Physician Spotlight: Bill Cefalu, MD

April 1, 2024
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Bill Cefalu, MD standing outside against wall in scrubs.

Independence and Success in Private Practice

When it comes to driving value, quality experts say it’s worth looking into Dr. Bill Cefalu’s orchard.  He’s an independent physician, double-boarded in internal medicine and obesity medicine, and his practice produces an all-green scorecard covering a 2,000-deep patient panel.

Looking back, the Morgan City native never dreamed he’d be leading one of the largest top-performing primary care practices in South Central Louisiana.

“I didn’t exactly have the best grades in my early college years.”

Cefalu worked atop the hot summer rooftops of South Louisiana, without much interest in his college coursework, he admitted. But thanks to his best friend, he landed a job as a radiology patient transporter and welcomed the air conditioning. Surprised that the opportunity revealed his curiosity for medicine, he found himself spending increasingly more time with radiologist Dr. Tim Haley, thirsting for more knowledge. Though Cefalu felt he did not quite have the intellect to become a doctor, Haley disagreed. Relentlessly, Haley encouraged him to go for it.

Twenty years later, there’s proof he made the right call.

Today, Ochsner Health Network physician member Bill Cefalu tops the charts with blood pressure control; A1c control; depression screening and follow-up; HCC recapture; PCP visits; and discharges. When you look at his scorecard, it’s covered in green.

When asked how he ended up “getting on the (value) bus,” he reflected that he was young enough in his career to see the payment models beginning to change.

“I’ve always strived to stay ahead of what’s coming in medicine, so I thought the push for “value” would improve the way I documented my work and improve payor relations… and I didn’t realize just how much our patients and our team would benefit.”

Cefalu admits that he took a “leap of faith,” in some ways. He was skeptical about the results, rewards and incentives promised by the administrative value “champions.”  But the addition of a dedicated quality expert to his team, solely focused on identifying gaps in patient care, was indeed a game-changer.

“OHN’s performance improvement coordinator Margot Bourgeois has been a Godsend for us,” Cefalu emphasized.

Bourgeois equips Cefalu’s team with robust reports and resources to fill the gaps in care - “the kind of granular, actionable information that enables us to take better care of people,” he noted.

“Having Margot aboard is like having a daily consultant, and OHN has been a great partner, full of the resources I need to improve value for my patients.”  

The financial leap of faith has “paid off in spades,” Cefalu commented.

Though a physician, he also considers himself a businessperson, self-employed. And the partnership with OHN is “the difference that has enabled us to take our clinical and financial performance to the next level.”

“Going from volume to value is not for the faint-hearted,” Cefalu quickly added. The process of adopting Epic, the new PCP scorecard, and the utilization of OHN’s data tools took his team about a year. But he firmly believes the burden of change and forcing new habits are worth the fruits of clinical results, the return of joy in work, the financials savings for patients, and the clinician incentives that follow.

But some of the greatest fruits in his career happen at the bedside for Cefalu – metaphorically and literally. When asked about how he beats burn out, he humbly noted the privilege of returning home to take care of people, and says he feels like he’s “a member of 2,000 families.”  He quickly followed that answer with his passion for gardening.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more selective in my hobbies. I love sharing the harvest from my orchard with my patients. It takes up the entire back lawn of my practice.”

Whether gardening or taking care of patients, Cefalu appreciates what it takes to cultivate the fruits of success in work, and in life.

Dr. Bill Cefalu, alumni of ULL (undergraduate) and LSU-New Orleans (medical school), resides in Morgan City. He maintains an independent, private primary care practice with three clinic locations where he aggressively focuses on prevention as well as fighting obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease. He and his wife Abby, a veterinarian, have three children Ellis (11), Amelie (9) and William (6).

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