Q & A with Dr. Louis S. Saco, MD, MBA

7 Insights into the Delicate Balance of Practicing Medicine While Running a Business

Dr. Louis S. Saco is the Chief Executive Officer/Chairman of the Board at Watson Clinic LLP and Chairman of Watson Clinic Foundation, Inc. He is also a board certified and practicing gastroenterologist and an active member of the Polk County Medical Association.
In this exclusive Q&A with Central Florida Doctor, Dr. Saco talks about the balancing act of providing patient care while running a business.
CFDr: With your experience over the years, how have you learned to balance your important roles at Watson Clinic of CEO and an active practicing gastroenterologist?
Dr. Saco: I find that as I fulfill both roles each one enhances the other. At the end of the day, they go hand-in-hand in terms of understanding both the needs of the patient and the physician administering to those needs. Watson Clinic’s one-stop healthcare setting allows the doctor/patient relationship to succeed. Our Watson Clinic model, both at the physician and the administrative level, is devoted to both service and quality for our patients.
CFDr: How does the business side of the practice affect the relationship you have with your patients (if at all)? 
Dr. Saco: If anything, the relationship works the other way around. Treating patients on a daily basis, I am constantly in touch with their needs, and what they look for in a healthcare setting.  This insight allows me to make business decisions with a focus on maximizing their quality of care. It also enables me, as an administrator, to understand how the Clinic’s service model enhances the patient’s healthcare experience.
CFDr: How do you think maintaining an active status as a physician has helped you be a better administrative leader on the business side of medicine?
Dr. Saco: Over time, I’ve learned a tremendous amount with regard to direct patient care from my practice experience. I maintain an active practice because it is what I enjoy doing most, and it’s a way through which I define myself as a person. In fact, I’ve found that Watson Clinic physicians are genuinely motivated by a strong allegiance to their patients; we want to serve their needs and deliver the very best quality healthcare experience each and every time.  The knowledge I have of the day-to-day operations from my perspective as a physician gives me a tremendous advantage in understanding and implementing the business side of medicine. By the same token, I understand completely the needs of the physician and staff, so that we can give them the means with which they can do their best job.
CFDr: What do you think is one of the most important elements of the patient-care side of medicine that a doctor should always remember amidst running a business?
Dr. Saco: Four words:  The patient comes first.
CFDr: On the other hand, what do you think is one of the most important elements of the business side of medicine that a doctor should always remember amidst caring for his patients?
Dr. Saco: One role complements the other, and I find that I understand the dynamics of what’s involved in both the patient-centered and the business side.  The key to our success is rooted in our belief that the patient comes first, the Watson Clinic comes second, and the individual doctor comes third. It has to go in that order for Watson Clinic to be a success. This is what I try to live each day and I try to always lead from the front of the line in our organization. I want the other physicians to see me doing exactly what I ask of them. I want to set an example in both roles – always mindful of how important it is to our organization to succeed in its business model but at the same time, never letting down the trust that our patients and our community put in us.
CFDr: As CEO of one of the largest physician medical groups in the Southeastern U.S. as well as an active practicing physician, how do you effectively balance the business side, patient care, and personal time?
Dr. Saco: It’s important that I lead from the front of the line both in my practice and as CEO of our organization. I strive to always lead by example. I hold myself to the highest of standards in both my personal and professional life. After that, everything else falls into place.
CFDr: What insight can you share with doctors running their own business on effectively managing this balance?  
Dr. Saco: Our patients always come first for us, followed by the business, and finally the needs of the physician.  That’s been the key to our success more than anything else. Always surround yourself with good people who share this vision. Finally, learn to hold people accountable; most importantly, that includes yourself.

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