A Servant Leader

Demonstrates Excellent Interdisciplinary Care and Communication


​“Quiet Boss” Katherine Payne, MD

When you’re in charge of an interdisciplinary clinic, communication in its various forms is paramount to delivering quality patient care. Katherine Payne​, MD, knows the drill: She’s responsible for overseeing the multitude of patients who require additional therapy and services in order to be discharged from University of Colorado Hospital (UCH).

“Once a patient reaches our team, the focus shifts from medical care to reestablishing function,” she said. “As a rehab hospitalist, I continue to manage the medical side of patient care while overseeing their rehabilitation needs.”

As the recently appointed inpatient rehabilitation medical director, Dr. Payne relies on collaboration across the hospital in order to provide the best patient care. Whether it’s evaluating patients in other inpatient units at UCH or working directly with patients admitted to the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation unit, Dr. Payne relies heavily on a team of nurses, therapists, physicians and social workers to restore their patients’ function and get them into the next stage of their recoveries. As you can imagine, it requires excellent communication—something Dr. Payne excels at, according to Dr. Venu Akuthota​, professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

“Dr. Payne, a so-called ‘quiet boss’, has all the qualities that make proactive teams, like the rehab team, more cohesive. She listens carefully and has the ability to drive ‘team suggestions’ into improved patient care and processes,” said Dr. Akuthota.

With all the people who need to be involved, Dr. Payne admits that it’s a lot. “You learn to use a little bit of everything—from phone calls to chatting with someone when you see them to sitting down as a group to talk about a patient’s care.”

One of Dr. Payne’s biggest focuses is ensuring that everyone on her team feels empowered.

“It’s about maintaining open lines of communication,” she said. “I want the team to understand that their voice is important.”

Dr. Payne is also responsible for making sure any potential barrier to a patient’s discharge is addressed as soon as possible. “I do a lot of troubleshooting—trying to predict any issues that could arise.”

The need for excellent communication extends beyond the care team. It’s important for patients and families, too.

“Family communication is essential,” she said. “They need to know what kind of help the patient needs so they can figure out how they can make this happen prior to discharge.”

Quality is a top priority for Dr. Payne and her department. They recently began exploring an interdisciplinary program aimed at two complicated patient populations: spinal cord and traumatic brain injury.

“We’re doing a lot of work coming up with protocols and guidelines to care for these patients, beginning in ICU and continuing through rehab. We aim to reduce complications such as pressure ulcers, and reduce length of stay, while improving overall outcomes.”

Dr. Payne credits her team for the excellent care and communication they provide.

“This is a fantastic group, and I do not do this alone, by any stretch,” she said. “It takes a village to get these patients taken care of—and it’s through the support of case managers, medical and surgical teams and others that my job is possible.”

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