Leader of Atrius Health, Harvard Vanguard to be replaced

Dr. Gene Lindsey will no longer be leader of Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates and Atrius Health, the health care groups announced in a press release Tuesday.

Lindsey will move to the role of board vice chairman for Atrius, an alliance between Harvard Vanguard and other medical groups that serves about 1 million patients in Massachusetts. He will focus on “important external strategic activities” before retiring at the end of the year, the release said.

Dr. Daniel Burnes, a dermatologist and experienced health care administrator, has been named interim chief executive of Harvard Vanguard. He will not be a candidate for the permanent position, the release said. While the group conducts a national search, Atrius’s operations will be led by chief executive officers of the group’s member organizations.

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The immediacy of the change is unusual. Retiring health care administrators often remain in their leadership positions during a transition period. A spokeswoman for the organizations declined to be more specific about why Lindsey will leave his chief executive role now, and efforts to reach Lindsey directly were not successful.

An internist and cardiologist, Lindsey has led the two organizations since 2008. During his tenure, the groups have been part of some of the most significant health care experiments in the state, testing new ways of organizing doctors and paying for tests and treatments.

“Gene has significantly raised our profile as he is a widely sought after speaker and active, highly-regarded participant in the state and national conversations about health care reform,” said a memo signed by Harvard Vanguard board chairman Dr. Carl Isihara and Atrius board chairman Dr. Guy Spinelli.

During Lindsey’s tenure, Atrius signed on to a contract with insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts that rewards doctors for controling costs and hitting certain targets on screening for disease and preventive care. And it joined a national program created under the Affordable Care Act allowing providers to keep some of the savings if they lowered the cost of care for Medicare patients. Atrius lost money instead, while the other four Massachusetts providers enrolled in the program earned savings.

Atrius recently began a strategic affiliation with Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, and is part of talks between Lahey, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and other parties over a more formal alliance.