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Redefining Patient Safety through Risk Management: Insights from a CMO

In the world of healthcare, patient safety remains paramount, and a robust risk management strategy is a critical part of ensuring top-quality patient care. This is the driving force behind Dr. Alan Harmatz, the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) at Medical City Dallas. Since assuming his role in August, Dr. Harmatz oversees clinical care at Medical City Dallas and its associated branches including Medical City Children’s Hospital, Medical City Women’s Hospital Dallas, Medical City Heart Hospital, and Medical City Spine Hospital. All these institutions are part of HCA Healthcare, with Medical City Dallas as a flagship hospital boasting close to 900 beds.

Prior to his current role, Dr. Harmatz was the CMO of HCA Healthcare’s Florida Brandon Hospital. In his perspective, successful risk management necessitates evaluating patient safety events post-occurrence, learning from these incidents, and developing a robust safety program to forestall any future occurrences. Ensuring that the instituted processes are adhered to and that clinical staff focuses on the pivotal areas are key aspects of risk management. According to Dr. Harmatz, the journey to patient safety is a constant cycle of communication, support, education, coaching, and monitoring. It requires consistent discussions about care teams’ actions, the status of care processes, and potential improvements for future care deliverance. With his responsibility spanning across five hospitals offering a range of services such as emergency care, oncology, pediatrics, cardiovascular services, heart transplants, and solid organ transplants, Dr. Harmatz emphasizes the importance of getting familiar with the facilities, understanding the people, and grasping the culture.

Building relationships with the medical staff is also crucial and requires recognizing their dedication, intelligence, and professional engagement. His leadership style advocates for collaboration rather than leading, believing that great ideas usually originate from those delivering the care. Dr. Harmatz promotes infection prevention. Before his role at Medical City Dallas, he spearheaded an HCA Healthcare project developing a software program that reduces hospital infections. This software resulted from a collaboration with another physician leader, two programmers, and his infection prevention director. The software has significantly reduced hospital-acquired infections such as Clostridioides difficile and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus at HCA Healthcare.

Lastly, Dr. Harmatz believes his background as a plastic surgeon has prepared him well for the heterogeneous challenges faced by a CMO. In his opinion, plastic surgeons and CMOs share similar thought processes – identifying a problem, deducing the causes, and discovering solutions. Much like plastic surgeons, CMOs face diverse daily challenges that seldom have cookie-cutter solutions.


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