What Mass Gen's chief medical officer sees as key to improved care: 5 Qs with Dr. Will Curry

Expanding access to multidisciplinary care is crucial to improving patient experience and outcomes, according to Will Curry, MD, chief medical officer at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Dr. Curry points to the creation of a multidisciplinary clinic for patients with facial pain as one of his greatest accomplishments. The clinic brings together providers across multiple disciplines to evaluate facial pain patients who otherwise would wait nine months to a year to find the right practitioner because of how challenging it can be to diagnose properly. Instead of undergoing that prolonged process to find the right provider, patients experiencing facial pain who go to the clinic are evaluated by providers across multiple disciplines, and they all make a decision on what the patient's next step of care should be. 

"It proves to me the principle that multidisciplinary service line type care is the best for patient experience and provides a better patient experience and improves outcomes for patients," Dr. Curry said. 

Dr. Curry recently spoke to Becker's about his thoughts on value-based care, how he plans to promote physician well-being in 2023, and more.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length. 

Question: What piqued your interest in healthcare?

Dr. Will Curry: I was lucky enough to have a first-row view into it because my father was a surgeon. And I was able to see a little bit past all of the challenges and the work, the rigor, then the stress that goes into being a pre-med student and a medical student, and into the future, which is actually seeing how gratifying and meaningful a career is. And I could see the impact that people in healthcare had on their patients, their well-being, their lives, their happiness, in a way that I just thought was hard to match [in other fields.] And I love interacting with people from all sorts of different backgrounds and healthcare is a great way to do that.

Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment thus far? 

WC: In my career, I've worked in a couple of different spaces. I'm a neurosurgeon — I care for patients with brain cancer, brain tumors — and I've created systems here by which to ensure that all of our patients with these pathologies, no matter who they are, where they're from, get the same level of the most expert care. I've also done research and clinical trials in this space for patients with brain cancer that I think have and are moving the needle in how we treat these patients and their survival. On the innovation front and the translational research front, I'm proud of what our team has done. And third, I've engineered … multidisciplinary teams that enhance both patient experience and outcomes for different neurological disorders by creating simplified access to the right providers at the right time, and in particular, bringing people from different fields together at once. 

So I can give an example: I led the creation of something I called "The Facial Pain Plan."  Facial pain can be really debilitating for patients and really damaging to their quality of life, and it's hard to diagnose properly and it's hard to treat because it can be for so many different reasons. And the patient journey can be nine months, 12 months, just to get to the right practitioner. So we put together a multidisciplinary patient pain clinic here where the patients are triaged. Everybody evaluates that patient all at once and makes a decision about what the next step should be. And it's really streamlined the experience and improved outcomes for these patients in our system and at our hospital. I'm just proud of that because it proves to me the principle that multidisciplinary service line type care is the best for patient experience and improves outcomes for patients.

Q: If you could eliminate one of the healthcare industry's problems overnight, what would it be and why?

WC: Right now, here in December 2022, the central issue across the country and healthcare systems is that of capacity. Capacity, in both our ambulatory practices and our inpatient settings, impacts our ability to take the best care of all our patients. It also impacts the well-being of all of our employees, including our clinicians, which itself is a detriment to safe and effective care. I would like to see all of healthcare, at least to the extent that it can be delivered with a value-based proposition, guided by evidence tailored to the patient population, as a vehicle toward health equity. And so I think that our models of care, if I could snap my fingers, I would ask for a greater emphasis and a greater culture of value-based care.

Q: What are your goals for the next six months as chief medical officer of Mass General Brigham?

WC: As the chief medical officer, one of my most important goals is to promote physician and [advanced practice provider] well-being, and the challenges to that are different for different practitioners. But I would like to create systems that allow our teams to provide the care that they believe is the best care for patients, because I think that would do a great deal to enhance satisfaction, increase engagement and prevent burnout. There are some very tangible things in the hospital that I want to help our teams achieve, including decreasing our length of stay, smoothing our output, whether it's post-acute care or helping patients get home when most appropriate. I want to help us build our home-based care programs here at Mass General Brigham and, post-pandemic, I want to help restore morale and ensure a positive work environment.

Q: What is the best leadership advice you've ever received?
WC: The best was not to try to be something different than you are and to lean on what has made you successful, but to be humble, as you learn new strategies, humble in your knowledge and also to be very authentic. That's pretty similar to the advice that I would give, which is to remember that to be an effective leader, you do not have to be the smartest person in the room.

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