Education and service have always been important for Harry Cho, MD, who recently joined the editorial advisory board of The Hospitalist.
From joining AmeriCorps as a fresh faced college graduate, to his ongoing work as assistant professor of medicine and director of quality, safety, and value for the division of hospital medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and as senior fellow at the Lown Institute, Dr. Cho has found a passion in helping others learn.
When not teaching or working with patients, Dr. Cho is committed to improving value-based medicine, a path that has lead him to create the High Value Chair Initiatives, a program dedicated to offering clinicians resources on how to reduce wasteful testing and harmful practices.
Dr. Cho said he is excited to contribute as one of eight new members of The Hospitalist editorial advisory board in 2017 and took time to tell us more about himself in a recent interview.
Q: Why did you choose medicine as a career?
A: Right after I finished undergrad at Cornell, I spent the summer and the following year doing AmeriCorps, which is service learning work, and I worked in the inner city of Philadelphia. I worked on after-school programs and weekend programs for inner city youth and I loved it. I was organizing and developing these programs, and I thought it was fantastic. The one thing that I thought was lacking, and I think what really drove me to get into medicine, was that at the end of the day, although I felt really connected with all the kids, I felt like I was a role model, like I was a mentor, and we had a really good connection, but I wanted something a little bit more concrete on improving outcomes. I knew we made connections, but I really wanted to know more – such as, did we reduce the dropout rate in high school for these students? I think that’s why medicine was really interesting.
Q: How did you end up in hospital medicine?
A: I think it’s a lot of things. I love the acuity, I love playing the quarterback in a place where a lot of things are going back and forth and you have to coordinate with others. You have to make sure you see the patient from top to bottom, the whole picture, and I love that part. I also love the action and the communication and the teamwork aspect of it.
Q: What part of being a hospitalist do you like the most?
A: I love the education on a daily basis: the morning rounds where you walk around for an hour or two with your team, and you teach them at the bedside, and these little pearls come up along the way. My career is positioned more within quality, value improvement, and safety, so I think that participating in the education process is really helpful. I think hospital medicine has taken over that spirit in the hospital setting, and I love that.
Q: Which part do you like the least?
A: I think we’re in a unique time right now. Burnout is getting a little tougher to beat. People are getting a bit more tired, and I don’t think we have a good solution to solve this. With quality improvement and the electronic medical record system, a lot of us are expected to do more. I still get queries from clinical documentation saying, “I need you to document this for billing purposes” or “I need you to document this for increasing the expected length of stay,” and doctors are not quite at the point where they can balance these requirements in an effective way. There tends to be an emphasis on “one more click,” one more thing to document, just one more thing to do on the checklist. It’s getting more complex.
Q: What is the most rewarding part of your work?
A: Larger scale accomplishments. When you give a talk, or teach a group of residents during morning rounds, and they look at you with wonder because you have this teaching pearl they’ve never heard before, and they think you’re a great attending – that’s very instant gratification, but there's more to be done beyond that. I’ve been co-directing in the Right Care educator program, and we have a High Value Care curriculum that we’ve been implementing across the country, and we’ve just finished our second year. There are around 60 programs involved, and it’s a great feeling. You’re not seeing actual people face to face after they’ve been taught, and you’re not getting that instant gratification. But just knowing what one of those chief residents who has implemented the program is feeling, and extrapolating across the number of programs this year alone, that makes me feel good.
Q: Outside of hospital work, what else are you interested in?
A: High-value care is my central aim right now. I want to expand it, and I want to do things on a national scale. We formed a High Value Care committee and I’m hoping to create new guidelines to reduce overuse, overtesting, and Choosing Wisely. Outside of medicine, I like photography. Nothing professional, but I love taking pictures, especially nature and travel. Back in the day, I used to do a lot of running and martial arts too.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: I’m not sure if I will go the chief medical officer or chief quality officer route. That’s probably where I see myself. I definitely want to continue making bigger changes on a national scale, like implementing the overuse educator program across the country.
Q: What do you see as the future of hospital medicine?
A: Value-based health care is always going to get bigger as the cost of health care and the cost of overuse rises, and we start to see a lot of harms outlined in research. We’re going to be on top of it much more, because the hospital setting is complex and continues to change.