Public Policy

Walking the halls of power

Hospitalists held key federal government positions in recent years


 

Hospital medicine may be a young specialty, but it is already playing a significant role in both front-line patient care and, increasingly, in shaping public policy. Case in point: Two hospitalists serving currently in key roles in the federal government, and two former top civil servants, each of whom are examples of the growing influence of the hospitalist perspective.

“The hospitalist viewpoint of the health care system is a unique one, and it lends itself very well to the challenges of our current delivery system reform. We’re reforming the health care system to deliver care more cost effectively,” said Ron Greeno, MD, FCCP, MHM, SHM president and chair of the SHM Public Policy committee. “Hospitalists are trained to do that – they go to work every day to do that.”

Leading the FDA

Dr. Ron Greeno
Dr. Ron Greeno
One of the three is Scott Gottlieb, MD, Commissioner of the FDA, formerly a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studied health care reform, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the FDA.

“He’s the perfect person for that job and is looking to shake things up,” Dr. Greeno said. “There are a lot of things that can improve in terms of how drugs get to market, including lower cost generic drugs.” That’s an issue Dr. Gottlieb has been championing for years, and his understanding of the issue also makes him well prepared to take this position now, Dr. Greeno said.

“Dr. Gottlieb’s nomination comes at a momentous time for the agency, which Mr. Trump has promised to significantly remake,” the New York Times wrote on March 29, prior to his confirmation. “The next commissioner will be charged with putting into practice a far-reaching law, passed in December, aimed at bringing drugs to market more quickly.”

In addition to his work at the AEI, Dr. Gottlieb served on SHM’s Public Policy committee. He was a clinical assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine and advised the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a member of the Federal Health IT Policy committee.

Steering national quality programs

Kate Goodrich’s preparation for her government role included experience with several sides of the health care system: Dr. Goodrich, MD, MHS, was the director of the Division of Hospital Medicine at George Washington University Hospital, one of the first hospitalist programs in the Washington area. She worked at an inpatient rehab facility and has practiced in ambulatory care.

Dr. Kate Goodrich of the George Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC
Dr. Kate Goodrich
“That’s allowed me to see a variety of different facets of the health care system writ large,” Dr. Goodrich said. “Understanding how systems work, I think, is really key to making policy decisions.”

Now, as chief medical officer of CMS and director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ), she’s helping drive those policy decisions, overseeing multiple quality measurement and value-based purchasing programs and health and safety standards for hospitals.

Dr. Goodrich still makes rounds at George Washington Hospital on weekends. “It allows me to have a sort of in-your-bones understanding of the challenges of frontline providers,” she said. “I’m able to understand the clinician point of view in our policy decisions.” She’s also able to see first-hand the effects of those policy decisions on clinicians, patients, and health care systems.

As physician leaders within their organizations, hospitalists fit naturally into other leadership positions, she said. “Hospitalists often take leadership roles around quality of care and efficiency and flow and those sorts of thing,” Dr. Goodrich said. “I think it is a very natural progression for hospitalists to get interested in health care and medicine from that viewpoint, which then might allow them to make a leap into another type of field.”

An innovator at CMS

Until very recently, pediatric hospitalist Patrick Conway, MD, FAAP, MHM, served as deputy administrator for Innovation and Quality at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. On Oct. 1, he took on a new challenge, becoming president and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC).

Dr. Patrick Conway
Dr. Patrick Conway
While at CMS, Dr. Conway was responsible for leading for all policy coordination and execution across Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. He also headed up health care delivery system transformation at CMS, and in his CMMI role, he was responsible for launching new payment and service delivery models.

Dr. Conway was selected as a Master of Hospital Medicine by SHM, and received the HHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service, the Secretary’s highest distinction for excellence. The Patient Safety Movement Foundation gave him their Humanitarian Award, and in February 2017, he received the AMA’s Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service. He also was elected to the Health and Medicine Division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in 2014.

Prior to joining CMS, Dr. Conway oversaw clinical operations and research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center as director of hospital medicine, with a focus on improving patient outcomes across the health system.

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