Even Retirement Can’t Stop Backus Hospital’s Dr. Peter Shea

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Dr. Peter Shea has served as a healthcare leader in the community of Norwich for over 35 years.

Dr. Shea earned his medical degree from the University of Connecticut in 1980, subsequently attended resident training and completed his internship in Internal Medicine at The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Originally an emergency room physician, Dr. Shea moved to Southeastern Connecticut in 1983 starting a distinguished career in primary care.

Over the next 23 years, Dr. Shea built a practice by establishing lifelong bonds with his patients based on trust, compassion and friendship. The value of these relationships is never more apparent than when you walk down the hallways of Backus Hospital with Dr. Shea. “Hey Peter, how are you doing?” Without missing a beat Dr. Shea immediately recognizes the patient, greets them by first name and then moves on to catching up on life events that have occurred since they last met.

By today’s standards this type of patient-physician relationship is almost unheard of yet made more meaningful when you consider that Dr. Shea left primary care over 10 years ago.

In 2006, Dr. Shea brought his dedication and passion to Backus Hospital. Starting as the Medical Director he later assumed the role of Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Backus Hospital. After the Backus Hospital affiliation with Hartford HelathCare, Dr. Shea became the Regional Vice President for Medical Affairs until he “retired” in 2014. During his tenure Dr. Shea oversaw numerous EMR implementation projects, developed a hospitalist program, led the implementation of a regional safety/quality program and held operational oversight of numerous programs, departments and clinical service lines.

Dr. Shea has been successful in both primary care and hospital administration; however, those who know him well also know that his passion lies with community health. It came as no surprise when Dr. Shea’s short-lived retirement came to an end when he agreed to consult and offer his expertise in creating a population health management program at Backus Hospital. With the aim of identifying and addressing the socioeconomic determinants of health, Dr. Shea has worked to establish programs designed to keep the community healthy. One of the first initiatives he helped create was a complex-care team tasked with identifying patients at high risk for readmission and then aligning additional resources and support mechanisms to reduce the likelihood of readmission.

Patients identified by primary care physicians that are at risk for mental illness experience a low rate of follow-up compliance when referred to behavioral health experts. Along with other healthcare professionals, Dr. Shea assisted in the establishment of Behavioral Health in Primary Care, a program that deploys behavioral health professionals directly into primary care physician offices to provide immediate access to behavioral health care services. The warm handoff between physician and behavioral health expert has resulted in better access to needed care and has drastically increased the follow-up compliance rate.

Recently Dr. Shea has been an integral part in the establishment of the Backus Hospital Preventive Medicine Institute. Working hand in hand with our community partners and utilizing hospital resources geared toward improving community health, the Preventive Medicine Institute works to address the triple aim of healthcare. This is accomplished by providing programs to improve population health, improve the health care experience along the care continuum while simultaneously embracing the transition to value-based health care. Dr. Shea’s extensive background in community health has proved invaluable in establishing the Preventive Medicine Institute and his guidance and insight will ensure that he will continue to support the Norwich community for many years to come.

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