Editor’s Note: This SHM series highlights the professional pathways of quality improvement leaders. This month features the story of Jonathan Bae, MD, SFHM, associate chief medical officer for patient and clinical quality at Duke University Health System, Durham, N.C.
With a father and two sisters in medicine, Jonathan Bae was destined to become a physician – or something completely different, as he explains.
“Either outcome is common when you have a parent who is a doctor,” said Dr. Bae, who has two siblings who chose a different career path. But while Dr. Bae’s desire to be a clinician was set at an early age, his interest in quality improvement work came much later.
As associate chief medical officer for patient and clinical quality at Duke University Health System, Dr. Bae is helping to identify and outline the organization’s collective quality strategy. “It’s a tall order, but it’s really exciting to have a seat at the table to figure out what we do as an overarching organization,” Dr. Bae said.
Twelve years ago, Dr. Bae matched in Duke’s Medicine-Pediatrics residency program because he wanted to be well equipped to treat patients across the age spectrum. Completing residency in 2009, Dr. Bae enjoyed providing clinical care as a hospitalist, but discovered that he also enjoyed teaching. To enhance his skills as a clinician educator, Dr. Bae enrolled in the Academic Hospitalist Academy, where the curriculum introduced him to quality improvement and patient safety, and some aspects of hospital administration. “Jeff Glasheen’s talk on the drivers of medicine, and how to find your unique voice and identity … brought together my interest in education and quality work,” Dr. Bae recalled.
“I left the meeting energized with new information, and then the opportunity came up to lead a QI initiative here,” he said. The project focused on improving improve care delivery to diabetic patients, specifically the completion of foot exams. “We saw our rates of screening go from less than 50% to greater than 80%,” Dr. Bae said. “I found it to be extremely gratifying to be involved in implementing changes that could lead to care improvement for patients.”
Once Dr. Bae made his interests in QI work known to colleagues and administrators, the projects came readily. Following his chief residency year, Dr. Bae remained with Duke Medicine Residency Program as an associate program director for QI, “which was a great platform for doing project work that aligned my interests in teaching and doing QI work,” he said. In addition to developing a residency curriculum in QI, Dr. Bae initiated a program to incentivize GME trainees across the health system in performance metrics such as readmissions, patient satisfaction, hand hygiene, and safety event reporting. The outcomes, Dr. Bae said, “have had an improved quality and safety impact on our organization.”
From there, Dr. Bae initiated multiple projects focused on reducing readmissions and mortality. Currently, he is standardizing the mortality review process across three hospitals in Duke’s health system. Consistent methodology and language will allow for more accurate analysis and comparison of factors contributing to patient mortality in the system, Dr. Bae said, adding, “We have already learned a lot about care delivery and operations, and measures that can be taken to reduce gaps in care delivery and keep patients safe.”
Looking back on the days when he only thought about providing care, Dr. Bae said, “my world view has changed but my desire to change the world hasn’t. I now do more quality work because I find it so gratifying. In the QI space, I’m affecting not one, but many people at a time.”
He encourages hospitalists with similar interests to seek out colleagues and leaders – internal and external to their institutions – that will help them initiate and implement projects that feed their passions. Getting to know the QI basics is the simple part, Dr. Bae said.
“There’s no magic behind PDSA cycles or models of improvement,” he said. “It’s the team and people you pull together that makes a project successful.”
His current work centers on understanding and building health care provider resiliency at Duke. “I feel this … is going to make a tremendous difference for our organization,” Dr. Bae said. “The system should be designed to promote well-being, not just prevent burnout.”
Claudia Stahl is content manager at the Society of Hospital Medicine.