Nemours Children's chief value officer sees role as opportunity to bridge care gaps

Karen Wilding began her role as chief value officer of Jacksonville, Fla.-based Nemours Children's Health on Jan. 24, and she said she views her new job as a unique opportunity in healthcare. 

As chief value officer, Ms. Wilding will lead the network's value-based service organization, which is focused on population health issues, and oversee Nemours' integrated primary care network in Wilmington, Del.  

"The chief value officer role is really a recognition that the [healthcare] industry is changing in such a profound way," Ms. Wilding told Becker's. "We know that in healthcare, especially in light of COVID, that organizations are now starting to really evaluate with intention how they're working on staff efficiency, supporting their staff, improving care and outcomes and also bending the cost curve."

She said her role also provides an opportunity to leverage the chief value officer as a partner to the other executives in the organization, but with a different lens. 

"So the CVO role is to partner with the chief medical officer or the chief operating operator, the chief nursing officer, but to look at their service line or their book of business in a different way that's beyond the traditional day-to-day work of supporting a hospital or practice or a healthcare delivery system," Ms. Wilding explained. 

Before stepping into the chief value officer role at Nemours, Ms. Wilding served as the senior director of quality and value-based care for Baltimore-based University of Maryland Medical System. 

Here, she shared her top priorities for her first year on the job, discussed pediatric mental health and provided her daily mantra. 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What has you most excited about your new role as CVO of Nemours Children's? 

Karen Wilding: I'm fortunate that Nemours has been doing and been committed to value-based care work for some time. They had created a value-based service organization in 2017, and I'm fortunate that I'm walking into a team that has a pretty robust infrastructure and some achievements. But my really great opportunity is to take the value statement we have around Well Beyond Medicine and partner with different payers and community partners and strategic partners that we have as an organization in a different way to really think about how you achieve care beyond the traditional medicine. How do we start to engage with different models of care? How do we leverage the data and technology we have in a very insightful way to make change? I'm excited because I'm not building a value-based care infrastructure. I'm really being able to take the existing value-based care infrastructure at Nemours and accelerate transformation with a supportive executive team. 

Q: What are a few of your top priorities in your first year at Nemours Children's? 

KW: I'm fortunate that Nemours has already identified value in the strategic framework. There's an overarching strategy that Nemours has identified health value and equity as a pillar. Within my team and the organization, we're going to focus in this first year to bridge gaps that we know we have around access, equity and social determinants of care. We need to leverage the clinically integrated network presence in all the markets and communities we serve. I also think there are several strategic partnerships we have that we want to grow. And there are maybe a couple of them out there that we want to identify and mature and move along. 

Q: The pandemic has taken a toll on pediatric mental health. How will you address that in your new role? 

KW: When we look at mental health across the healthcare spectrum, we know access is one of the greatest challenges around mental health. That's true for adults and children. Nemours has always been committed to whole-child health, but the opportunity we really have right now in light of COVID is to continue with some of the integrated behavioral health models we have to date. We work right now in integrated behavioral health in some of our primary care practices. That means we have practitioners in the pediatrician offices who are trained in mental health so they can do quick early assessments and interventions. We also partner with schools, and we offer some behavioral health support. We know that's an opportunity to meet children where they're at. We believe our partnerships with these school-based medical centers is another opportunity to support the pediatric mental health challenges. 

Q: As you work on value-based care and other initiatives, is there a daily mantra you will keep close? 

KW: I always tell my kids to take a deep breath. That's one thing. But I've also been in healthcare for a while, and in everything we do, I always think of the patient. It doesn't matter whether it's data or operations or value-based care. The patient is the center of what we do. I think we as healthcare providers have a privilege that people trust us to engage in some of the most challenging and rewarding parts of their lives. To me, that's what I always share with the team, that everything we're doing needs to be laser-focused on the patient. 

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