New Quality Director Uses Team-Based Approach, Data Analytics to Improve Patient Care

On July 1, Assistant Professor of Dermatology Dr. Margo Reeder took over as the Department of Dermatology’s Director of Quality Improvement. Dr. Reeder replaces Dr. Dan Bennett, who served in this position since 2012. Originally from Minnesota, Dr. Reeder first came to UW-Madison to do her undergrad before attending Mayo Medical School in her home state; she later returned to Madison for her residency, and eventually joined the Dermatology faculty in 2013.

Dr. Bennett says of his successor, “She’s the perfect person for her new job…she’s coming at it with a real interest in data and data analytics. You can’t improve what you can’t measure, and she’s developing tools to do that.” Dr. Bennett stepped down as Director of Quality Improvement to assume the role of Vice Chair of Clinical Affairs for the department.

While Dr. Reeder is the new Director of Quality Improvement for Dermatology, she has been involved in the department’s Quality Improvement (QI) efforts since her time as a resident, when she found herself investigating the method for tracking melanoma patients, encountering QI somewhat by accident. “I never set out to do QI, just to improve the treatment we provide to a population of patients. But the deeper I got [into the project], I realized how layered these systems are, and I found I was effectively using the tools of QI.”

Measuring Patient Outcomes

In her new role, Dr. Reeder wants to emphasize a shift from data points that are simply “measured because they are measurable” to instead “measuring good care and patient outcomes,” something that is becoming increasingly possible as both Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and practices of care become more sophisticated.

“This is more difficult than it looks because of the inherent complexities—and large numbers of players—in the system. Which makes it all the more important to develop meaningful measures.” Dr. Reeder sees this as doubly important given the changes to our national healthcare system and the resulting new national quality measures that determine the ways that physicians and hospitals are evaluated.

Dr. Reeder, an Epic-certified Physician Builder for UW’s HealthLink EMR, expects to deploy her tech savvy towards improving systems and workflows. She decided to pursue Epic training and certification because she “experienced a disconnect between what [she] as a physician wanted the system to do and how Healthlink was set up.” Dr. Reeder says “I now understand how data is stored and collected and how we can obtain meaningful measures from HealthLink.” She views her role as a Physician Builder is to make sure that HealthLink is a tool that “strengthens patient care and is not a barrier.”

Among the projects that Dr. Reeder is already working on are an automated recall system for patients with high risk skin cancer, an initiative to ensure the accuracy and safety of the department’s phototherapy system, and finding ways to meet the higher demand for dermatology services in the community.

An Inclusive Process

But EMRs and data analytics are only the end part of the equation—the key, Dr. Reeder says, is to get everyone involved in the Quality Improvement process. “QI thrives when there is an appreciation of different perspectives and creativity in the solution…I try to be somebody who steers the group rather than someone who steamrolls that group. Everyone has a perspective and we should hear all of those perspectives.”

Hearing these perspectives not only helps the team discover a multifaceted solution, but can also make it a less painful process. “I think QI should be an empowering and inclusive process. QI doesn’t always have a reputation for being fun, but when someone who usually never speaks up has a great idea, when you are all working together on a problem and get actively engaged, people can be surprised with how they can make changes and make things better.”

Dr. Reeder is also working to improve quality in dermatology practice at the national level. As of 2016 she has been serving on the Performance Measurement Task Force for the American Academy of Dermatology, and serves on the board for the American Contact Dermatitis Society.