LATHAM — Many doctors might like to have an eight-hour day. Many CEOs might love a four-hour day.
Dr. Shirish Parikh has both of those dream schedules. The thing is, he has them back-to-back, every day.
The founder and chief executive officer of Community Care Physicians regularly works a 12-hour day between seeing patients and leading a nearly 2,000-employee medical group, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I enjoy what I do, I wouldn’t give it up for the world,” Parikh said. “Being in the trenches, I can communicate with folks I probably wouldn’t be able to communicate with if I was sitting in the CEO’s office.
“I think I have a better finger on the pulse of what’s going on.”
Being CEO isn’t the end goal for Parikh, it’s a means to reach the goal of creating a better model of medical care.
He views his own corporate role as facilitator: He sets out the vision and has an “extraordinary” team in place to make it reality.
“I really have no interest in total control,” he said.
Parikh formed what is now Community Care Physicians in 1984 as a way to ensure doctors could focus on medical care, rather than regulatory and administrative duties.
“I’m very passionate about physician activity, very passionate about physician and patient interaction,” Parikh said. “I felt it was vital that the physician-patient relationship doesn’t get tainted.”
The time doctors spend complying with regulations, running through checklists, collecting data and filling out forms has only increased in recent years, to his chagrin.
“I think the amount of clinical time physicians spend with patients has been diluted,” he said. “That checklist is probably driving some of them nuts.”
One of his roles is working to change this, both within his own medical group and in the medical community beyond his doors. It’s easier to create a good model within Community Care Physicians than to bring about regulatory change, he added. But with enough voices, he’s optimistic change can happen.
NATIVE OF INDIA
Parikh lives in Menands with his wife, Dr. Nita Parikh, a Community Care internist. They have two grown children: a son who works in finance and a daughter who is considering a career in medicine.
He was born and raised in Bombay, India, and underwent his medical training at the University of Bombay. He served his residency in radiology at Albany Medical Center, then a fellowship in ultrasound and computed tomography.
Parikh started as chief of ultrasound/CT at Altoona Hospital in central Pennsylvania, then moved back to Albany to head the Radiology Department at the VA hospital in Albany.
In 1984 he established a radiology practice at Samaritan Hospital in Troy. Over the next decade, his East Hudson Radiologists expanded to several hospitals and free-standing imaging centers. In 1995, he diversified it to a multispecialty medical group and renamed it Community Care Physicians.
Along the way, Parikh went back to school. He earned a master’s of business administration from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1997.
Community Care eventually grew to more than 50 medical practices in eight counties with a total of more than 1,200 employees. At the end of 2017, it completed a consolidation with another local physician-owned medical group, CapitalCare Medical Group, which had about 650 employees.
The new entity, with nearly 2,000 employees and more than 70 locations, is led by Parikh and bears the name Community Care Physicians; the former CapitalCare practices are now divisions of Community Care.
The merger, Parikh said, strengthened both component organizations and better allows them to maintain their respective philosophies.
For Community Care, one of the attractions was CapitalCare’s strong emphasis on primary care, Parikh said. Community Care had a significant primary care component before the merger, and now the merged entity will have an even stronger profile in that specialty of medical care.
“I think it was primarily to enable us to standardize a lot of the primary care processes,” he said of the merger.
Primary care is a specialty that emphasizes preventive medicine and provides a framework to better accomplish it, he explained. Keeping people from getting sick is much better, and less expensive, than curing what ails them. It’s a direction in which the medical industry is being pushed and pulled as a cost-saving measure.
“I absolutely believe that primary care is the most critical [part] in the whole equation,” he said.
In the ideal doctor-patient relationship, Parikh said, the primary care physician gets to know the patient medically and socially over the course of years or even decades and can predict or avert problems before they develop.
There’s a shortage of primary care physicians in the United States. It’s a bit late for Parikh to help solve that personally, but he continues to work in the medical specialty he chose more than four decades ago, as a young student in India.
In recent years, he has been doing a lot of cross-sectional imaging, especially of the torso. He also specializes in MRIs of the prostate gland, having performed more than 3,000 in the last five years.
“The whole method of detecting prostate cancer is evolving, so [fewer] unnecessary biopsies are done,” Parikh said. “We’ve been able to help the urologists a lot with that.”
Not a lot of radiology practices are performing this procedure, he said, so Community Care is drawing patients from a 100-mile radius.
Technology has long been a priority for the Latham-based medical group: It invests in technology rather than real estate, and still doesn’t own any of its facilities.
It went fully digital with its patient records back in 2005, becoming a pioneer of sorts in the Capital Region in use of electronic medical records.
It also went full-bore on cybersecurity, which is a constant consideration, as medical systems are inviting targets. Chicago-based Allscripts, a national medical information technology provider, was hit by a ransomware attack in January that left some providers unable to write electronic prescriptions.
“We’ve done all the things we need to do to make sure patient data doesn’t get compromised,” Parikh said.
Even the merger of the Community Care and CapitalCare computer systems, while time-consuming, wasn’t problematic, he added.
“Of course nothing is ever easy, but we were able to manage,” Parikh said. The merger was completed after a year of groundwork was done with the IT systems. “All this has been going on behind the scenes.”
The longtime medical practitioner and administrator got a chance to see the Capital Region medical community from the other side of the table in 2017, when he underwent double knee replacement and then a course of inpatient physical therapy — at facilities he didn’t run.
“The care that was rendered during my whole stay at the hospital was just great,” Parikh said.
In his limited spare time, he tries to keep those new knees healthy.
“I’m not a physical fitness buff, but I certainly try to stay in shape,” Parikh said.
He also enjoys reading and travel, and wants to do more of it — he’s not seen his native land in 15 years, and there are many more places on his wish list.
“There’s so much of the world that I need to see,” he said.