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Meet UnitedHealthcare’s New Chief Medical Officer for Illinois

“Human Touch” may be the title of a Bruce Springsteen album, but it’s also been a motto valued by Dr. Gary M. Grosel throughout his medical career — and one he plans to keep using as he settles into his new role as UnitedHealthcare’s chief medical officer for Illinois.

A longtime Springsteen fan, Dr. Grosel moved to Chicago in April to begin his new position where he is leading clinical services, quality and affordability initiatives in Illinois and northwest Indiana, plus supporting UnitedHealthcare’s commercial and Medicare operations.

Dr. Grosel first joined UnitedHealthcare in 2017 as the regional medical director for the Inpatient Care Management team in Cleveland. Prior to that, the 56-year-old founded and served as CEO of a recertification company for OB/GYN physicians after practicing OB/GYN for 16 years in the University Hospitals and Cleveland Clinic health systems in northeast Ohio. Dr. Grosel also mentored another entrepreneur who developed innovative prior authorization and cost effectiveness care management tools.

Dr. Grosel recently answered questions about his new role at UnitedHealthcare and the experience he brings to the job.

What are you responsible for in your new role?

I want to make sure we provide the “human touch” to all our members and the providers we serve. My typical day involves numerous internal and external meetings around provider experience and affordability in both the Medicare and commercial lines of business. I support our physicians and hospital systems to help them improve health outcomes for their patients. We want to reward physicians for having a healthy patient population, not for performing more surgeries or seeing more patients. We want to move away from that fee-for-service mentality. Finally, we run a weekly clinical continuum which reviews our hospitalized patients while using many supportive staff to try and aid their health through visits, phone calls, help with medications and medical equipment, and getting them into the right programs as they are discharged.

What are your goals for UnitedHealthcare?

My No. 1 goal is to help make UnitedHealthcare a health care company that patients are proud to work with. I would be remiss to not include our mantra of the Triple Aim: better patient experience, better health and lower costs.

What is the No. 1 health problem facing Illinois residents?

I believe we have to all think about our health in the long term instead of the short term. What I mean by that is, let’s prevent a problem as opposed to treating the problem as it occurs. If you are a diabetic, get your HbA1c test, eye exam and closely check blood sugars. Or as a heart failure patient, let’s follow daily weight, keep doctor’s appointments and take medications as ordered. This is much better than thinking, “I feel good right now so I don’t need to be on top of it.” Before you know it, you are in the hospital feeling ill or have shortness of breath because your blood sugar is too high or you are retaining fluid in your lungs. Let’s think differently.

You have an entrepreneurial spirit in health care. How did that come about?

I know what I know and that’s medicine and health care. I have always been an “idea man,” aka Michael Keaton in the movie “Night Shift,” and sometimes it can be a detriment. “I’ll get back to you on the details,” I often have to say. But, it’s usually an outside-the-box type thinking that starts as a snicker and ends with a detail and operations-oriented team saying, “This might work.” I think health care is in dire need of this type of mindset.

What do you do in your spare time?

I am a sports fanatic, and I enjoy music. I have attended maybe 30 to 40 Bruce Springsteen concerts in my lifetime. I can’t resist traveling to Europe and the Caribbean, especially with my wonderful family.

Dr. Grosel was raised in Ohio and attended Miami University where he earned a Bachelor of Philosophy degree and then obtained his medical degree from Wright State University School of Medicine. He completed his residency at Akron City Hospital. He has been married for more than 30 years and has four children.