Biggest clinical priorities within the next 3-5 years: 3 CCOs weigh in

As clinicians continue to work on the front lines of an ongoing pandemic, policies and protocols promoting efficient care delivery while supporting the well-being of providers and patients is essential.

Practices created amid "the new normal" may last years beyond the pandemic. During a Sept. 10 session at Becker's Clinical Leadership Virtual Event, a panel of chief clinical officers discussed the present and future of clinical leadership. 

Panelists included:

  • Michael Williams, MD, FACS, general surgeon and associate chief clinical officer for clinical integration at Charlottesville-based University of Virginia Health System.
  • Ajay Kumar, MD, MBA, physician and chief clinical officer at Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare.
  • James Kravec, MD, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health-St. Elizabeth Youngstown (Ohio) and medical director of graduate medical education at Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health. 

Here is an excerpt from the conversation, lightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on demand, click here

Question: What do you foresee your biggest clinical priorities being over the next three to five years?

Dr. Ajay Kumar: We're focusing on the wellness of clinicians and colleagues across our system. We want to make sure they feel supported. They're going through a really traumatic experience of COVID-19, so we're putting a lot of effort into preserving the health and resilience of the clinical teams. We have a wellness department, meetings and access to health, among other things. Beyond that, we're actually very optimistic for the new normal. We've learned a lot about virtual health and how to create new access points using telehealth. The platform has brought new patients to our ecosystem, along with new questions. How do we scale up? How do we create a system with easy access to top clinicians for all types of patients? We also must figure out how to de-risk our organization for the long-term future so we can better prepare for the next pandemic or similar challenge.  

Dr. James Kravec: One of my top clinical priorities is the growth of ambulatory sites and primary care. I really connect those to our graduate medical education programs. How do we grow physicians who will then stay in our communities and increase quality of care? I think that's probably one of the most important things I do — recruiting physicians and explaining from the beginning what our organization expects as far as quality, communication, behavior, etc. The second priority is preparing our organization locally and at the system level as ACO and clinically integrated networks grow. We must also recognize that inpatient management is migrating to outpatient surgery.

Dr. Michael Williams: Our main clinical priorities are to drive health equity and health quality in parallel, as well as staying commercially viable. As an academic tier 1 research institution in a public university during COVID, the ability to expand care networks and education clinics will be a big part of the next few years. Not being able to teach in-person will mean redesigning an entire educational curriculum and platform. I think one of the other central priorities will be finding ways to connect patients who are living at the margins of society. It's institutions like the University of Virginia Health System that will be at ground zero in terms of public access to healthcare, clinical trials and eventual vaccines. Our other clinical priority is health equity. An email- or web-based platform is great for many, but there are a significant number of patients that don't have access to those things on a regular basis, or would have to choose between that and eating. And that is a reality we all must face.

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