UHF is proud to present the 2022 Health Care Leadership Award to Robert S. Galvin, MD, for his pioneering work leading the business community’s efforts in quality measurement, public reporting, and reforming how doctors and hospitals are paid for care.
When Robert S. Galvin, MD, started as a general internist in the 1980s, he loved treating patients. But professional and personal exposure to the “business” of health care, and concern about soaring costs, led him to help patients on a much larger scale for the past three decades.
From his trailblazing efforts to tackle health care spending and transparency as the chief medical officer of General Electric, to co-founding the groundbreaking Leapfrog Group to address patient safety, to his current position as a Senior Managing Director at Blackstone, where he oversees global medical and health issues for several hundred portfolio companies, Bob has worked tirelessly to make health care more responsive to patients’ needs by leveraging the power of the nation’s employers to make the system work better for everyone.
Bob is also a member of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), a board member of United Hospital Fund, and Professor Adjunct of Medicine and Health Policy at Yale School of Medicine.
Initially, however, he hadn’t planned to go into medicine. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, he worked as a writer for several years. But a part-time job as a psychiatric nurse’s aide, taken to pay the bills, convinced him that medicine was where he belonged. He started the arduous journey to medical school, graduating from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
He developed a large practice in internal medicine in Massachusetts, at a time when managed care was a favored way to control soaring health care costs. But as he dealt with insurance contracts, he became increasingly interested in the business side of medicine and believed physicians needed to take the lead in controlling costs.
When his wife gave birth to triplets and one child spent months in a neonatal intensive care unit, Bob experienced first-hand the many quality issues and errors plaguing health care. “It was a real eye opener,” he says. “There were so many dedicated and talented clinicians, but they were working in a system that too often led to preventable errors. No one seemed as outraged as they should have been about how much and how fast things needed to improve.”
Around that time, a GE recruiter called. Bob was intrigued by GE CEO Jack Welch’s determination to reform health care. “It dawned on me that the purchasers of health care could be a powerful force in driving throger fee system to make necessary changes.”
He started as medical director for one of GE’s 11 businesses and in 1996 was named Director of Global Health, responsible for the multinational’s $2.5 billion in annual health care expenditures. He also oversaw GE’s medical services—230 clinics, 600 clinicians, and 1.5 million annual patient visits in 30 countries—and its wellness, disease management, and occupational medicine programs. With its enormous market presence, GE had the power to make a real difference in the way health care was paid for and delivered. The big question Bob had to wrestle with: how?
He spent months meeting with employees, providers, and medical experts, and determined that consumers lacked the information they needed to make informed decisions. He published a paradigm-shifting article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002 that laid out a vision of value-based purchasing: by measuring and publicly releasing data on quality and costs, consumers could more wisely choose providers, while doctors and hospitals could use the data to improve quality.
GE led the corporate world in pushing for price and quality transparency, patient incentives, and performance-based payments. In 2000 Bob co-founded The Leapfrog Group to create system-wide change in quality and safety. Leapfrog, with its annual hospital survey of performance data, is now a respected medical watchdog.
Bob founded two other nonprofits aimed at ending the fee-for-service payment system, Bridges to Excellence/PROMETHEUS and Catalyze Payment Reform. Partnering with some of the nation’s largest employers, the two organizations work to tie reimbursement to health outcomes and quality improvements.
In 2010 Bob took on a new challenge, joining Blackstone as CEO of its Equity Healthcare health management business, designed to improve quality and contain costs for private equity portfolio companies. Under his leadership, the company grew to become one of the largest private purchasers of health care in the United States.
Throughout his time in business, Bob has continued to be involved in patient care. While at GE, he treated uninsured residents in the Mass General Brigham network, and at Blackstone he navigates the care of countless employees.
For his pioneering work leading the business community’s efforts in quality measurement, public reporting, and reforming how doctors and hospitals are paid for care, United Hospital Fund is honored to present Robert S. Galvin, MD, with its 2022 Health Care Leadership Award.