Meeting the needs of patients: Q&A with Jeff Desmond, M.D.

August 28, 2018  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

From overseeing patient safety initiatives to coordinating care between partners across the state, Jeff Desmond, M.D., has plenty on his plate.

Desmond, who has been with the organization since 1993 and now serves as the chief medical officer, recently sat down with Headlines to discuss his role — and what he is most excited about as Michigan Medicine looks to the future.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q: You became chief medical officer in 2016. In this role, what sort of responsibilities do you carry out each day?

JD: The role of the chief medical officer is to ensure that the medical care provided across our system is safe, of the highest quality and coordinated to meet the needs of patients. On a daily basis, I work closely with others to understand how we are performing and to assist in prioritization and development of strategies for ongoing care improvement — as well as adherence to quality and safety standards. I also work with the leadership of our partners and affiliates including Chelsea, MidMichigan and Metro Health, to coordinate care across our system. While we all provide exceptional care, there are always areas in which we can improve.

Q: You mentioned areas of improvement. What are some of the ongoing initiatives that you are most excited about in regards to clinical care at Michigan Medicine?

JD: It has been said that “it’s not a meeting with Dr. Desmond if he doesn’t talk about hand hygiene” — and to some degree that’s true! Hand hygiene is critical for patient safety and to reduce health care-acquired conditions. I am proud of what we have accomplished since this initiative began in 2015. Our recent impressive hand hygiene compliance numbers — along with a sizable reduction in health care-acquired conditions over the last several years — are major accomplishments in an organization this large. A lot of people had to consistently change their behavior to achieve these milestones.

We have also worked hard to deploy and support MPLAN, which empowers leadership at the local level and physician partnership with nursing and other team members. This, in combination with our Daily Management System and our safety and leadership huddles, have helped solve problems more quickly and improve communication across the organization.

Finally, in 2015, the chief nurse executive and I began recognizing units who have been able to prevent a specific safety event or HAC. To date we have given out more than 50 365 Days of Safety awards, recognizing the hard work and diligence required to sustain these changes.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job? 

JD: I think one challenging aspect of my job — and that of many leaders — is that we often have to influence change in areas where we may not have direct authority. This is where being able to lead teams and organize others around priorities and shared goals is important.

Additionally, staying balanced between the daily urgencies and longer-term strategic priorities can be challenging. If my day is regularly spent addressing emergent issues, there is little time to sit and seriously think through solutions to challenging and complex problems. The challenge to find a balance that allows me to do both.

Q: What has inspired you to stay with the organization for 25 years?

JD: I share the values of teamwork, excellence, integrity, innovation and caring which we have articulated for our health system. I also share the values of a public university and the provision of the highest quality of care for all. That has helped 25 years go by quickly!

As an emergency physician, the patients I care for have a wide variety of conditions and I focus on diagnosis and treatment for one patient at a time. In much the same way, if we as a health system improve our individual processes and systems, the impact is much broader. It is this recognition that drew me to the administrative roles I have held. I feel privileged that I am able to work with so many dedicated and talented people as we strive to continually better the care we provide.

Q: When you’re away from the academic medical center, what other passions or hobbies do you have?

JD: Outside the hospital my focus is my family. I enjoy many outdoor activities: cycling, swimming, skiing, hiking, fishing and camping. My wife, sons and I have had the good fortune to spend time together in some of the most beautiful parts of our country enjoying the outdoors. I think it is healthy to take a break from the phone and constant connectivity every so often.