Martha Rodriguez, MD, PA, has become a successful physician and a successful entrepreneur by focusing on value and promoting education.
Quality over quantity — that’s the way Martha Rodriguez, MD, PA, a South Florida internist has practiced medicine for more than 15 years. And it’s the only way she believes medicine should be practiced.
So when an opportunity arose to unite with one of the original federally approved accountable care organizations, she jumped at the opportunity. The end result, Accountable Care Options, LLC, is a highly successful healthcare model.
For Rodriguez, who left Cuba at age 13 and, after living in Spain for a year, moved to the US and became the first person on both sides of her family to forge a career in medicine, it’s a feeling a great satisfaction.
“It’s a model by which you get paid based on quality, not volume,” Rodriguez says. “And, as I predicted, we have been extremely successful.”
An Ingrained Value
In addition to the work she does as chairman of the board of directors of Accountable Care Options, Rodriguez is also the owner of a large internal medicine practice based in Boynton Beach, Florida that she launched in 1993. She’s also the owner of Walk-In For Your Best Care, and owner and operator of VIP Educational Center-Conference Center, which is dedicated to the education and improvement of patient engagement in the community.
Why the regular practice as well as a walk-in clinic?
“When I started in the community in 1993 I mainly guided my practice toward geriatrics, because that’s what I really love,” Rodriguez explains. “But I’ve realized that the crisis of healthcare is that we need to shift our mentality very quickly from sick care to healthcare. And to do that, we need to intervene with people at a younger age.”
Rodriguez opened the walk-in center three years ago on the premise that everyone goes to a pediatrician until around the age of 16, and then, if they’re lucky, they don’t regularly see a physician again until their 55 or 60. But that’s still a huge gap in time.
“I realized that unless we target people who are in that gap we are never going to fix healthcare,” Rodriguez says. “So I opened the walk-in center to provide healthcare access to people who didn’t or wouldn’t usually have access to healthcare.”
The success of the walk-in center, and the environment and mindset it has created, has far exceeded Rodriguez’s expectations. And because of that success she’s working with a Silicon Valley-based team to develop an application which, by virtue of telemedicine, will grant access to the walk-in center from anywhere in the country.
“My goal, mainly, is to take it to universities, where students don’t get healthcare because they don’t have the money or can’t get to the walk-in nearby the university,” she says.
A VIP Education
Rodriguez has been providing healthcare education ever since she opened her practice, albeit originally on a smaller scale. That included educational seminars for the community three or four times each month. But as her practice grew, and the interest in the seminars increased, she needed to expand. She purchased the entire building in which her practice was located and turned it into a VIP Educational Center.
“It’s solely dedicated to educating the community,” she explains.
Late in 2015, Rodriguez’s daughter, a fourth-year college pre-med student, opened a non-profit called Generations Unlimited, which will unite with the VIP Educational Center to provide an even more formal education arena for the community. Workshops and seminars are scheduled on a daily basis, and the initial response from the community has been impressive.
“Every time I hold a seminar we have to close the doors,” Rodriguez says. “We can’t allow for the amount of people who want to attend. People are very hungry for education, and we believe in the power of education. The more education you provide, the more they want.”
Rodriguez says her internal medicine practice is the first of its kind to achieve recognition as a patient-centered medical home. Education was a key component of making that happen.
“My goal is to educate patients so that they can learn and educate others,” she says. “I don’t care of they’re my patients or not.”
When she’s not focused on healthcare, Rodriguez likes spending time with her family—her husband, and two daughters, ages 22 and 20. She loves the beach, but admits that her passion for technology returns her focus to the healthcare field.
Rodriguez spends much of her spare time traveling to conferences to learn about and become more involved in the merging of technology and medicine. She has also become active in many large groups targeting that convergence, and would like to see the concept of empowering patients taken to the next level.
“It seems like a very simple concept, but we are in a bridge between the population that welcomes and endorses technology, and the population that has no idea about technology,” Rodriguez says. “Those are completely opposite poles. And if I had my wish, all of us healthcare providers would take the initiative to create that bridge and merge those two worlds.”
And that brings everything back to what fulfills Rodriguez the most about her career in healthcare.
“When I’m inside a room with the patient,” she says. “When I go in the room with the patient, everything in my world stops. That’s the purpose of my life.”
And internal medicine, she says, helps her fulfill that purpose.
“Internal medicine is a beautiful career because it creates relationships, and you grow old with people,” she explains. “People may have a priest or a rabbi, but a doctor is the person who’s going to be with you in your most vulnerable state. And to have someone on your side to do that is a unique opportunity.”