CMO article – Core Values

Bailey HSBy Dan Bailey, DPM, Vice President, Chief Medical Officer, Upper Valley Medical Center

Many times, we hear that someone or some group did “the right thing.” What does that mean for physicians in today’s health care world?

The challenges of a changing health care system can stress our commitment to the values that are crucial to providing care with excellence. Expectations around shorter length of stay, readmissions, and proper utilization of diagnostic testing are changing. Queries related to our documentation often focus on phrases that we previously used, but that now lack the specificity required to adequately communicate our patient's condition. Physicians are being challenged daily with these questions, and more.

It is easy to understand how one might push back against the demands being placed upon us. When we take time to examine what is best for our patients, we often have to rethink the old paradigm. Is the safest place for my patient in the hospital? Is the potential for a fall, a medication error, wrong procedure, or unnecessary test, a consideration in the well-being of my patient? What is the "right thing to do" anyway?

Our behavioral standards/core values (respect, integrity, compassion, excellence), can actually guide us in making these decisions. Let's first consider “respect.” There are many definitions we could use, but deference, honor, and maybe the words "courteous regard," should be used. This is something we all know and have been taught, but at times find difficult to show. How does this play into patient satisfaction? Is a particular medical decision that I am about to make, being done so with courteous regard?

Do my actions display integrity? Are they truthful and consistent with the highest of character? Do they represent what we want others, especially our patients, to see in us? If I am to receive care, is integrity a critical characteristic I want my physician to possess? I am certain of it.

What do we think about, relative to “compassion?” More involved than empathy, the word invokes co-suffering, and alleviation of suffering. So does compassion drive our decision making?

Finally, the word “excellence” - the type of care we all want to provide, and receive. So how do we measure up to the national benchmarks? Is it really excellent care? Probably, most of the time it is - but always?

All of the above relate to ethics, or "the way things ought to be," as a mentor of mine teaches. Many medical decisions are complex and difficult to make. Throw in the changes we discussed above, and it is no wonder that most find this a very challenging time in our careers. I am confident that a deeper look at what goes into our decision- making process, keeping in mind these core values, will be foundational in our pursuit of doing “the right thing.” Certainly it is something to consider.

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