‘Bridging leaders’ link quality, medical education


What is being bridged?

There has long been a relationship between individuals who lead in the clinical environment and those who lead in education, such as the program directors of residency programs, said Janis Orlowski, MD, chief health care officer for AAMC, which represents 154 MD-granting medical schools and their associated teaching hospitals.

Dr. Janis Orlowski

Dr. Janis Orlowski

“Our association’s three missions of research, education, and patient care really come together around the bridging leaders concept. So, this movement is well aligned. And as bridging leaders started to develop as a group, they found a home in AAMC and at our Integrating Quality Conference,” she said.

“Where we see this integration is in the teaching of residents and medical students in the clinical environment,” Dr. Orlowski said. “It’s not just their knowledge of disease or treatments or procedural skills that needs to be taught. They also need to understand the safe and effective clinical environment, and the role of learners in patient safety, quality improvement, and efficient and cost-effective hospital care. They need to understand value.” A new field of health systems science is emerging and quality improvement is evolving to incorporate population health. But traditional medical faculty may not be that comfortable teaching it.

Any physician who sees that they have a role in the clinical, administrative, and educational worlds can do the bridging, Dr. Orlowski said. “It could be any environment in which care is provided and learning takes place. I mentioned QI and patient safety, but among the other essential skills for the doctor of tomorrow are teamwork, inter-professional training in how to work with, for example, the pharmacist and dietitian, and understanding the value they bring.”

Whenever quality improvement projects are undertaken as part of post-graduate medical education, they should be aligned with the institution’s quality improvement plan and with the priorities of the health system, said Rob Dressler, MD, MBA, quality and safety officer at Christiana Health Care System in Newark, Del., and president of the Alliance of Independent Academic Medical Centers (AIAMC), which represents 80 hospital and health systems active in the emerging movement for bridging leaders.

“GME needs to keep the C-suite aware of its front-line efforts to improve quality and safety, so the institution’s return on investment can be recognized,” he said. “The AIAMC has consistently advocated for the building of bridges between GME leaders and their C-suites at our member hospitals. If you are doing process improvement, you need to be aligned with the organization and its priorities, or you’ll be less successful.”

AIAMC convenes the National Initiative – a multi-institutional collaborative in which residents lead multi-disciplinary teams in quality improvement projects. A total of 64 hospitals and health systems have participated since the program started in 2007. “We need to train our clinicians to solve the problems of tomorrow,” Dr. Dressler said.

Bridging leaders in action

The leaders contacted for this article offered some examples of bridging in action. Dr. Arora has used “crowd sourcing” – a technique employed extensively in her work with Costs of Care, a global nonprofit trying to drive better health care at lower cost – to implement a local program for front-line clinicians to generate ideas on how to improve value and reduce unnecessary treatment.


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