For more than 25 years, Paula M. Zalucki, FACHE, FACMPE, has served in consulting and senior leadership roles in medical groups, large integrated delivery systems, and community hospitals. As the senior manager at ECG Management Consultants, she is focused on performance improvement among medical groups, specifically those that are part of hospital systems.
“I help clients improve their operations and increase access, looking at everything from how a patient enters the system and gets scheduled for appointments to how they move through the care process in an ambulatory setting to get the care they need,” she explained.
Before joining ECG, where she has been for the past year, Zalucki held consulting roles with Berkeley Research Group and Deloitte. She has also served as the vice president of physician services for Jupiter Medical Center and has held executive positions within health systems in Texas, Georgia and Florida.
“I’ve always been in healthcare, other than working at a Chuck E. Cheese for 19 days in high school,” laughed Zalucki. “I worked on the provider side for several decades before moving into consulting for the last 10 years.”
Even before the pandemic, things were challenging for the industry, but Zalucki says that it’s now even more imperative for healthcare professionals to focus on operational improvement.
“Practices are looking to improve margins, as healthcare is very restricted with which services gets paid, so it’s important to know how to cut waste and improve efficiencies. That’s become even more heightened since the pandemic,” said Zalucki.
“Access to care has also become more of a focus as healthcare systems have had to pivot to provide new ways for patients to access their services. Telehealth has become a huge growth area,” she added. “Emergency rooms are no longer being misused for primary care, so systems are now having to establish stronger relationships with PCPs, or provide telehealth online.”
According to Zalucki, one of the best ways to stay abreast of the latest trends is by being a member of a premier professional membership organization like the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).
“In order to survive in this industry, you have to make a commitment to lifelong learning,” she said. “ACHE provides resources as well as avenues to network and share ideas. It allows you to keep up with the rapid changes taking place while also fostering collaboration.”
Zalucki first became affiliated with ACHE in 1988, and has since become quite involved, having served as chapter president for ACHE of North Texas, and as regent for the Greater Dallas-Fort Worth area. She has also served as faculty to dozens of ACHE chapter education events, enabling hundreds of candidates to prepare for the Fellow exam.
“When I joined ACHE, members were required to advance to board certification and take the exam within two years,” said Zalucki, who is dually boarded with Fellow status in the American College of Healthcare Executives and the American College of Medical Practice Executives. “Now you can stay a member in perpetuity without board certification, but for those who want to pursue it, it is the gold standard in demonstrating your commitment to the field.”
Zalucki still helps candidates prepare for the exam, and recently held a virtual program to help 60 participants review the material. She also encourages those new to the healthcare field to become ACHE members.
“I believe that it shows a commitment to the profession, to lifelong learning, and to professional development,” she said. “I advise all early careerists, as well as students in healthcare, to look at what ACHE offers. Not only can they participate in local and national events, but they can also network beyond their immediate employers, find mentors, and collaborate with colleagues and peers to expand their knowledge base while making lifelong friends.”