When David Berg and Janice Johnson were attending college in Toronto, they had no idea that they would one day build and lead a healthcare organization that is not only known for excellent care that puts people first, but also for developing systems that other practitioners want to help them increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their practices.
They could never have known that they would be leading such important change in an industry in dire need of it. They would have stood in disbelief at the thought of being able to help as many people as they do today. And they would not have expected so many people to seek them out to learn just how they accomplished all this.. After all, David, a budding chiropractor, and Janice, a budding family physician, saw themselves graduating, getting married, starting a family, and starting their practices. It was their path to living the good life. Isn’t that what most people work for?
Early in their careers, David worked in a small chiropractic clinic in Toronto with Janice assisting on weekends while completing her medical degree and residency. She later went to work at a family practice clinic when they moved to Phoenix in 1995. Both loved taking care of people, getting to know them, seeing them get well and knowing they had a hand in those positive outcomes. It felt good to make a difference, and their life plan seemed to be working. But then something happened. They began noticing the many flaws in the American healthcare system. They started to ask questions that others in the profession couldn’t seem to answer. They started questioning the effectiveness of what they were doing, the ease and convenience for the people they served, or lack of it. “Is the system making it hard for people to get well?” they wondered.
David and Janice came from two different healthcare philosophies – allopathic medicine and chiropractic. Despite their differences, each had an appreciation for the other’s knowledge and expertise. They began to ask, “Why can’t we combine our specialties and the specialties of others into one office? Often care required integration anyway. Why should people have to drive all over town to get well? Wouldn’t it be better for them to get the care they need in one place where practitioners worked together in an organized and well-planned way?”
So in 1997, David and Janice traded in their almost-guaranteed “good life” for a dream of creating a better life for the people they served. David and Janice quickly learned that just because you have an idea doesn’t mean bringing it to life will be easy or a straight path to success. They realized they had a lot to learn about building a practice in America. So they turned to their mentors and associates in the profession, who all had different ideas of what people wanted and how to be successful. The only thing they all agreed on was that the idea of combining specialties into one practice was a bad idea.
Unwilling to let go of their dream, David and Janice went forward with their plans. They decided that rather than ask other doctors what they should do, they might want to ask the people they served instead. “All we did was ask people what they wanted,” said David. “And we were overwhelmed with the openness and honesty of the responses. In general, they found the healthcare industry routinely was letting them down.”
People told David and Janice what they liked, what they didn’t like. What they wanted and what bothered them most about healthcare. The couple took it all in and using this knowledge built Arrowhead Health Centers from the people they served up. And because of its roots, the practice looked, sounded and acted like no other practice in Arizona, and possibly America.
Arrowhead Health Centers began to grow, and David and Janice began adding more specialties and care programs to the mix and encouraged practitioners to develop together Recovery Game Plans™ and ‘Staying Healthy’ Game Plans™ in partnership with the people they served. They continued to ask people what they wanted and then put their desires into action. Online scheduling, same-day/next day appointments, an On-time Promise, and visits by phone are just a few examples of the many ways Arrowhead Health Centers acts on the feedback they receive. David found they loved not only caring for people, but they loved helping others serve them too. “It’s a great feeling to see the smiles on our team and peoples’ faces. Sometimes it’s disbelief, and then a smile,” said Janice, which according to both Janice and David is the most fun of all.
Arrowhead Health Centers now has six locations in Arizona, and has received the coveted Patient-Centered Medical Home (Level 3) recognition by NCQA. Their comprehensive, integrated systematic approach, their understanding of how to run a highly functioning Level 3 Patient-Centered Medical Home network, the respect and care they show people, their willingness and ability to listen, the many systems and processes that give consistently wonderful customer experiences, these are the things that set Arrowhead Health Centers apart.
And word is getting out. Even major universities, government officials, other practices and professional organizations in Arizona and around the country are asking Arrowhead Health Centers to help them become more comprehensive, integrated and people-centered, and to incorporate their systems for delivering care efficiently and effectively. Despite Arrowhead Health Centers’ success, David and Janice give most of the credit to the people who knew what they wanted, but were missing, in healthcare. As David and Janice put it, “All we did was ask.”