Bianca Belcher, PA-C, MPH’10
National Director of Bundled Payments at Steward Health Care Network; Former Director, Center for Healthcare Leadership and Management at AAPA
Bianca Belcher believes there are increasing opportunities for physician assistants and nurse practitioners in healthcare leadership positions. And, those opportunities won’t be limited to roles that contain PA and NP in the title. If she needs evidence to back up that assertion, she only has to look in the mirror: Belcher recently accepted a position as national director of bundled payments (notice, there’s no PA in the title) in the corporate office of Steward Health Care Network. Steward is one of the largest for-profit healthcare networks in the country—and one of the pioneer ACO groups. In her new role, she will focus on building and managing an infrastructure and national strategy around bundled payments.
Belcher’s belief in the leadership and management capabilities of PAs and NPs is more broad-based than her own career though. Prior to joining Steward Health, Belcher was the director of the Center for Healthcare Leadership and Management (CHLM) at the American Academy of Physician Assistants. There, she created leadership and management training content for PAs and NPs and, on the flip side, helped large hospitals and health systems learn how to more effectively utilize their PA and NP workforce.
“PAs and NPs are, for the most part, uniquely positioned to see the entire healthcare delivery lifecycle for a patient from start to finish,” Belcher says. “I’m speaking in general terms, of course, there are physicians out there who may work in private practice who participate in almost all aspects of that lifecycle, but for your average physician, especially those large academic centers or large health systems, you just don’t see it.”
Belcher is clearly not one to shy away from taking on new responsibilities and challenges. So, it’s no surprise that she’s been able to make an impact in several different areas of healthcare. As a neurosurgical physician assistant at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, she was instrumental in growing the hospital’s deep brain stimulation practice (a surgical procedure used to treat tremors and movement disorders) by 50 percent. Then, as an assistant clinical professor in Northeastern’s physician assistant program, she developed new graduate programs designed to train “hybrid clinicians” in both the business and patient sides of healthcare which she says is “necessary if healthcare is to move forward in an efficient way.” Belcher next took on the dual challenge of helping PAs and NPs prepare themselves to take on healthcare leadership roles and helping hospitals and healthcare systems develop operational support for the booming PA and NP workforce.
“With the rapid growth and rising popularity in healthcare systems of PAs, there has been an increased need for employers to build a PA- (and NP-) specific infrastructure,” Belcher says “When a hospital goes from having 10 PAs to having 1,000 there is an immediate need for structured recruitment and retention efforts, structured on boarding, and an advanced knowledge of PA/NP billing and reimbursement, compliance, and utilization.”
Where else is Belcher looking to make an impact? With a career that’s primarily been centered in and around academic medicine, she says she’s eager to delve into the for-profit side of healthcare.
“The delivery of healthcare is changing. There are a number of companies out there, such as Google and Amazon, that are entering the healthcare market and attempting to deliver products to the consumer. This idea butts up against the more traditional, nostalgic view of medicine which is delivering health to a patient,” Belcher says. “Being a clinician myself, I naturally tend to lean more towards the traditional view of medicine, however, I suspect the right answer for the patient lies somewhere in between the two schools of thought.”
The Dartmouth Institute's online MPH program has a fantastic mix of clinicians, researchers, and administrators at different stages of their careers. While most of the curriculum is completed online, which is ideal for the busy clinician, the short on campus portion allows people to meet folks face-to-face and establish relationships that are difficult to build with programs that are exclusively online. It’s really the best of both worlds.