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Sutter Elevates Population Health With C-Suite Role

By Christopher Cheney  
   February 04, 2019

The health system creates a chief population health officer position to lead new division: Sutter Population Health Services.

Sutter Health has appointed its first chief population health officer.

Christopher Stanley, MD, MBA, started Monday in the new role at the Sacramento, California-based health system.

Stanley will be leading Sutter Population Health Services, a new division at Sutter that focuses on the clinical support structure needed to provide high-value care to employers, payers, and individual patients. Sutter Population Health Services is also designed to improve non-medical aspects of care that affect health.

"Dr. Stanley will closely partner with leaders and teams already employing innovative solutions to advance care coordination, eliminate duplication of services, and improve the patient experience across the full continuum of our integrated network," Rishi Sikka, MD, president of Sutter Health System Enterprises, said in a prepared statement.

Stanley is joining Sutter from Navigant Consulting, where he was a director in the Healthcare Value Transformation practice. His other experience includes working as vice president of care management at Englewood, Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives (CHI). He began his career as a pediatrician at Indian Crest Pediatrics in Denver.

New leadership position

In recent years, several health systems have created C-Suite roles for population health executives.

Last year, Cleveland Clinic appointed Adam Myers, MD, MHCM, FACHE, as chief of population health. Myers has a dual set of responsibilities—managing population health to increase capacity for highly complex care and leading Cleveland Clinic Community Care, a new population health approach at the organization.

Cleveland Clinic Community Care features several elements of the health system, including primary care internal medicine, primary care pediatrics, family medicine, the organization's clinically integrated network of more than 6,000 physicians, Express Care, and the Center for Value-Based Care Research.

Primary care is a crucial component of Cleveland Clinic's blueprint for population health, Myers told HealthLeaders in July.

"I have the strategic and directional role of population health that will work with our primary care-focused efforts and our specialty institute partners. Then there's Cleveland Clinic Community Care, which is the operating nuts and bolts of primary care for the communities we serve," he said.

Value-based care veteran

While he was with CHI in 2015, Stanley contributed his thoughts to a HealthLeaders magazine cover story about value-based payment models. He offered perspectives on several topics.

  • He said large health systems have an advantage in developing value-based care because they can experiment on their own employees in redesigning care and finding innovative ways to pay for services based on value. "We are using our own employees as a kind of a canary in the coal mine," Stanley said of the CHI rollout strategy for value-based payment models.
  • Patient-centered medical homes were generating patient engagement gains at CHI, he said. "We are now identifying patients who are in need of care but are not following up the way they should. Using data to identify gaps in care, we are now making direct outreach to them and conducting collaborative interviews to get patients to take more direct care ownership."
  • Physicians who received training in population health and patient-centered care stepped into leadership roles in the shift from volume to value at CHI, he said. "They're the champions. They're the leaders. They're the torchbearers."
  • Bundled payments were a popular value-based model with CHI physicians because of their relative simplicity, Stanley said. "There's a clear start and clear finish to when that episode occurs. Specialists can understand their sliver of care: procedure preparation, procedure, then procedure follow-up through a 90-day recovery period."

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


Health systems have been adding chief population health officers to their C-Suites in recent years.

In addition to creating a new chief population health officer role, Sutter Health has created a new population health division.

The top goals of Sutter Health's chief population health officer include boosting care coordination and eliminating duplication of services.

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