How 4 chief medical officers are navigating challenges while prioritizing care

Navigating nationwide staffing shortages while maintaining quality of care are just two of the many mounting challenges chief medical officers face, and seek to overcome, right now. 

"There are so many forces to navigate including operations, finance, state budgets, health disparities and family needs and expectations," Adam Mezoff, MD, chief medical officer and vice president at Dayton (Ohio) Children's Hospital, told Becker's. "We never compromise on quality or safety, but how do you continue to fund needed services and resources in the face of increasing financial pressures?"

These increasing pressures are something CMOs are feeling in health systems everywhere. Justin Klamerus, MD, chief medical officer of McLaren Health Care, a 14-hospital system headquartered in Grand Blanc, Mich., shared with Becker's that he cannot recall a time in his career "when greater pressures were on healthcare" than now.

So what is it like to be a chief medical officer in 2023 while navigating these challenges? Becker's had four chief medical officers at health systems, hospitals and telehealth companies weigh in on what is top of mind for them three years after the pandemic.

  1. "A large challenge for a CMO in 2023 is to continue to address the fallout of the last three years, including provider burnout, while working with all our teams to improve operational efficiency, optimize value for patients and keep a laser focus on quality and safety. Our number one priority remains to heal and protect our teams," Brent Box, MD, chief medical officer for AdventHealth in Altamonte Springs, Fla., told Becker's. "Staffing shortages have spurred us to innovate and in 2023 we are working with leadership and all our teams to continue our focus on quality, safety and patient experience. … We have worked hard to make sure that we offer competitive benefits and continue to focus on enhancing the experience of our team members across all venues of care."

  1. "We primarily focus on creating an environment that attracts providers and nurses because of our support systems and our willingness to address tough issues like work-life balance. We have been able to maintain a reasonable level of providers by doing this" Dr. Mezoff said "We have to juggle several factors, and navigate lots of headwinds, but at the end of the day when you have alignment with purpose, trusting colleagues and really caring and smart caregivers working together, you can solve most problems."

  2. "The greatest challenge chief medical officers have today is stabilizing our workforce.  Most areas throughout the country, and certainly in our markets, we have workforce shortages that are impacting our ability to provide care in the manner we were used to prior to the pandemic," Dr. Klamerus said. "Many of our physicians, providers, nurses and staff are facing pressures related to burnout. We need to continue to advance quality, patient safety and service excellence at a time when many providers and staff are operating on empty. As we bring new staff into our organizations, it is critical for us to support them."

  3. "My mission is two-fold: retain the great physicians we currently have, and take advantage of technology to lighten their load while optimizing care quality," said Brad Younggren, MD, chief medical officer of 98point6, a telehealth company. "It's still early, but so far this year, I’ve seen advances in software and innovations like AI that are now specifically focused on the physician side of the table. This gives me hope because they serve the needs of our doctors, and that in turn empowers them to deliver the best treatment as efficiently and effectively as possible to our patients."

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