Creating a shared vision: Q&A with David Spahlinger, M.D.

May 3, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

David Spahlinger, M.D., assumed his new role as president of the U-M Health System in January 2016.

Headlines recently caught up with Spahlinger to look back on his first 16 months on the job and to take a closer look at his vision for the future of the patient care enterprise.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Since becoming president of the health system, what has been your greatest success and greatest challenge?

DS: I feel the greatest success has been the creation of a shared vision of what we want to achieve over the next ten years. For example, we want to create a statewide health system through a number of partnerships that will allow us to care for 4 million people throughout Michigan. We also want to provide comprehensive care to 400,000 patients locally. And we want to improve the value of the care we provide by focusing on reducing health-care acquired conditions, improving our outcomes, reducing the cost of care and focusing on appropriateness of care.

The largest challenge is to engage faculty, nurses and all of our health care professionals around our strategic vision and priorities. We have already aligned Mott, UH/CVC and UMMG leadership priorities. The next step is to engage each clinic, patient care unit and department to achieve our strategic goals.

Q: You often talk about the values that drive the best patient care — caring, teamwork, integrity, innovation and excellence. How are these values highlighted in everyday work?

DS: As I round every week, I see so many examples of our faculty and other health care professionals practicing these values. Teams are coming together twice a day as we roll out our Daily Management System and generating new ideas or suggestions to improve patient care. Daily discussions of problems and the generation of new ideas to solve our challenges builds upon our integrity, innovation and excellence.

I hope these values also provide a framework that guides our decision making in everything we do, particularly in difficult situations. We may face a challenging patient or family member or experience frustrated team members as we struggle with capacity or other issues. These are stressful situations that will happen. But if we react and respond with our values in mind, we will be better prepared and equipped to manage these situations.

Q: Michigan Medicine recently announced a Letter of Intent (LOI) with St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital and a final affiliation with Metro Health in Grand Rapids. How will these partnerships impact our business?

DS: The LOI with St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital will allow us to explore how we might use some of the excess capacity within their hospital. We treat many patients from the Chelsea area; if we could see those patients on their local level, it will help ease our capacity issue on the main medical campus and provide another option for patients in that community.

Metro Health is one component of our plan to develop a statewide system of care. Our vision for Metro Health is that it will be an outstanding community hospital serving patients locally. We also believe that some tertiary outreach programs will be provided at Metro Health.

Q: In the 2016 engagement survey, employees said that we need to improve the level of trust, recognition and communication across the institution. What plans are in place within the health system to address this concern?

DS: Engagement of our employees is a critical element to our success. Alignment of our priorities throughout the organization, the twice weekly rounds, implementation of the Daily Management System and the daily suggestion are all part of our plans to improve engagement.

We also are working hard to improve our recognition. Chief Nursing Officer Marge Calarco and Chief Medical Officer Jeff Desmond have done an excellent job in recognizing many different units for various safety achievements, such as going 365 days without an infection from an IV or catheter. That’s just one of many examples, and we are trying to do more things like this to recognize our units and show our appreciation for their commitment and hard work.

How do you plan to imbed the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategic priorities within the clinical enterprise?

DS: As part of the broader campuswide initiative, we have representatives from the various units and departments working with their teams on their DEI plans. These efforts will focus on recruiting and retention; education and training, such as de-escalation and unconscious bias; and increasing cultural awareness.

The conversations we’ve had around our five values also play a big role in supporting diversity and inclusion. The values are the same principles that support a diverse and inclusive environment across the organization.