors and find ways to incorporate that knowledge into our strategies for delivering better health outcomes and care plans to our patients."

Doctor Forshee is seeing to it that Priority Health leads the way in that effort.

"It's a great privilege for me to be able to participate in the care and service our organization provides. Every day I get to focus on making sure our patients are getting the right care, at the right place, at the right time and for the right price, and that's a great joy for me."

And Doctor Forshee's magnanimous nature extends beyond the work he does advocating for patients and physicians in the Priority Health sphere. For years, Doctor Forshee has also been an active member of MSMS, working to educate his colleagues throughout the state on the general business dynamics at play in the plans in which they participate.

"MSMS is a great resource for physicians here in Michigan, and I'm proud I have been able to contribute to their efforts to educate and advocate for their members over the years."