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RUSH University Medical Center CMO Focused on Staff Wellness

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   April 02, 2024

Wellness and well-being efforts at RUSH include a wellness office, wellness resources, and group and individualized coaching.

The wellness and well-being of staff members is among the top 2024 priorities of Paul Casey, MD, MBA, chief medical officer of RUSH University Medical Center.

Casey has been CMO of RUSH since June 2019. Before becoming CMO, he served in multiple roles at RUSH, including associate chief medical officer, senior patient safety officer, associate chief medical informatics officer, and chairperson for emergency department operations.

Staff members are a critically important asset and foundation for success, Casey says.

"They will always be our highest priority," he says. "When you take a step back, healthcare has been under assault over the past couple of years on multiple fronts not only related to the coronavirus pandemic but also with payers, dealing with inflationary pressures, and rising to the challenge of a tight labor market. The only way to successfully combat these challenges is to invest in our people and our teams, making sure they are empowered to help lead us forward."

Efforts at RUSH to address the wellness and well-being of staff members include having a wellness office and wellness resources, but the organization also reaches out to staff members through "listening campaigns" to understand the stressors that are impacting them, Casey says.

"We have done a lot of work to listen to the voices of our staff and to understand the biggest pain points and how we can help to resolve pain points whether it is workflows or other areas," he says.

One initiative that RUSH has launched to address physician burnout is helping to manage email, texts, and MyChart messages to clinicians from patients. RUSH physicians receive hundreds of these messages every week, Casey says.

"We make sure we have support for our physicians, so that only things that need to go to the physicians are escalated to the physicians," he says. "We also want to make sure that mundane tasks such as prescription refills are automated as much as possible through technology such as generative artificial intelligence."

RUSH has a robust coaching program in place to help promote staff member wellness and well-being, Casey says. There is group coaching to talk about how the organization views the challenges ahead and how staff members can deal with stressors. In addition, there is individualized coaching that is paired with the group sessions.

"The group coaching curriculum is focused on how we perceive some of the challenges in the workplace and different perspectives on how to deal with stress," he says. "The individualized coaching focuses on what individuals are facing whether it is work-life balance or how they are scheduling their time. We want our staff members to be scheduling their time to be as effective and efficient as possible. The individualized coaching also looks at how we are finding joy in our work life and our home life."

Paul Casey, MD, MBA, is chief medical officer of RUSH University Medical Center. Photo courtesy of RUSH University Medical Center.

Digital patient engagement

Another 2024 priority for Casey is supporting efforts to expand digital patient engagement at RUSH.

Like many other healthcare organizations, RUSH took a step back over the past couple of years to consider how the organization could provide more personalized and accessible care, Casey says, adding some of this effort has been related pressure from new entrants into healthcare such as Amazon.

RUSH recently rolled out personalized reminders for services such as screening and wellness visits.

"These are important things that we know are not often prioritized because of patients' busy lives," he says. "For example, we are connecting digitally through our primary care clinics to tell patients they are overdue for mammography screening and suggesting available times for that screening."

RUSH is also making it easier for patients to schedule appointments digitally, Casey says.

"We want patients to be able to make appointments with three clicks or less through our reminder system," he says. "We know that patients often get bogged down, and it quickly becomes more cumbersome to make appointments. We want to create a good experience in as few clicks as possible."

Supporting growth

This year, Casey also is involved in efforts to forge partnerships and grow ambulatory services.

"We are not only thinking about the ambulatory space in the traditional bricks-and-mortar sense of building new clinics and regional sites of care, even though that is part of our plan," he says. "What is going to be key to increasing accessibility for our patients is both the digital work we are doing and growth through partnerships. We are always looking at new opportunities to partner and expand our existing footprint, whether that is in the form of additional clinics or online presence."

Last month, RUSH opened a new rehab hospital in partnership with a large national rehab organization, Select Medical.

"We have found that our growth through partnerships is effective when we find the right partner that has the same goals in mind," Casey says. "Relatively quickly, we have been able to expand our services at the same level of quality that we expect because we are an organization that is recognized for the high quality of our care."

RUSH recently opened a new ambulatory care facility in the western Chicago suburb Hinsdale. "This is an expansion of our primary care as well as our first concierge offering," he says. "This is an example of how we are expanding our offerings for patients who want to access RUSH in different ways."

Advancing health equity

In the area of health equity, Casey and fellow executives are building on the work of a prior RUSH CMO, David Ansell.

"He was a pioneer in thinking about health equity long before it became an in-vogue topic for discussion," Casey says. "We have been focusing on our West Side of Chicago community in making sure we are sourcing both our opportunities to hire staff and our vendor agreements through our local economy to help lift the economy in the area. We are making an investment in the communities that we serve."

RUSH is also focused on providing equitable care, he says.

"We keep an eye on health equity quality metrics and how we are doing among different races and ethnicities to make sure we are providing equitable care," Casey says. "We look for trends that we can identify and correct. We have begun to do this work for all quality metrics to trend the data and understand where opportunities to improve health equity exist."

From a health equity perspective, the primary quality metrics RUSH is tracking include patient experience on both the inpatient side and the ambulatory side, hospital readmission rates, and mortality rates, he says.

Christopher Cheney is the CMO editor at HealthLeaders.


RUSH offers group and individualized coaching for staff members.

This year, RUSH is expanding digital patient engagement efforts.

Also this year, RUSH is embracing partnerships and growing ambulatory services.

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