Chief Medical Officers across the country know employee burnout, medication shortages and respiratory infections, among a wealth of other challenges, have created the not-so-perfect storm in hospitals.

Richard Shannon, MD, chief quality officer at Duke Health in Raleigh, N.C., told Becker’s something has to give or clinicians will continue to react to overwhelming working conditions “with their feet,” referring to the several recent nurses’ strikes at New York hospitals.

The main thing clinical leaders can do to help is to better understand the problems firsthand, Dr. Shannon said. He called on chief medical officers to “get out of their offices so they can see and understand the barriers to the work their people are facing. Zoom meetings and planning sessions are no substitute for a leader going to see the work in action.”

Dr. Shannon said it is up to clinical leaders to make changes in their own hospitals to address serious systemic issues.

Along those lines, Becker’s asked five chief medical officers to name the top items on their to-do lists:

[ Editor’s note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity. ]

John Heaton, MD. President and Chief Medical Officer of LCMC Health (New Orleans): Efficiency is at the top of my to-do list — making the most of the resources we have. This includes enabling doctors to work in a manner that makes better care possible by reducing waste and limiting burnout. On the patient flow side, helping the care team to expedite patient discharges and targeting the proper level of care is essential. Anything we can do to limit ER holds will materially improve the experience for patients and providers.

Next, we must rethink our approach, and when needed, adjust processes. It’s critical that we don’t just do what we did before. In order to deliver the best service possible, we have to be more flexible and move patients through the system, from clinic visits to inpatient discharges to post-acute settings.

Finally, collaboration is key. From day one of our partnership with Tulane University, we’ve been working to gain economies of scale and make the most of the assets we have. With this partnership we are growing capacity and capability, which will allow our system to accommodate more patients. This will ensure that we are increasing access and delivering the best quality of care to our patients at all times.

Sunil Madan, MD. Chief Medical Officer of Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center (Goddard, Md.): We must address provider burnout caused by staffing challenges. But, also, to be able to recruit and retain the best providers, we must also remain steadfast in our efforts toward financial recovery after the pandemic. Our labor and supply chain expenses are significantly higher while revenue has been negatively impacted. We have to look for ways to deal with the financial and operational strains while continuing to provide high-quality care to the community we serve.

Connie Savor Price, MD. Chief Medical Officer of Denver Health: With the current workforce shortages, “tripledemic” and everyday demands, the challenge of burnout in healthcare should be at the top of every hospital CMO’s to-do list right now. Many healthcare workers are leaving the profession, further compounding shortages. Those who remain are experiencing mental health impacts from the unrelenting pressures of their daily work.

Marilouise Venditti, MD. Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at AtlantiCare (Egg Harbor Township, N.J.): We must provide physicians and other providers with meaningful continuing education to help them grow in their roles and responsibilities. We also have to encourage a multidisciplinary approach to care in which all members of the clinical and support teams focus on what care is most appropriate for individual patients. And, also, continually ask yourself: “What will our patients need next?”

Dave Williams, MD. Chief Clinical Officer and Senior Vice President of UnityPoint Health (Des Moines, Iowa): With workplace violence incidents escalating and staffing shortages across the board in healthcare right now, prioritizing the well-being of our care teams is at the top of my to-do list. There’s no question our teams are resilient, but when you figure in three years battling a pandemic and a major increase in additional respiratory illnesses, it’s a lot.

These are human beings first, and that kind of stress takes a toll on anyone. We need to re-engage our physicians, nurses and clinicians at all levels by tapping into why they chose to spend their lives in healthcare in the first place — a passion for caring for people. They deserve our immense gratitude and frequent reminders of the incredibly valuable role they play in people’s lives.


This content, The Top Items on 5 Chief Medical Officers’ To-Do Lists, was originally shared by Becker’s Hospital Review on January 18, 2023.

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