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Maine Made Us Innovative: How Population Health is Shaping Our Future

Gilkey3.jpgWhen we talk about innovation in healthcare it’s easy to focus on technology like electronic health records that keep track of information and guide treatment, or specialized equipment that makes surgery faster and safer.

With its slower pace, innovations in how we approach and deliver healthcare to communities can sometimes be overlooked. At Northern Light Health, we’re lucky to be part of an organization leading the way not only responding to anticipated changes in healthcare reimbursement, but developing delivery models fine-tuned to work for our patients and rural communities. We’re also lucky to have an expert like Ed Gilkey, MD, MBA, vice president and senior physician executive at Beacon Health, leading our organization to get there.

A New York native and a Mainer by marriage, Dr. Gilkey has decades of experience in healthcare. A trained family medicine physician, he has run a primary care clinic, led a medical residency program, served as chief medical officer at two health systems, earned his MBA to better understand healthcare operations, and spent time in the insurance industry to learn more about how reimbursement structures work. He is passionate about healthcare, making it accessible, and ensuring that patients receive the well-rounded care they need.

“As a system, Northern Light Health was already working well from a population health point of view when I arrived by bringing together primary care providers and helping them focus on the areas needed to improve patient care.”

Providers and other stakeholders from across the system meet monthly to share best practices. “We have people saying, “This works here, maybe you could try it there.” We provide and enormous amount of analyzed data and we figure out what that data means, and how to use it. If x percent of your patients who need a screening have received this screening, that means y percent have not and we can now tell who they are and help figure out how to reach them.” A system that was working well is now working even better because the team is invested in the ideas from the ground up. Now, we’ve taken that to the next level.

A new population health advisory council, a subset of our medical group advisory council, has just formed to tackle the next big challenge—the change from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement across the continuum of care. Beginning in January, this group of primary care providers and specialists will work together to define the next strategies to recommend that will move our system forward. “Care management has been working really well in the primary care arena, the next step is to roll that out to the rest of the system,” says Dr. Gilkey.

This may sound like a simple thing, but it’s taken a lot of work. It’s taken time to develop the relationships and trust among Northern Light Health’s nine hospitals, traditionally operating independently from one another, to move these decisions forward. The closer we get to consistent standards of care, and consistent best practices across the organization, the easier this becomes and, yes, technology plays a part, too.

Dr. Gilkey says we shouldn’t under estimate the role that our new, systemwide electronic health record will play in this process. The ability to see the complete patient record, and the discussions happening with their other providers, can go a long way to decreasing costs and improving access by keeping the patient at the appropriate level of care for the appropriate amount of time, and not referring them to specialists before baseline treatment has been completed.

“I see the opportunity in healthcare delivery system changes that may be looked back upon in about 50 years as being as instrumental as the discovery of penicillin was to the delivery of clinical care. We’re immersed in the opportunity to change the way we deliver care deliver healthcare. These changes could change the course of the history of medicine, and that’s as exciting as can be–that’s what makes me get up in the morning and love to come to work.”

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New President Joins Northern Light Health

Rand-OLeary.jpgTogether, we welcome our new president of Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, Rand O’Leary, FACHE. Rand was chosen from a competitive pool of candidates as part of a national search process that included interviews with more than 100 providers, nurses, staff, leaders, board and community members.

“You really get a feel for an organization when you walk through the front door,” Rand shares. “Right from the beginning, I saw a team that was very engaged and enthusiastic about the work they were doing. I could feel their passion and commitment for taking care of patients and advancing safe, quality care for our communities.”

Rand brings with him a perspective shaped by 20 years of executive healthcare leadership and an early career that created a deeply-rooted appreciation for the tremendous teamwork that goes into caring for our patients. “I started as a night custodian at my local hospital. I also served as an orderly and a clerk and worked in our Food Services department. In each of these positions, I had the opportunity to impact the experience for our patients in a different way,” Rand says. “That sticks with me, even still today. I’m reminded that each opportunity or decision I consider as a leader directly connects to our staff’s ability to fulfill their passion and deliver on our mission.”

Through his role as an emergency medical technician, Rand also understands how external environments are connected to our work in healthcare. “In whatever setting we’re seeing a patient in, whether that be primary care, the Emergency Department, or an inpatient setting, so many external factors have led them to that point,” he remarks. “Social determinants of health, such as the availability of healthy food, mental health services, and safe housing, all influence the overall health of our communities.” As the major healthcare provider in our area, Rand believes we have an obligation to lead conversations around creating healthy communities outside the walls of our organization, and he’s excited to engage board and community members in this work.

What’s on tap for Rand’s first few weeks with the medical center? “A lot of listening,” he says. “Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center isn’t just an organization, it’s more than 4,000 people dedicated to making healthcare work for our region every day, and I can’t wait to meet them! I am eager to hear about the work we’re advancing currently and to understand how I can add energy and excitement to those efforts.”

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Any time is the right time to set new goals for yourself. However, there is something about January 1 that has us reflect on the year that was and dream of what we hope to accomplish in the year ahead. At Northern Light Health, we offer a variety of opportunities to help you on your journey, wherever it may lead.

Please note that this is not a complete list of all programs. Some programs may not be available at your member organization or if you do not participate in the Employee Health Plan. Reach out to your local HR business partner for more information.

There is a workshop for you.
There is something for everyone through the Northern Light Health Talent Management workshops. Free to employees, topics range from burnout prevention and conflict resolution, to effective time and energy management. Workshops are available at all member locations, and Talent Management just released their first virtual class! Visit their portal for a complete listing of workshop offerings:

Become a mentor!
Chances are you have a wealth of knowledge and experience that could benefit another colleague here at Northern Light Health. Consider becoming a mentor in our formal Mentor Program that begins in March. Feedback from past participants shows us that both mentors and mentees gain so much from this experience. You will learn something new about someone and likely, yourself. Look for communications in the new year on how to apply or visit the Talent Management site at

Plan Perks.
If you are covered by our Employee Health Plan, there is a suite of wellness programming and incentives available to you. From smoking cessation and weight solutions, to wellness coaching and wellness services, we’re here to get you the support you need to make the big changes in your life. Learn more about our programs at

Don’t wait to feel better with Online Care!
Spend less time being sick in the new year. Online Care is a new virtual walk-in care clinic for Employee Health Plan members and their covered family members (age 16 and over). Northern Light Online Care is a convenient way to access routine and non-urgent medical care every day from 8 am to 8 pm for yourself and anyone in your family over the age of 16 who is covered on our health plan. If you’d like to learn more about the service and how to access it, watch our video at To access the service, visit

On the Pulse?
Northern Light Health is excited to be able to offer Virgin Pulse to all full and part-time benefit-eligible employees and their spouses (not just those on the medical plan) as a commitment to employee wellbeing. This holistic wellness program is aimed at all the dimensions of wellbeing which is critically important because how we feel directly relates to how well we function in our jobs and our personal lives. Learn how to sign up at

Give back.
Looking for a way to meet new friends, develop new skills, and make a difference in your community? It feels good to do something nice for others, and a great way to get those endorphins going is to volunteer for a Northern Light Health Foundation event close to home. Opportunities are available all over Maine, and you’ll be helping to bring better healthcare to communities near you.
Ask your local philanthropy lead about how you can get involved, or contact Mike Hart at