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The Exec: Newark Beth Israel's Charles Cathcart Lists CMOs' 2023 Concerns

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   October 04, 2023

In 2023, the primary concerns for CMOs include clinical staffing trends, financial challenges, and a nurturing environment for patients and the workforce.

Charles Cathcart, MD, CMO of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, says the healthcare sector continues to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic such as a significant shift in employment trends.

Cathcart has been CMO of Newark Beth Israel since 2022, and he has been chairman of radiation oncology at the hospital since 2010. Prior to taking on the CMO role, he was vice president of medical affairs at the hospital for seven years. Newark Beth Israel is part of RWJBarnabas Health, the largest academic health system in New Jersey.

Newark Beth Israel and Children's Hospital of New Jersey is a comprehensive medical center that delivers care to some of the most critically ill patients in its region, including heart failure patients, patients with advanced pulmonary disease, infants born with congenital heart conditions, and cancer patients at all stages of the disease.  Earlier this year, Newark Beth Israel opened a new outpatient geriatric center, the James and Sharon Maida Geriatric Institute, to offer seniors increased access to the specialists and education they need to manage their care.

HealthLeaders recently talked with Cathcart about a range of issues, including how to remain financially viable with many Medicare and Medicaid patients, how academic medicine impacts hospitals, and the primary concerns of hospital CMOs in 2023. The following transcript of that conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.

HealthLeaders: What are the primary challenges of serving as CMO of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center?

Charles Cathcart: The physicians and staff at Newark Beth Israel are truly my colleagues and I consider myself a servant leader, essentially a player-coach. I meet with my division chairs and chiefs regularly to discuss the challenges they are facing and to ensure that we are all working in alignment to reach our hospital goals and deliver the highest level of care to our patients.

As the CMO, I must ensure that our physicians and our medical practices are meeting the needs of all our patients, from chronic disease management to complex advanced cutting-edge medical care.

Charles Cathcart, MD, chief medical officer of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Photo courtesy of RWJBarnabas Health.

HL: In 2023, what do you think are the primary concerns for hospital CMOs?

Cathcart: The healthcare industry continues to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Across the country, we have experienced a great shift in employment trends from The Great Resignation to new expectations of a new generation of employees. Physicians are in high demand but, increasingly, they are a limited resource, and we need to expand our clinical teams to include more advanced practice nurses and physician assistants. Hospitals across the country are also facing increased financial challenges. As a CMO, my primary concern is creating an environment where our patients receive the highest level of care in a safe environment by a team that feels supported by their colleagues and leaders.

HL: A large percentage of your payer mix is Medicare and Medicaid. How do you remain financially viable with so many Medicare and Medicaid patients?

Cathcart: At Newark Beth Israel and Children's Hospital of New Jersey, we are committed to providing excellent care to all the communities that we serve. Although we have a high government payer mix, we also provide tertiary and quaternary care to a wider range of patients, inclusive of more commercial payers, which mitigates government payer shortfalls.

HL: You were previously a faculty member at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey. How does academic medicine impact hospitals?

Cathcart: I spent the first half of my career, 18 years, as a faculty member at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey. That experience helped me to understand the importance of medical education and the role that research plays in delivering quality patient care.

The origin of the word "doctor" is teacher. As we teach our patients and their families about their illnesses, we can teach one another both at the bedside and in formal peer review meetings. Peer review is one of the most important aspects of improving our clinical outcomes.

At Newark Beth Israel, I work with my chairpersons to help them develop practices that incorporate and optimize our partnership with Rutgers Health and our robust residency program—Newark Beth Israel has 23 residencies and fellowships—to deliver the best, most advanced, and evidence-based care to our patients.

HL: How are physicians involved in administrative leadership at Newark Beth Israel?

Cathcart: As the CMO at Newark Beth Israel, I have a seat at the senior management table alongside our chief academic officer and our medical staff president. Our job is to represent the medical staff in many administrative decisions where patient care is involved. I strongly believe in the dyad model, where a physician leader and administrative leader work hand in hand to develop clinical programs.

In addition, Newark Beth Israel and our entire health system is on a high reliability organization journey toward reaching zero preventable harm events. Our physician leaders are actively engaged in that journey, providing leadership at safety and quality meetings with our administrative leaders, engaging in weekly patient-centered rounds, and helping our hospital prepare for federal and state safety and quality surveys.

HL: You have a clinical background in oncology. How has this clinical background helped prepare you to serve in administrative roles such as CMO?

Cathcart: As an oncology physician, I was trained to practice medicine in a collaborative manner. I have been an oncology physician for 31 years. We rely on our fellow oncology clinicians to help us make critical decisions about how to treat our patients. I am very comfortable pulling together teams of stakeholders to discuss issues, review cases, and decide on the best course of action for my patients. I am a CMO who still wears a white coat to work every day, and this means that I often need to venture into clinical areas that are unfamiliar to me. It is my job to ensure that the correct clinical expertise is in the room that includes physicians, nurses, and social workers. I must pull together the appropriate resources to address clinical issues throughout the hospital, and at the same time I must be a resource for my clinical leaders.

I have an acute understanding of the challenges that clinical leaders face, when they are asked to split their time between the practice of medicine and the administrative duties that are equally important for the effective operations of a 665-bed regional care teaching hospital, such as ours. As CMO, I've made it my mission to help my colleagues bridge that gap, by creating an escalation system that enables our clinical teams to access our chiefs and chairs 24/7, and by placing leaders at the center of critical patient care decisions. We have also developed a weekly patient-centered rounding tool that connects clinical and administrative leaders to the frontline staff on our units to ensure that we all stay connected to our patients and their loved ones.

Related: What it Takes to be an Effective Physician Leader

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

Hospital CMOs need to meet regularly with division chairs and chiefs to understand their challenges and achieve alignment on hospital goals.

A robust residency program can help a hospital deliver the best, most advanced, and evidence-based care to patients.


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