To realize its full promise to patients, healthcare needs excellent physician leaders at all levels, from formal senior leadership positions to local practice teams.
Clinical care has grown in complexity, as has the healthcare system in which care is delivered. Patient care commonly involves many people, in multiple settings and across multiple organizations. Increasingly, studies are finding that patient outcomes are as dependent on organization and community performance as they are on individual physician performance. It has been said that a poor physician in an excellent setting has a better chance of providing excellent care than an excellent physician in a poor setting. And, geography is destiny. Practice patterns, whether good or bad, are local.
Physicians are at the heart of healthcare and have tremendous influence. Physician leaders must step up to help their organizations and their communities provide better, more affordable care. Patients need excellent clinicians and excellent physician leaders.
To be excellent leaders, physicians need skills that are not taught in medical schools and residency programs, and are not commonly acquired in practice. Physician training emphasizes personal knowledge and skill. Excellent leaders interact as a team; they avoid unilateral decisions. Physician leaders need to know how to run a meeting, build consensus and work behind the scenes to change the culture of medical practice locally. Day-to-day practice is demanding. It is challenging to acquire new skills and manage a busy practice, but that is exactly what is needed.
One example of a local physician leader is Dr. Terry Baldwin, a gastroenterologist with the Illinois Gastroenterology Institute. Dr. Baldwin stepped up to the plate in 2007 to become the leader of the Quest Colonoscopy Quality Team. Under his leadership, the team researched the literature, agreed on quality measures, and developed a system to collect and report patient de-identified results, on all screening and surveillance colonoscopies. They agreed to seek perfection and report the percentage of procedures that met all of the measures. Any minor flaw classifies a procedure as less than optimal. Patients deserve care that is flawless when flawless care is possible. Patient lives are at stake. Screening for colon cancer saves lives.
The team found some small defects in care. They have also identified system changes that will prevent them, such as standardizing processes and protocols so they are the same when doctors go from one endoscopy center to another. That agreement would not have happened if the team hadn’t focused on our entire community. Under Dr. Baldwin’s leadership, the colonoscopy team has helped make central Illinois healthier and patient care better. We were pleased to recently present Dr. Baldwin with the 2010 Q Award, which recognizes a person or organization that fosters exceptional patient service and outcomes, builds healthy communities, and promotes high-value healthcare.
Like politics, healthcare is local. Early in the process, Dr. Baldwin stated, “I live here, my family lives here, my friends live here. I want to help make patient care better here.” We thank him for his leadership. iBi