Member Spotlight: Karen Murphy

June 29, 2017|4:00 a.m.| ASTHO Staff

Karen MurphyKaren Murphy, PhD, RN, has been secretary of health of the Pennsylvania Department of Health since 2015. On June 30, she will leave the post to return to the private sector. In September, Murphy will assume the role of executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Geisinger Health. Previously, Murphy served as director of the State Innovation Models Initiative, a $900 million investment by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) aimed at accelerating healthcare innovation across the nation. She also currently serves as a clinical faculty member in the medicine department of The Commonwealth Medical College.

Murphy spoke with ASTHO about her tenure as a state health official and why she believes public health is so important.

“As I transition out of my role as Secretary of Health, I’m looking forward to continuing in the field as an ASTHO alumni. Prior to working at CMMI, I spent my career in a hospital setting. My perspective has expanded to look at ‘health’ to include not only healthcare delivery, but also public health and stakeholders in the communities. I am sincerely honored and grateful to have the experience to work with the ASTHO team and look forward to continuing to do so as an alumni member.”

What is something you’re most thankful to have been a part of during your career in public health?

I am thankful to have been a part of the development of The The Pennsylvania Rural Health Transformation Initiative. This rural health model is designed to transform financially challenged rural hospitals to focus on improving the health and healthcare delivery of the communities they serve. The participating hospitals will move from a payment model based on fee for service to a multipayer global budget. The payment model includes private and public payers and will begin in January 2018. Pennsylvania will support the hospitals in their transformation plans by creating a Rural Health Redesign Center.

What was the experience or motivating factor that compelled you to become a state health official?

The motivating factor for me to become a senior state health official was to have the opportunity to work with a great team to improve the health of Pennsylvanians.

Was there someone who influenced you to lead a health department?

Prior to returning to Pennsylvania, I was the director of the State Innovation Models Initiative at CMMI. While at CMMI, I had the opportunity to work with state health officials, ASTHO, and other public health professionals. I was very impressed by the passion and impact of their work, and this influenced me to work in state public health leadership.

What do you love most about the public health work you do?

I love having the ability to impact the health of Pennsylvanians in many areas. This year, the Pennsylvania Department of Health revised immunization regulations. The state previously had a nine-month window for children to obtain required immunizations. The new regulations decreased the time from nine months to five days after school begins. We are working in collaboration with the Department of Environmental Protection to prevent Zika transmission. We have also developed a plan to improve the health and healthcare delivery in rural communities across Pennsylvania. These are just a few examples of the work I love to be a part of.

What do you find most challenging about public health?

The most challenging aspect of working in public health is securing adequate funding.

What is your vision for the future of public health?

I believe that the future of public health will be to work with multiple stakeholders including health systems and social agencies with an overall focus on social determinants of health on a community level.

What are three things public health leaders can do to educate and engage the communities they serve?

  1. Develop meaningful relationships with stakeholders.
  2. Leverage the state’s convening power.
  3. Leverage the available regulatory and policy levers to improve public health.

What is your state doing to address the opioid epidemic, and how are you supporting the 2017 ASTHO President’s Challenge?

Since the Wolf administration began, fighting the opioid epidemic has been a top priority. We have implemented many actions that support the 2017 ASTHO President’s Challenge. The approach in Pennsylvania spans across several agencies, and includes the following:

  1. Education: Senior executives from the Pennsylvania Department of Health have delivered presentations across the commonwealth on the epidemic focused on prevention, naloxone administration, and treatment. In addition, the department is offering health systems education on implementing a “Warm Handoff” following an overdose.
  2. Naloxone: Rachel Levine, MD, is the Pennsylvania Physician General and has signed a standing order that enables all Pennsylvanians to obtain naloxone. Pennsylvania state police, EMS, and all first responders have received education on naloxone administration. In addition, Pennsylvania was the first state to partner with Adapta Pharma to provide an initial supply of naloxone at no cost to high schools across the state.
  3. Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP): Pennsylvania implemented a new PDMP in August 2016. The database contains dispensed prescriptions of all scheduled drugs, and currently has over 80,000 registrants. Since implementation, Pennsylvania has seen a 95% decrease in extreme doctor shopping. The PDMP is actively engaging stakeholders to develop a plan to leverage the data to decrease the abuse of prescription medications.
  4. 21st Century Cures Grant: The Pennsylvania Department of Health, Department of Human Services and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention received $26 million in federal funding to fight the opioid crisis. The departments are collaborating to improve access to treatment as well as to support integrating the PDMP with electronic health records.

What is your morning ritual?

I’m an early riser and try to start my day by 5:15 a.m. Typically, I do a quick email check and read news online. I try to leave for the gym by 6:30 a.m. – most mornings I make it, but some not.

What do you do to stay healthy?

I like to exercise and adhere to a healthy diet.

Where is your favorite vacation spot?

My favorite vacation is at any beach location.

What are your favorite hobbies?

My favorite hobbies include biking and golf.