From ensuring quality care and educating providers to managing organizational culture, chief medical officers have no shortage of responsibilities.
But as electronic health records, value-based reimbursement, changing consumer preferences, data-driven wearables and artificial intelligence grow in scope and necessity, CMOs find many new challenges on their plate. That, in turn, is broadening the role, requiring leaders to be tech-savvy, financially focused and highly collaborative with vendors and business teams.
HealthTech recently spoke to Dr. Marjorie Bessel about the balance. Bessel, a board-certified internist and hospitalist, served as CMO at Banner Health in Phoenix before rising to the position of chief clinical officer in 2018.
HEALTHTECH: What is the CMO’s role in addressing technological changes in the industry?
BESSEL: Our role is to make sure that the focus on safety and quality continues, even with all the technological changes. For example, we used to spend a lot of time talking about legible handwriting because that led to fewer medication errors. Now we have electronic health records, which have allowed us to put in a lot of automated alerts.
Although well intentioned, if you don’t constantly re-evaluate your alerts, you actually can create an environment with a different type of medication error caused by alert fatigue. So the CMO must be aware of the technologies that we put into place, the vulnerability of the care pathways that emerge from those implementations and make sure that we’re constantly assessing, reassessing and tweaking so that we continue to improve the safety of the environment in which we provide care.
HEALTHTECH: How do you collaborate with different stakeholders to shape purchases and policies?
BESSEL: We have a number of multidisciplinary forums where we assess technology opportunities so that we make good decisions about what we should do, how we should do it, how we spend our capital dollars in the best possible way, but then also the after-monitoring, making sure that once we’ve made a decision that we are getting the intended impacts.
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HEALTHTECH: How do you meet the demands of a tech-savvy patient population?
BESSEL: The important thing is to stay focused on your highest priorities and look for technologies that are going to solve your pain points. Otherwise, I think it’s incredibly difficult to constantly scan the landscape for everything that’s out there and try to stay on top of it.
HEALTHTECH: Can you discuss a technology implementation you helped oversee to shape care delivery?
BESSEL: Not everyone thinks about a patient portal as a technology innovation, but I, along with many other individuals, helped to drive its adoption because I believe it ultimately improves the quality of care delivered and improves the safety of care that we can deliver. We don’t embargo any of our results. They flow to the portal as quickly as they flow to the EMR, the physicians and other care providers so the patient can be an active, integral member of the treatment team.
HEALTHTECH: What changes will most affect healthcare technology in the years ahead?
BESSEL: What we’ll see over the ensuing number of years is the ongoing push into diversified access of the continuum: a more ambulatory, more telefacing, self-serve environment. With those changes, I think what will come is a lot more asynchronous care — care that you can receive with devices in your home.