Edie Miller, COO, Executes All-physician Pediatric Practice’s Plan for Growth and Independence

Sep 12, 2023 at 06:04 pm by pjeter




Pediatrics East had already decided to make big changes before Edie Miller came aboard two years ago, but the physician-owned practice turned over the planning and execution to its new chief operating officer.  

“That is my biggest accomplishment so far,” she said of merging three of Pediatrics East’s office locations into one over two weekends last November.

Chief among the challenges:  Completing the task without closing — even for a day — any of Pediatrics East’s remaining locations totaling 16 physicians and about 60 staff members. 

Closing would be the practice’s least-busy office in Cordova and its two older, and too proximate, sites on Exeter in Germantown. 

Those three locations were merged into a larger, newly renovated building at 7465 Poplar, a former bank operating on the west side of the Saddle Creek retail center.

Pediatrics East now provides medical care to children in four locations:  8025 Stage Hills Boulevard in Bartlett; 120 Crescent Drive in Collierville, 5580 Airline Road in Arlington, and the new Germantown site.

“It took months and months of planning,” Miller said of the merger. “Getting internet and phone infrastructure in time… managing the budget of the whole project. Educating the staff was a huge piece. (So was) creating the new location in our electronic medical records, ordering the furniture and moving the boxes. The packing took us months. All our staff was busy taking care of patients; it was the managers and I who packed up the three offices.”

Also packed — with work experience, academics and even family upbringing — is a toolbox that seems to tailor Miller for the job.

She grew up in East Memphis the daughter of a physician and nurse. After graduating from St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Miller earned a finance degree at the University of Tennessee—Knoxville. She returned to Memphis to work for MB Venture Partners, where she helped analyze investments in biotech and medical device companies.

That’s when Miller realized that long-term, she might find even greater fulfillment with a career in health administration. The change would combine her business expertise with her familial connection to healthcare.

She headed to Birmingham for two years, where she earned a masters in health administration and business administration at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Next, she went to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge for a yearlong administrative fellowship required by her graduate school program. 

“But I stayed on three more years at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, working with pediatric specialists,” Miller said. “It gave me great experience to come home and work at Pediatrics East.”

There, she makes all the administrative decisions with Pediatrics East’s president and lead physician, Dr. Robert T. Higginbotham. 

Miller oversees the managers of billing, clinical operations and nurses, and she also is in charge of marketing, human resources, financials, and property management. 

She tries to avoid micromanaging. Instead, Miller said, “I set expectations in the beginning and let my managers have autonomy. I do have frequent check-ins with them — once a week. As long as they are getting their work done, I would say I’m pretty flexible and pretty laid back. I want to come off as somebody they admire and respect but also like personally.”

All signs point to Miller being a busy chief operating officer in the months and years to come.

Pediatrics East plans to grow where there is room to add physicians — the Bartlett and Collierville offices. But also, Miller said, “we may open a fifth location eventually. We will see.”

Pediatrics East is performing “very well financially,” she said. “We are very busy.”

Among the reasons for the practice’s success are some distinguishing traits.  

Pediatrics East’s medical providers are all physicians. “No nurse practitioners or physician assistants,” Miller said. And the roster features a “great mix of men and women of different backgrounds.”

The practice also tries to provide families convenient access to medical care. All four offices offer an early morning clinic from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, so parents can bring in their sick children. Night clinics, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., are available as well Monday through Thursday for sick visits at the Germantown office. And a weekend clinic is open 8 to noon on Saturdays and Sundays, also at the Germantown site.

Being physician-owned also distinguishes Pediatrics East, Miller said. If Pediatrics East were owned by a hospital network, decisions and progress might be bogged down by red-tape and bureaucracy, she said.

“We do get offers, but the owners are staunchly opposed,” she said. “They want to own the practice and continue to own it for years to come.” 

Independence makes decision-making simpler. “Physicians can get in a room together, discuss issues, and it’s done,” she said, adding, “They want to maintain control” and preserve what they built.

Preserving what they built can be challenging, especially when frozen pipes burst. That’s what happened at the Bartlett office on Dec. 26. “Flooded the entire office,” Miller said. “We couldn’t use the office. Had to file this huge insurance claim.” The Bartlett location re-opened in July following repair and renovation.

The next big project will likely be renovating the Collierville building, “the most dated office,” Miller said. The work will update the building “inside and outside. Then all our offices will be spruced up.”

Meanwhile, Miller is enjoying decorating her own home, which she bought last year. Interior design is among the hobbies she loves. 

Miller also loves her five-pound Maltese, Rosie, working out at the gym, traveling — she is preparing for a trip to Portugal — and spending time with family and friends.

Looking back, Miller said she’s glad she changed career paths to health administration.

The field is “constantly challenging, constantly changing,”  

She recalls enjoying and benefiting from her exposure to “really bright, talented people” while working at MB Venture Partners. 

“And now in my current job, another thing I like is all the different professionals I work with including accountants, physicians, attorneys, bankers, real estate agents, insurance people… I just learned a lot about construction and general contracting. I like the variety. 

“I enjoy what I do,” Miller said. “I think it’s been fulfilling and rewarding. It’s a good fit for me.”