Most doctors you talk to will tell you they got into the profession because they wanted to help people and make a difference in lives. Dr. Apurv Gupta is no different — the only hook for him is that he wants to heal a lot of people at once by dedicating his career to fixing what is "broken" in health care. His cause is not a patient-by-patient approach, but more of a hospital-by-hospital approach and he has set up his company the Physician Performance Improvement Institute to do just that.
The Barrington, R.I., resident views his role as one of being a "health-care quality improvement and patient safety expert." The Physician Performance Improvement Institute, which he co-founded with Christopher King and John DeHart in 2009, works with the main components of the health-care system in the United States — such as hospitals, physicians, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and government agencies — to use analysis of clinical data and claims information to develop and administer quality and performance improvement strategies around health-care quality, compliance and patient safety topics. At the end of the day it all comes down to one thing — providing high-quality care. And for Gupta, there is no more important goal.
Gupta points to reports that suggest if all of the health-care systems in the United States performed at the level of the top systems, the country could avoid up to 115,000 lives and save a the minimum $12 billion in medical costs and lost productivity every year.
"Hospitals in general need this help quite a bit. The whole industry needs this help quite a bit. People are just tying to figure out how to do it," Gupta said.
Working mostly on the road in the New England region, with his partners working out of Arizona, Gupta figures he has found the best way to get the job done with the Physician Performance Improvement Institute. The company has so far been successful in overcoming the main hurdle in the process — funding. With hospitals hesitant to spend money on what is essentially a new industry, despite the promise of cost savings in return, the Physician Performance Improvement Institute has turned to grants and funding from external sources such as major pharmaceutical companies to get the job done.
Gupta admits that, down the road, the company does have plans to strike single hospital deals that would fund the work and will very shortly release a software system that will also bring in revenue, but for now he says there are enough grants to keep the work going and continue to prove its value and viability.
Still, with a medical degree in hand and a successful career established as a hospital administrator it was a bit of a leap for Gupta to venture into what is essentially the startup world. But he said he had no hesitation.
For one, the company's co-founders were united in a passion for the topic of performance improvement in health-care. "When we met things just jelled very well," Gupta said.
For another, Gupta just knew it was something he wanted to do. "It is what you feel — what you are ready for at the time," he said. "Part of it is just wanting to push yourself to do something new. Part of it is market opportunity."
Born in New Delhi, Gupta grew up in Liberia, then New York and eventually Rhode Island, where he graduate from high school. He finished his medical degree from Brown University in Rhode Island in 1994. However, he also worked on a master's degree in public health from Harvard University, at the same time. This confluence of study led to what has been his career-long interest so far.
"By that time, I knew I wanted a career in public health," Gupta said. "I really got enamored by the whole idea of fixing the system."
While doing his residency in internal medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston from 1994 to 1997, Gupta also did an administrative elective, which allowed him to continue his foray in to public health. It was during this time that he first started doing performance improvement work related to health care.
From 1997 to 1999, Gupta remained at Beth Israel Deaconess doing clinical and administrative work.
Following that he says he got excited about the ideas floating around medical services online and left to join startup MDPlanet. But despite raising $1 million in funding, the company did not survive the Internet bubble burst in 2001.
Gupta spent a year doing clinical work in internal medicine, before joining Norwood Hospital as medical director in 2002. He stayed at Norwood Hospital for seven years. "It was the ideal role because it was part clinical, part administrative and part entrepreneurial," he said.
In 2009, Gupta took a job as chief medical officer for Quincy Medical Center and also started his work with the Physician Performance Improvement Institute. He continued to work on his new company part time until October of last year.
He has no doubt that his work with the Physician Performance Improvement Institute will only continue to grow. "It is a massive industry and in order to change the industry it is going to take a lot of work," he said.
To start off this year, Gupta was recognized with a 2011 Parvasi Award from the NRI Institute. He traveled to New Delhi to receive the honor. He feels it is his efforts to "fix the health-care system" that led to the recognition. "I think they just recognized it was different work than what a lot of physicians are doing," he said.
However, no matter how strong his passion and efforts, Gupta does not believe that the health-care system will truly change without increased outcry from society. "Ultimately, the change will come from the public — when the public gets so fed up they are not going to take it any more," he said.