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National Champions


It’s unfortunate that medical organizations such as SHM do not have the equivalent of a national championship or a Super Bowl. If there was, given what SHM has accomplished in the past 13 years, there is no question that SHM would have won it.

­­So as my first act as SHM president, I hereby declare the Society of Hospital Medicine the national champions of physician organizations.

With that out of the way, now comes the hard part: because the only thing harder than winning a championship is keeping it. For with success comes the temptation to rest. The struggle to achieve success is about outward comparisons. But having achieved success, the perspective of the champion must shift if it is to be sustained. For in the mind of the champion, the perspective is internal, and the measure of competition is about besting oneself. For a champion such as SHM, future success will be measured solely upon an internal inventory of what we do well . . . and what could be done better. Allow me to make this more tangible.

Continued Growth and Inclusion

Our membership continues to grow. And with 10,000 members, it would be easy to rest. But given that there are 30,000 hospitalists, it would be convenient to ignore the question we have to answer: “Where are the other 20,000?”

Would they not benefit from our attention to quality and patient safety? SHM, like no other organization, has built an infrastructure of empowerment, particularly with respect to advancing the goals of quality and patient safety. It is not merely a self-serving goal to recruit these 20,000 hospitalists to SHM; in your heart, you have to believe that their time with SHM would improve the care of their patients. I am confident that Brian Curtis, Manoj Matthews, and their respective Membership and Chapter Support committees will be instrumental as we work toward this goal.

As we grow, for our colleagues in pediatrics, family medicine, the nonphysician providers, and practice administrators, will we make the right decision to maintain the “big tent” that has defined SHM’s success? Quality is quality, regardless of specialty, and the principles of improving a healthcare system that is safe and patient-centered apply to us all.

But as we continue to grow, sustaining the big tent will become increasingly difficult to maintain. Even so, it must remain our priority. Erin Stucky, Bob Harrington, Jeannette Kalupa, Ajay Kharbanda, and their respective teams will be central in preserving this important goal.

At HM10, our annual meeting, attendance topped out at more than 2,500 participants, and the quality of the programming has never been stronger. But there are new challenges that come with this success. Can we sustain the intimacy—the personal attention—necessary for networking and collaboration as the annual meeting continues to grow? There are homogenous messages that do, and will continue to, speak to us all.

But heterogeneity persists in hospitalist systems, and the ability to network with other hospitalists around these unique issues has been an incredibly valuable service of the national meeting. Yet as the meeting grows, it will become increasingly difficult to network hospitalists with similar needs. Preserving the intimacy of the annual meeting, despite its growing size, must be our goal. Dan Dressler, Jeff Glasheen, Mike Pistoria, and the Annual Meeting Committee will be tasked with finding creative solutions to achieving this goal.

As we grow, for our colleagues in pediatrics, family medicine, the nonphysician providers, and practice administrators, will we make the right decision to maintain the “big tent” that has defined SHM’s success? Quality is quality, regardless of specialty, and the principles of improving a healthcare system that is safe and patient-centered apply to us all.

Technology = Solutions

At the heart of the solution to both challenges is Kendall Rogers and his Information Technology team. IT sustains meaningful communication in the face of growth, and I believe this to be a central solution. However, the tasks for our IT team are not merely internal. Our profession is at the very beginning of a sharp upward slope on the IT curve, and IT will play an increasing role in patient care.

Technology should be the servant of the people, not the other way around. The unanticipated consequence of more IT has been the temptation to depersonalize patient care in lieu of practicing medicine via computer. IT unquestionably makes healthcare more efficient, but it has the equal prospect of making it less patient-centered; no efficiency is worth that.

Our goal as a society must be to take a leadership role in ensuring that the efficiencies brought about by IT leverage more time to spend with our patients, and empower systems solutions that prevent medical errors. SHM must be positioned so that we have a meaningful voice in advocating for health IT solutions that enable the hospitalist to meet PQRI standards, and to empower the hospitalist to be a leader in the advocacy of appropriate IT solutions that advance, not deter, our mission of quality care. At no time should a computer screen replace the provider’s time at the bedside with the patient; we must be the leaders in preserving this central tenet of patient-centered care.

One Voice—Credible, Unified, Patient-Focused

Hospitalists have spent a decade trying to a get a voice in the legislative discussion. Now that we have a voice in the national healthcare conversation, we must speak with credibility. And the measure of our credibility will be grounded in fidelity to our core mission: preserving what is best for the patient. We cannot succumb, as so many other organizations have done, to merely advocating what is best for SHM. If we do, our time at the table will be short.

Finding the balance between what is best for hospitalists without compromising what is best for the patient will be our challenge. Eric Siegal, Pat Torcson, Kirk Matthews, and their respective Advocacy, Practice Analysis, and Performance and Standards committees will be at the heart of this solution. But through it all, we must not be afraid of confronting the tough issues. Whatever might come with value-based purchasing, bundling, or PQRI, we must have a voice in designing legislation that not only ensures the welfare of the hospitalized patient, but also the sustainability of the hospitalist who is central to that care.

For if we are who we say we are, one is synonymous with the other.

Quality Remains Job No. 1

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing us is heterogeneity. Thanks to SHM’s mentored implementation programs, there is an increasing number of high-performance hospitalist teams. But we are only as strong as our weakest link, and our success will be ignored in light of our weakness until we can ensure, from a quality perspective, homogeneity across all hospital groups. Tex Landis, Steve Deitelzweig, and their respective Practice Management and Practice Analysis committees will be central to finding this solution.

SHM’s biannual hospitalist survey has partnered with industry leader MGMA, and as such, we have gained great credibility in leveraging the results of the survey with the C-suite. But surveys are only as good as the questions that are asked, and SHM must continue its role in collaborating with MGMA to ensure that we are asking the right questions. We need to know what defines the highest-performing teams, and we must find creative solutions to bring every hospitalist team to that same standard of quality by adopting the best practices of our strongest groups.

But at the heart of it all is quality: SHM’s universal mandate is that hospitalists ensure safe, timely, efficient, equitable, and patient-centered care. The leadership of Vikas Parekh and the Education Committee, and Nasim Afsarmanesh, Andrew Dunn, Kevin O’Leary, Greg Maynard and their respective Quality committees, will be central to the advancement of this mandate.

But this mandate must not go unsupported. Each hospitalist group must not be tasked with reinventing the wheel with each QI project, and each hospitalist group must not suffer from the same mistakes. Imagine a day when SHM becomes the repository of QI projects, enabling one hospitalist group to search a database to find QI projects designed and executed by other groups of similar size and character. It is an ambitious goal, but it is a measure that will ensure that all hospitalists can prosper from the success of our colleagues. It will close the heterogeneity gap and ensure that in five years’ time, if there is a hospitalist who does not engage in QI, it is not because they didn’t know how.

Properly designed, such a database could enable hospitalists to create and complete the Practice Improvement Module (PIM) for the American Board of Internal Medicine’s Focused Practice in Hospital Medicine Maintenance of Certification, and empower hospitalists to meet PQRI requirements.

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Train Generation Next

As we make all of these advances, we must not lose sight of the importance of a balance between “production” and “production capacity.” For SHM to be a true leader in hospital quality, we must become more than reactionary. Via “user-inspired research,” we must produce new knowledge that improves the practice of us all. And we must address the “hole in the boat.”

Despite our success in improving the understanding of quality with our current membership, I fear we are losing ground: Each year, 10,000 new practitioners leave their residency having been inadequately trained in the principles of quality and patient safety. To make meaningful changes in healthcare quality, we have to fulfill our call to become the stewards of this training, ensuring that the next generations of physicians will be more adept in the fundamentals of quality and patient safety than we were. Jeff Glasheen, David Meltzer, Lorenz DiFrancesco, Paul Grant, Greg Seymann, and the Academic, Research, Pipeline, and Early Career Hospitalists teams will be tasked with this important legacy.

And so we come to a defining moment in SHM’s history. Will SHM be a one-and-done champion? Or will it be defined as a legacy?

Less ambitious goals and visions are certainly more comfortable, but it is not the spirit that has brought us this far. I doubt that the legendary figures of hospital medicine—John Nelson, Win Whitcomb, Bob Wachter, Larry Wellikson, et al—dreamed of a day when SHM would be “OK.” I suspect even our success as an organization is not enough for them, and personally, it’s not enough for me, either.

So digest this as an ambitious strategy that only a champion would be brave enough to design. No team wins without coaching, but no team wins on coaching alone. It will take all of us to make meaningful execution of this strategy a reality. Yes, we are the champions. Now, let’s play like it. TH

Dr. Wiese is president of SHM.

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