Clinical priorities and predictions for 2021: 4 CMOs weigh in

Becker's talked to four clinical leaders about priorities, expectations and predictions for the upcoming year.

Question: What is a main priority you're focusing on in 2021? 

Note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Saria Saccocio, MD, ambulatory chief medical officer at Greeneville, S.C.-based Prisma Health: Telehealth optimization is a high priority for Prisma Health. While COVID-19 served as a catalyst for virtual care, there is still much work to be done. For example, pairing remote monitoring technology to enhance video visits will provide examination tools that allow for a more in-depth assessment of a patient’s condition, allowing for not only high fidelity but also high quality. Convenience and access to care are two essential components in patient-centric healthcare delivery. Amid a pandemic, chronic care management is more important than ever. In our organization, diabetes care continues to rank as a primary performance measure of population health. Identifying technology to standardize prompt screening/testing in addition to partnerships ensuring comprehensive coordination of care are key strategies to achieve reliable, quality outcomes.

P. Merrill White III, MD, CMO of Knoxville-based Tennessee Orthopaedic Clinics: As 2021 starts, minimizing the risks related to COVID-19 for our patients, physicians, APPs and staff will remain a focus for TOC. Among other efforts, we will do this through continued and increased communication with all concerned parties to combat "COVID fatigue" as the pandemic persists. We will continue to examine and, when needed, update our policies and procedures to minimize the risk of exposure for patients, providers and staff. While COVID remains an issue for all of us, TOC is looking beyond COVID. We will continue to build relationships with other practices in the state. Tennessee Orthopaedic Alliance, Tennessee Orthopaedic Clinics and Mid-Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic will merge as of Jan. 1, 2021, to become one of the largest orthopedic groups in the U.S. By doing so, we're in position to provide high-value orthopedic care to patients not only in Tennessee, but also in the Southeast. Locally, TOC will focus on expanding physician-owned and -managed ambulatory surgery capabilities. To accommodate the shift to outpatient surgical care and maximize the value proposition inherent in that shift, TOC's physicians and surgeons must have direct control over contracting, cost of services and the quality of care delivered. Physician ownership as the sole owner or ownership of a controlling interest is the best way to accomplish these goals while maximizing the patient experience.

Hammad Haider-Shah, MD, CMO at Aurora West Allis (Wis.) Medical Center: Our priority is to help stem the spread of COVID-19 and provide care while maintaining safe facilities for our team members and visitors. As we've done throughout the pandemic, all our decisions will align with our safe care promise — our commitment to the long-term health and wellness of the communities we serve and our recognition of how important it is for people to continue to receive preventive screenings. Like other hospitals and health systems, we're facing staffing and capacity challenges as the COVID-19 surge escalates and our inpatient census rises. In response, we have expanded staffing and redeployed our heroic team members to provide the critical patient care needed now and into next year. Looking ahead to 2021, we are encouraged by the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna trials, which showed their vaccines to be effective with no serious safety concerns reported. We are optimistic in the vaccines' ability to help change the course of this pandemic and hopefully save countless lives worldwide. Until then, we urge the community to do what we know works: Wear a mask, keep your distance from others, avoid gatherings and wash your hands. 

Jim Keller, MD, CMO at Park Ridge, Ill.-based Advocate Lutheran General Hospital: These are my opinions and not those of Advocate. My main priority for 2021 would be learning how to continue to care for COVID-19 patients both in the acute and chronic phases of illness, while continuing to reestablish and improve care for the non-COVID population. This means patients will have to be comfortable returning to their providers, as public education efforts focused on the importance of maintaining relationships with providers and health systems. I believe we will learn more in 2021 about the cost to society of delayed care amid the pandemic. We also will need to focus on our healthcare workers' recovery and well-being so we're able to provide the care we are encouraging communities to seek.

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control:
ICU nurses weigh in on pandemic toll: 4 things to know
Montana, Alabama hospitals recognized for postpartum mental healthcare
23 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Dec. 9

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