Veronica Gillispie, Obstetrician & Gynecologist, Ochsner Health System
In the light of your experience, what are the trends you’ve witnessed happening with respect to the Gynecology space?
In my 11 years of experience in the Gynecology space, I have found that the underlying concepts of electronic medical records (EMRs) have changed dramatically. It’s a great tool which enables quick access to patient records for more coordinated and efficient care. Before, we had to wait weeks to get lab results or any other information; but with EMR’s, there are less delays. This has facilitated expedited care for patients.
Could you elaborate on the challenges that the organizations will need to address related to Gynecology space?
Although these trends are helping improve access to information, there are a couple of challenges with EMRs if you are not savvy in using it. For instance, if a physician is in a patient room and is accessing that information through the computer, it can be an obstacle for the personal connection between the patient and the physician. Specifically gynecology is an intimate field where your patients want to connect with you personally, and the EMR can interfere with that connection. Because the physician may have to look at the computer, they are not able to make considerable eye contact with the patient. Physicians have to work to incorporate using the EMR in their practice, but maintaining patient-centered care.
An additional challenge is the ever-changing field of medicine. It is important, and the duty of a physician to keep up with these changes in best practices. In the midst of providing great patient care and being present for their patients, physicians also have to indulge themselves in learning new things outside of their actual work time to ensure that they are staying abreast of the changes.
"I strongly believe in patient-centered care; meaning that we are all here for the patient"
Could you talk about your approach to identifying the right partnership providers from the lot?
As we interview providers to be a part of our practice, we're looking for physicians that are bright and have exhibited a history of lifelong learning. We want to ensure that our physicians are providing care that is consistent with current evidence-based practices. Additionally, in general, as physicians, we spend a lot of time at work, and we want to ensure that whomever we bring into our work environment has a great attitude and fits in well with our practice. Also, we look for providers/physicians who are team players because it is a practice where we have to support each other.
Could you elaborate on some interesting and impactful project/initiatives that you’re currently overseeing?
I'm currently the Director of Quality for Women’s Services. As such I monitor our performance on nationally established metrics. If we are not meeting those standards, it is my job to come up with quality initiatives to ensure we are meeting our goal. So again, all of this goes back to the changes that happen in medicine. There have been a lot of changes in the gynecology space, and this is a way of monitoring and ensuring that as a group, we are practicing evidence-based medicine and that we are changing as the information changes.
What are some of the points of discussion that go on in your leadership panel? What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?
As a leader, I strongly believe in ‘psychological safety’; This means everyone has the ability to verbalize any practice of activity they feel is not being performed in a way that is safe for the patient. Of course, there is a hierarchy, and there's a person in charge, but at the same time everybody is equally responsible for our patients’ outcome. Everyone has the right to step up and speak if they feel there's something that we could be doing better to take care of our patients. It is essential to eliminate a culture of shame and blame and instead, create an environment of psychological safety where everybody feels comfortable and safe to step up and speak about bringing in any sort of changes that would help provide better care for our patients.
Thus, keeping patients at the center of everything we do should be the main motto. Sometimes that means giving up some of ourselves to ensure that we're doing what is best for our patients. Along with being the Quality Director; I’m also the Clerkship Director for the medical school. It has been important to me to teach students to remember that the patients are the reason why we're here.
How do you see the evolution of the Gynecology arena a few years from now with regard to some of its potential disruptions and transformations?
There are several transformations happening in the gynecology space. Through all of the changes, I think the most important part is to educate our patients. We have to empower our patients to be advocates for their own healthcare. This means giving them the information.
One particularly exciting area of transformation in gynecology is the development of more medication and non-invasive options for women that are having gynecologic issues from things such as fibroids and endometriosis. I'm working on a Phase-3 clinical trial for treating fibroids and also for endometriosis. With this, there's a potential that surgical volume may decrease if we are able to offer patients a non-invasive option. It is always better for patients if they can avoid surgery, but then the flip side of that is what happens to the skill level of physicians if they're not operating as often. For every action there is a reaction, and this can disruption how we care for patients.
What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to a fellow or aspiring professional in your field, looking to embark on a similar venture or professional journey along the lines of your service and area of expertise?
I would advise anyone aspiring to be a physician to write down why you want to go into OB/GYN or whatever field you're going to and keep that safe. There will be times when you get frustrated with things and in that moment, go back and read through the reason you got into that field and then try to focus your practice around that. From my personal experience, when I was going to go into OB/GYN I wanted to find treatments for fibroids. There weren't many things available at that time, and that became my goal. Now that I have been in practice for 11 years, I have focused my area of practice back on what made me go into OB/GYN, treating fibroids. Because of that, I feel more fulfillment in the work I do. I feel this, makes me a better provider In medicine, there are going to be a lot of good days that bring you fulfillment, there are also days that are going to be challenging, and it's important to stay grounded and focus on why you initially chose to do this.