Michael R. Ripchinski, M.D., serves as Chief Clinical Officer for Lancaster General Health. We asked Dr. Ripchinski about his new role, why he loves family medicine, his strategies for fighting burnout and how he spends his off-hours.
What is your background?
I grew up outside of Philadelphia, in Delaware County. I double-majored in biology and philosophy at the University of Scranton. After some volunteer work and shadowing in a local emergency department, I applied to med school. I liked the combination of science and serving others. When I attended Penn State College of Medicine, my family medicine rotation in Lancaster really stood out. I appreciated the long history of our successful program, the wide range of experiences that it could provide, and the opportunity to care for patients in both rural and city settings, Quarryville and Lancaster.
Dr. Michael Ripchinski and his family at Disney World
What do you like most about family medicine?
I like the variety and problem-solving, appreciating the mind-body connection, and building relationships with patients over a long period of time. Since I know my patients pretty well, I can point out to them that their stress, anxiety and depression are often the drivers of their physical complaints. I enjoy how we serve as our patients’ “medical home” for ongoing and coordinated care. I continue to see patients at Walter Aument Family Health Center in Quarryville. Just last week, I saw a patient that I delivered 14 years ago!
How did you get into a leadership role?
I really enjoyed my year as Chief Resident. Wanting to continue the mix of patient care and clinical leadership, I asked to serve as a Physician Champion within Information Services. During the subsequent 10 years, with eventual service as Chief Medical Information Officer, I learned a lot about leadership, workflow analysis, process redesign for improved outcomes, change management, negotiation and compromise.
How would you describe your current role?
The Chief Clinical Officer is a new role that combines quality, safety and analytics/informatics across inpatient and outpatient with executive leadership of the department chairs. I enjoy collaborating with others to reduce clinical variation and improve outcomes for our patients and the community. With the start of a new fiscal year, a lot of my current work involves concentrating team efforts around our system goals. Specifically, we want to reduce our inpatient mortality index, 30-day readmissions, infections and complications. Improving provider communication with our patients is another area of focus.
How do you work to communicate effectively with your patients?
I use the teach-back method, asking patients to repeat what they understand about our discussion. When I realize that there may be a lack of understanding, I use Google images to better illustrate and explain a patient’s situation. It’s hard to provide written instructions consistently, but I am working on it! Also, I asked Dr. Wilikofsky for some professional coaching.
What is a typical day like for you?
I spend most of my time meeting with teams, trying to attend huddles or doing Gemba walks, and meeting with my peers to make progress on strategies and operational goals. I also collaborate with colleagues throughout Penn Medicine. Currently, I’m co-leading a Discharge Planning Workgroup with Pennsylvania Hospital’s CMO. I meet at least twice a month with physician and nursing leaders from the other Penn Medicine hospitals, medical groups and business units, such as rehab, hospice and home care.
How do you balance the demands of your job to help reduce stress and burnout?
A lot of it comes down to prioritization. I assess the urgency and potential impact of the task, whether it’s the right thing to do for patients and providers, and whether it’s personally meaningful to me. I continually balance what needs to be done now and what can wait until later. I realize that I can’t be everywhere, and sometimes I have to say no. I’ve learned to accept that I won’t go home at night with everything done, and both my Epic and Outlook inboxes will never be clean. I also do what works for me. I personally would rather not work late in the day. That’s when I’m having dinner with my family, participating in activities, and doing the evening routine. I would rather work early in the morning.
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I’m learning to golf. I have a coach, but making time to practice has been the problem. I am working on not overthinking it. Becky and I have two kids, Rylee and Evan, ages 10 and 8. We really enjoy creating experiences for them, taking vacations, and spending time with family and friends. We have been to New York to see “Aladdin” and went to a Taylor Swift concert this summer. We enjoy time at the shore and Disney World, or we pick new places to go. My daughter keeps a count of the states she’s been to – 11 so far!