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Pediatric Hospitalist Takes CMS Leadership Position

Conway appointed CMO of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, will set federal quality agenda

by Larry Beresford

Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, SFHM, a pediatric hospitalist and director of hospital medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, has been appointed chief medical officer of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Dr. Conway’s key responsibilities will be administering federal healthcare quality initiatives and setting the government’s quality agenda.

ConwayI actually think if we realign incentives, the system can perform better, so I see it as an opportunity to perform a public service. But we also need front-line clinicians, including hospitalists, working to improve our healthcare system.

— Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, SFHM, chief medical officer, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Dr. Conway, who previously served as CMO of the Policy Division of the Office of Secretary of Health and Human Services and was a 2007-2008 White House fellow assigned to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), is a leader in safety, quality, and outcomes initiatives at Cincinnati Children’s, holds a voluntary faculty appointment at the University of Cincinnati, and is chair of SHM’s Public Policy Committee. In his new job, starting May 9, he will direct CMS’ Office of Clinical Standards and Quality.

“Dr. Conway’s passion for improving healthcare delivery systems, his day-to-day experience as a hospitalist physician, and his accomplishments in quality-improvement research, such as implementing evidence-based healthcare for all children, provide a strong background for his critical role at CMS as chief medical officer,” says colleague Arnold W. Strauss, MD, chair of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati. “Dr. Conway and our colleagues at Cincinnati Children’s have demonstrated that improving patient outcomes at lower cost—the goal of healthcare reform—is feasible.”

At Cincinnati Children’s, Dr. Conway is an associate professor, associate vice president of outcomes performance, and director of Rapid Evidence Adoption in the James M. Anderson Center. He will give up these roles and his SHM committee chair to assume the federal position. He will maintain his position at the University of Cincinnati and will work some weekends seeing patients at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “I love patient care, so I don’t want to stop doing that. Plus, it helps me connect to the front lines of providing medical care,” Dr. Conway says.

Larry Wellikson, MD, SFHM, CEO of SHM, calls Dr. Conway a leader in the society and the field of HM. “Having Pat as the new CMO of CMS just further confirms the importance of hospital medicine to being central to the changes in our health system at a national level,” he says.

Dr. Conway’s role at CMS will include major components of surveys, certification, and accreditation issues for hospitals and other Medicare providers; healthcare information technology; and hospital value-based purchasing initiatives. But his initial priorities will focus on quality-measures development, illustrated by CMS’ Hospital Compare website, and quality improvement. Another major issue involves care transitions and readmissions, “which I try to frame positively—how can we have the most effective care transitions possible?” he says. “SHM and its publications have done a good job of stressing how hospitals and hospitalists can add value.”

Married with two children, Dr. Conway says he was not looking to move back inside the Beltway, even though he believes his experience at both the macro and micro levels of healthcare will benefit the overall system. “I actually think if we realign incentives, the system can perform better,” he says. “So I see it as an opportunity to perform a public service. But we also need front-line clinicians, including hospitalists, working to improve our healthcare system. … We need frontline providers that are measuring the quality of their care and improving it.”

Larry Beresford is a freelance writer based in California.


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