When Pamela Bauer, CPA, took over leadership of Portland IPA, she brought a wealth of experience to the table. After serving as vice president and human resources accounting manager at U.S. Bancorp and as senior accountant at Geffen Mesher & Co., Bauer joined Portland IPA in 1999 as its controller.

Since then she has served as chief financial officer and in 2016 took on the additional role of chief operating officer. Bauer replaced long-time health leader Donna McClellan, RN, upon her retirement and became chief executive officer in January. The Portland IPA has more than 3,500 physicians and provider members.

“Pam has led the IPA to implement ‘best practice’ thinking and helps our physician practices to innovate, provide excellent care and thrive,” said Susan Clack, MD, chair of the Portland IPA’s Board of Directors. “Under her operational leadership, we have met or exceeded our goals of health care delivery and efficacy. We are excited about our growth opportunities in the future. And, we appreciate the long service Donna has given to the IPA and wish her well.”

Bauer, who also recently oversaw the Portland IPA’s office move from north Portland to the Montgomery Park office building in Northwest Portland, recently shared with The Scribe how the organization is growing and adding programs, and the opportunities and challenges she sees on the horizon.


The Scribe: How have you seen the Portland IPA evolve over the years since you joined the organization?

BAUER: The Portland IPA has always focused on providing support, resources and quality incentives to our members. As health care has changed through the years, the type of support and how we have delivered it has also continued to evolve. For example, in 2005 we helped clinics respond to the increasing call for upgraded technology, specifically the transition from paper charts to digital EHRs. We launched an initiative to assist our member clinics with integrating these platforms. More recently, because of the many demands for quality reporting, we have turned our energy to clinic support and involvement by bridging the gap between them and payers. We focus on clinic outreach by providing education around metrics and assisting with the administrative heavy lifting to make meeting the metrics more attainable.

Overall, how our providers deliver care - from primary to specialty to hospital/inpatient  - continues to evolve at an increasing pace. The demands on providers are higher than ever. Transparency remains king. And health care coverage models are changing with equal velocity. Our original mission is still our number one job, which is to facilitate and maximize insurance contracting opportunities for practices.

What interested you in taking the role of chief executive officer, and how has your past experience with the Portland IPA set the stage for you?

BAUER: Understanding health care financing models and how to optimize contracting while improving quality outcomes is key if one will lead a health care organization.

Prior to joining the IPA, I worked in corporate banking doing mergers and acquisitions and financial operations. In the two decades since I joined the IPA and eventually became the CFO, I’ve had the opportunity to observe and work with different leadership styles and learn about every aspect of the Portland IPA’s roles in health care. I became interested in taking on the CEO position when I learned that Donna McClellan was to retire. The years of learning about health care and seeing the areas where the IPA’s strong staff could support our clinics in a practical way illuminated the vision for an overall positive impact for our clinics and how the vision could be successful to make our providers successful. This new role is really the natural progression of my expanding role, combining my CFO position with the COO role two years ago. Working closely with Donna, our board and physician leaders, it was the right move at the right time.

How would you describe your leadership style?

BAUER: When working with people, it’s important to understand each person’s strengths in order to efficiently deliver the end product. My goal is to help each person grow beyond their comfort zone. When an idea is conceived, I choose the appropriate staff to develop a project plan and timeline to meet the goal of the project. These colleagues then become accountable for the outcome to the IPA and to our physician members. We want to support each other in our respective growth, learning and development and create a strong foundation to innovate for better health care delivery and outcomes measurement.

What are some key lessons you’ve learned in helping lead organizations?

BAUER: Focus on transparency. Try to break down the silos. Support providers and practices in holistic and practical ways. Create strengths-based learning and accountability. Mentor and be mentored.

What are the major challenges, opportunities and goals for the IPA in the years ahead?

BAUER: There has been a trend of independent physicians selling their practices to larger health systems. We see fewer independent providers now. We understand it’s getting more difficult for primary care physicians to succeed independently or even in small practices. We observe the continuing march to integrated delivery systems. The IPA focuses on finding ways to help practices identify where they need help and support so they can continue to deliver care. It’s an important challenge, so we’re exploring opportunities to ensure they thrive.  We are always focused on the shared vision to support practices in clinical improvement, and financial and operational management.

What projects is the IPA involved in? And how they will impact members and health care in a larger sense?

BAUER: Since the IPA was founded 36 years ago, the mission continues in developing and growing successful practices so doctors succeed and patients have the best quality of outcomes. We have granted millions of dollars to underwrite clinical quality improvement initiatives, in practice management support and to help providers to foster learning the best business practices. Most recently, we launched a pilot project with one primary care and two ophthalmic specialty practices, Oregon Eye Specialists and Eye Health Northwest, to address barriers to diabetic patients receiving their annual eye exam and retinopathy screening.  We helped coordinate patient outreach to make appointments, sent letters and provided educational materials to patients. We, along with our participating providers, found that most often, patients didn’t realize how long it had been since their last exam. We found the results of the pilot to be very encouraging. So, we are extending this project in 2019 and enlarging it to include 14 primary care practices who have a large diabetic population.

What are your thoughts on Donna McClellan and her contributions to the organization?

BAUER: She led us well, especially during more than a decade of ever-evolving technological and payor changes. She was wise in many ways and provided stability, leadership and support. We all will miss her.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

BAUER: I’m a bit CrossFit obsessed at the moment and loving it! 

What is Portland IPA?

The Portland InterHospital Physicians Association (Portland IPA) is a for- profit corporation that was established in 1983 and is one of the largest and oldest independent practice associations in the United States. The Portland  IPA  contracts on behalf of more than 3,500 northern Oregon members, including primary care doctors, specialists and allied providers.  The Portland IPA provides member services and assistance, improving members’ healthcare  efficiencies, and clinical and economic performance.

The Portland IPA also hosts Care Connect Northwest LLC, an organization  of primary care and specialty physicians who focus on improving the delivery of care through collaboration and building common initiatives to  improve the quality and efficiency of care, and outcomes.

This article was originally published in the March, 2019 issue of The Scribe