Chief Quality Officer to Help Baptist Deliver a Higher Quality of Care: Q&A with Dr. Saju Joy and Dr. H.F. Mason

Dr. H.F. Mason, Baptist DeSoto and Baptist Tipton’s chief medical officer (CMO), will also serve as Baptist Memorial Health Care’s new chief quality officer (CQO). In this position, Dr. Mason will provide leadership and operational oversight for Corporate Quality; Infection Prevention; Accreditation and Compliance, including Environment of Care and Employee Safety; Quality Data; and Analytics.

Dr. Mason will work closely with Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Physician Executive Dr. Saju Joy to develop and deploy a comprehensive clinical quality and patient safety strategy. Dr. Mason will also continue to support Baptist DeSoto and Baptist Tipton in the capacity of CMO.

We talked with Dr. Joy and Dr. Mason to learn more about this exciting new position and what it means for Baptist.

Dr. Joy, why did Baptist add the new chief quality officer role?

The role was created to help support our expanding system, build more of a systemness that we’re looking for and bring in the most current thought in quality. My role as chief medical officer for the system will be complemented by Dr. Mason’s chief quality officer role as he continues to expand the percentage of time that he devotes to understanding what our system needs in the different areas that include quality.

Dr. Mason will be completing his Certified Physician Executive designation, and he will also be working on a master’s degree in Healthcare Quality and Safety, which will help us continue to develop as an agile institution.

Dr. Mason, congratulations. How do you see this role being different from your role as chief medical officer?

Thank you. I will continue to serve as CMO of Baptist DeSoto and Baptist Tipton. This new role will take about 25% of my time. I’ll be at Corporate on average about one day a week. There are a lot of similarities, but the new role will be on a much broader scale – a system level for all 22 of our facilities.

Dr. Mason, how has your background helped to prepare you for such a challenging position?

I’m a general surgeon by training and practiced it for 22 years. I was the CMO at Baptist Union County and gained a lot of exposure in all the things that fall under quality like Environment of Care and Infection Prevention. I’ve been the CMO at DeSoto for a year and a half now, so I’ve gained experience with quality on a bigger scale. The new role will be on an even larger scale.

As Dr. Joy said, we’re trying to create more systemness within our hospitals, which includes increasing standardization as much as we can. When we have standardization, we decrease variations and errors. Systemness includes doing things the same way all the time no matter where you are. Every hospital may have its own personality, but there are certain things that we can do the same whether we’re in Memphis, Jackson or Jonesboro.

Dr. Joy:
I would expand on systemness and say it’s also about feeling like we’re one family. We can call on each other when we need help. It takes away the silos or isolation that can be felt because our system spreads across three states. Systemness means you can call Corporate or me or Dr. Mason, and we can help provide a solution that we’ve already created for one of our other entities, or that Corporate can help offer. Yes, we want to have standardization because that means reducing variation, which also means reducing errors and delivering a higher quality of care, but systemness also means we can call on one another and help. And that’s what we’re trying to work toward.

Organizationally, creating more systemness is why we’ve added roles for our CMOs to help cover some of our smaller entities. For example, Dr. Mason is covering Baptist Tipton. That’s because Baptist Tipton is too small of an entity by itself for a CMO, but we don’t want them or any other smaller entity to feel left out when discussing the whole organization and their voice in how we’re trying to expand our services or the quality goals we’re trying to achieve. Assigning our CMOs another smaller entity to cover allows for an additional layer of integration and connection and a voice in our quality realm at a higher level.

Dr. Joy, how will having a chief quality officer help improve the quality of care for patients?

Dr. Mason is going to be the captain of the ship when it comes to ensuring that our quality goals will be reached, and a strong support infrastructure is in place for each of our entities. He has experience working at a wide array of hospital sizes – from Baptist Union County to Baptist DeSoto. He has many strengths to bring to the position from his work with these hospitals and his clinical experience as a surgeon, as well as his understanding of the importance of standardization and teamwork.

He will bring those strengths to the role and help the organization become a more fortified team working continuously toward a higher quality of care for patients. We have a good infrastructure, but we’re trying to make those connections even stronger. The structure that is in place will become stronger with the CQO being a liaison and leader who can strengthen relationships.

Dr. Mason, what are you looking forward to most about your new position?

Being able to help make a difference and bring all our facilities together so we can be a stronger health care family and collaborate and learn from each other and have that attitude of continuous improvement.

Dr. Joy:
Here’s an example of how creating this health care family played out during the pandemic. As our entities were filled to capacity, some patients required a higher level of care and needed to be transferred to a higher-level entity within our system. The CMOs could contact their partners at our other hospitals to facilitate a transfer and help each other.

Because of that interconnection and knowledge that we are one system, the patients got the higher level of care that they needed rather than the hospital feeling it couldn’t do enough. We eliminated a roadblock because that relationship was already there. The understanding that we are one family was there, and we’ve had several examples of that, especially during the pandemic when we’ve had so many hospitals that were full.

Dr. Mason:
And to piggyback on that, Dr. Joy has done a great job with helping to connect all the CMOs in the system. We meet regularly on Teams calls, and hopefully we can meet in person soon. We’ve gotten to know each other, and we also talk about taking care of patients and how to make things better. Those relationships are important. When we have a patient who needs to be transferred, having those relationships makes things so much easier.

Dr. Joy, the job description says that the chief quality officer will coordinate with you in the development and deployment of comprehensive clinical quality and patient safety strategy. What are your goals or targets?

We are developing that now. We’ve been in conversations with other health care systems that have more mature and maybe different models of quality structures. We’re learning from them with virtual meetings, and we’re planning to do an on-site visit with a couple of them, as well. So, we’re learning from some of the top-tier institutions in the country to see what we can integrate on the quality front. Our continuous improvement strategy includes learning from others that have done it well and seeing what we can bring to Baptist.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Dr. Joy:
What I’d like to make sure the Baptist family recognizes is that Dr. Mason brings with him so many strengths, not just in this role, but as a member of our Baptist family. He’s served as an independent physician in our community. He has served as a medical staff leader. He has succeeded on every level. He has that inherent goal that is the Baptist vision of healing, teaching and preaching. He does all those things incredibly well. And as the CQO, he can continue to elevate us to grow that mission and take us to the next level.

Dr. Mason:
I appreciate the opportunity that Dr. Joy and Baptist have given me. I’ve only ever worked at a Baptist facility other than in my training, so I’ve seen Baptist grow. I’ve enjoyed growing with Baptist, and I look forward to the future.