Writing, Medicine, and Administration

Crash course: TSPMG

The Southern Permanente Medical Group (TSPMG) is a regioonal division of Kaiser Permanente—one of the United States’ largest not-for-profit health care plans. TSPMG is comprised of more than 500 physicians who care for a community of over 365,000 patients in the Atlanta area.

Kaiser’s mission is “to provide high quality, affordable health care services to improve the health of its members and the communities it serves.” I spoke to Dr. Charles Curry, TSPMG’s Physician Director of Medical Care, to learn more about the TSPMG community and the writing that he produces as a medical administrator.

The TSPMG community

Kaiser Permanente is made up of three divisions:

            -Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc.

            -Kaiser Foundation Hospitals

            -The Permanente Medical Groups

The Medical Groups are regional centers of operation that provide medical care to the Kaiser members in their area. Each has their own administrative team, made up of physicians, that leads and supports the Medical Group’s doctors. TSPMG is Georgia’s Medical Group.

As the Director of Medical Care, Dr. Curry’s job is to help set TSPMG’s policy and ensure that it is being followed. Establishng a consistent high-quality stardard of care is important in medicine, so TSPMG’s policy is strongly affected by, US government and international entities (such as the CDC and WHO), as well as competitors and the community of patients that TSPMG serves.

Writing and communication

Dr. Curry says that most of his writing comes in the form of email, in both formal and informal situations.

“A lot of my job is built on relationships,” he says. Much of his writing is letters of congratulations or encouragement. He offers positive and negative feedback and advice on how to meet policy expectations.

Making rounds allows him to check on his teams of physicians and celebrate with them as well as find out what they need to help them reach their goals. While he used to make these rounds in person, COVID has led to most of them being meetings over Zoom.

Buildinig relationships makes for stronger teams, which can only improve the medical care that TSPMG offers.

His external communications, he says, are more formal and are mainly resopsnes to various regulators: legal questions, business agreements, and still more relationship building.

Some advice from an expert

Dr. Curry offered two pieces of advice for students interested in pursuing medical administration:

Establish your email style—then stick with it

Some people start emails with salutations and well wishes, others jump straight to the point. Both are valid options, but after deciding if you’re a “Good morning! Might you have a pen I can borrow?” person or a “Got a pen?” person, it’s important to keep your style consistent. 

People notice others’ writing styles and read changes in tone, even if they’re unintentional.

If your boss always signed her emails “Thanks! Jane” and then suddenly sent you a message signed “—J,” you might think that she was upset with you. 

Maybe she is. Maybe this six-part conversation could have been over five emails ago and she’s starting to get angry. But if she was just running late that day, then her whole team is now stressed for no reason.

Being able to pick up on shifts in tone doesn’t do anyone any good if it turns out to be a false alarm.

Know the experience of a physician

“It is important that if you are leading a group of doctors, that they know you understand what it is that they do,” Dr. Curry says. “Medicine is about the relationship between the doctor and the patient.”

The job of an administrator is to support this relationship, and he says that knowing about the struggles and privileges of practicing medicine help administrators to know how to best support their physicians.

Our medical group is built on supporting [the] doctor-patient relationship.

-Dr. Charles Curry

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