Calvin Wong, right, checks patient Barbara Irei's heart rate at the offices of Pacific Cardiology while cardiac sonographer Dr. Namita Misra, left, checks the computer monitor that has Irei's test results.

Wong gets to the
heart of the matter

>> Calvin Wong
>> New position: 2002-03 president of the Hawaii Medical Association
>> Day job: Chief executive officer of Pacific Cardiology LLC
>> Other HMA officers: President Elect Sherrel Hammar, Secretary Thomas Kosasa and Treasurer Paul DeMare.
>> HMA defined: It serves physicians, patients and the community through representation, advocacy and other activities aimed at providing quality medical care.

How long have you been in practice? Pacific Cardiology has been up and running since January. Wong was in private practice for 21 years before that. He knew he wanted to be a doctor when he was still at Iolani school. In fact, he said he fudged a career assessment with that goal in mind. But his nurturing answers to questions like "What would you do if you found a wounded bird?" had a different result. After the test, the concerned headmaster of Iolani, which was an all-boys school at the time, called him in and told him he was the first student ever to produce this particular career assessment. It turned out Wong was perfectly suited to be a mother. He found that fitting. "Doctors are the mothers of the community," said Wong.

What are is your primary goal for your year as president? "The central goal is to network with the business community. The business community has the skill sets, the doctors have the ideas. We've got to work together to solve this medical cost crisis," he said.

Just getting the bills paid seems to be a growing issue for a lot of private practice doctors. What changes do you think we'll see as a result? "Doctors need to come together and form what I call a true group practice," he said. Meaning, rather than simply sharing office space and costs, he'd like to see mini-Mayo clinics that allow doctors to subspecialize and refer patients to each other. That's what he and partner Gregg Yamada are doing at Pacific Cardiology. Wong illustrated the idea with a story of two valleys of 10-person hunter-gatherer groups. If the status quo persists in valley A, a thousand years later you still have a group of 10 hunter gatherers, he said. But if, in valley B, you say OK, you two are the best hunter gatherers, you do that, these other two are talented masons, they'll do that, and so on, you come back in a thousand years and you have a civilization. Similarly, in a true group practice, growth is possible through a combination of cooperation and specialization. "I'm a civilization now, I can spring somebody off to be an artist," said Wong.

How has your practice changed over the years? Wong has seen the potential for advances in information technology to revolutionize the way medicine is practiced, as well as reduce costs. Examples included remote patient consultations, a local research database, linking of doctors and pharmacies, and partnering with out-of-state specialists. "The way to reduce the cost of medicine is technology. Then the reimbursement issue becomes a nonissue, because the margin is there," he said.

Are most doctors receptive to technology? "No. But there are two ways to get around that. You focus on the younger generation: My 13-year-old son is my network administrator. No. 2, the older doctors will become receptive to new technology: It's either do it or go broke," he said.

What do you think of the state's desire to get involved in evaluating medical insurance rates? "We need to have multiple ways to address the problem. By allowing them to do that, then they have an interest in it and they might be more willing to listen," he said. Wong believes changes in the health care system have to be guided by doctors, because they have the broadest perspective on the issues. "It's much easier to give a doctor business skills than to give a hospital administrator or insurance executive doctor skills," said Wong.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member
of the Hawaii business community who has changed
jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for
accomplishments. Send questions and comments

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