What healthcare leaders need to know now

 

Penny Wheeler: Even in value-based care, leaders of varying backgrounds can thrive

By | August 6th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Penny Wheeler: “It’s just a sheer privilege that we get to be in a role where, by our actions, we can improve the lives of thousands.”

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.

 

In the era of value-based care, many health systems are looking for ways in which they can develop their physicians into administrative leaders who can guide the organization, not just a physicians’ group.

 

While Allina Health CEO Penny Wheeler, MD, can certainly relate to such endeavors, she’s not ready to brand the clinician-to-chief-executive transformation as the sole formula for all organizations.

 

“Some doctors are scrambling to get their MBAs, but I wonder if there is going to be a time when people who have been in the administrative ranks will get certifications in clinical care process and care model design,” says Wheeler, an obstetrician/gynecologist who has led Allina Health to a Truven Analytics ranking as one of the top large health systems in the country.

 

Both types of knowledge are needed in the C-suite, Wheeler says, and can come from an administrator who has an empathetic mindset and has spent time learning how to reduce clinical-care variations, or from a physician who has accumulated experience in finance and operations.

 

“There is a convergence these days,” she notes, “of needing to understand clinical-care models and clinical-care processes, and having the operational and financial acumen to know what kind of team you have to assemble to lead.”

 

The learning curve can be steep regardless of which side you begin on. Wheeler was named chief clinical officer of Allina in 2006 and freely admits it took her time to adjust.

 

“You can go from feeling pretty adept at doing a complex hysterectomy with a lymph-node dissection in the operating room to feeling like you don’t know how to run your email account,” she says with a laugh. “When you’re relatively good at something you trained your whole life for, and then all of a sudden you feel like you’re on a separate orbital plane, that’s hard.”

 

What kept her going, she says – and what led to her growth as an executive that ultimately put her in charge at Allina – was the purpose and mission she had, which did not change in the move from the exam room to the administrative offices.

 

“It’s just a sheer privilege that we get to be in a role where, by our actions, we can improve the lives of thousands,” Wheeler says. “That’s an incredibly fortunate position to be in.” Read more…

 

 

At HealthPartners, Mary Brainerd’s leadership approaches solutions from a nuanced angle

By | August 5th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Mary Brainerd: “I think anyone I know who has worked in healthcare and then has encountered the healthcare system as a patient … is changed by that experience.”

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.

 

While HealthPartners CEO Mary Brainerd is pleased that more people now have insurance through the Affordable Care Act, you’ll have to excuse her if she’s a little frustrated with how the law has had a rocky start in Minnesota, where innovations that already existed were scuttled by Obamacare.

 

For example, Minnesota residents who had pre-existing conditions already had insurance coverage through a special high-risk pool that included businesses as well as individuals. It had been functioning just fine for 30 years. The ACA shut the program down. Those individuals were forced to buy insurance products on the clunky exchange and now, in Year 2, are facing rate hikes of more than 50 percent because the risk pool is too small.

 

“That’s a federal issue, and we wish it would change,” Brainerd says. “But it appears no one has the political will at the federal level to ask, ‘What’s not working, and how can we help make it better?’ The more you segment the market when people have serious health conditions, the higher the costs are both for these individuals and for these smaller funding pools that are responsible for covering their costs.”

 

It’s an intriguing patient-centric perspective on Brainerd’s part, and comes from an angle that’s a little different than the typical healthcare-industry party line. But perhaps that’s to be expected from a respected executive with a degree in philosophy (as well as an MBA).

 

“I think there are actually a lot of areas in which both philosophy specifically and liberal arts in general add value, and that is that you spend time studying many different perspectives on the same topic,” she says. “So when you’re faced with challenges and decisions, you’re less likely to think there’s a formulaic right answer. Instead, you’re more likely to think there are many perspectives on this issue to explore and understand before moving to quick decisions.”

 

A 2013 merger with the ParkNicollet system was significant for HealthPartners because it doubled the organization’s patient base to more than 1 million and expanded the payer-and-provider capabilities that the company had been executing for 50 years. Other healthcare organizations are now jumping into the payer-provider mix, and Brainerd has some advice for them.

 

“I think the challenge for organizations that are just creating those capabilities is not to think of them as two separate businesses but instead to look at them as very integrated, synergistic businesses that have the same strategy. We have the same strategic plan for our delivery system as we do for our health plan, and it’s focused on people as our chief resource and asset.”

 

Yet the enormity of merging two large organizations was a challenge. Read more…

 

 

Sister Carol Keehan: Gender diversity is a must-have for healthcare leadership — and so is solidarity with the poor

By | July 17th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Sister Carol Keehan on gender diversity: “Whether it’s the Catholic Church or whether it’s healthcare, if you only use 50 percent of the talent you’ve got, that’s a problem.”

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.

 

As the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association since 2005, Sister Carol Keehan is arguably one of the most powerful healthcare executives in the country and played a significant role in getting the Affordable Care Act passed. Yet there was a time in her life as a hospital executive with a nursing background that she felt stymied in her efforts to help the poor obtain medical care, so she went back to school to get a master’s degree in finance.

 

“I thought I had a lot of really wonderful ideas, particularly for how we could take care of people who couldn’t afford care. And I would always get just literally nailed by the finance person,” she remembers. “They would say, ‘That would be a nice idea, but you couldn’t do it for these reasons.’ And most of the time, those reasons were, ‘It’s easier for me not to get involved.’ But that’s just not right.”

 

Armed with that degree and an understanding of the intricacies of Medicaid, cost-based reimbursement and the art of negotiating contracts with insurance companies, Keehan became an even more formidable force to be reckoned with. She’s been honored by many, including a Trustee award from the American Hospital Association and another from Pope Benedict XVI. And in 2010, Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

 

Keehan says she sees more women following a similar path in healthcare these days. “More and more, you’re going to see women reclaiming leadership positions,” she says. “More women are going into business schools, and more women are getting a degree in finance in addition to a degree in nursing.”

 

Gender diversity in leadership is important, she says, and should simply be common sense. She notes that it was primarily sisters from religious orders who built some of the largest healthcare systems in the U.S.

 

“Whether it’s the Catholic Church or whether it’s healthcare, if you only use 50 percent of the talent you’ve got, that’s a problem,” she says. “If you only use men, you’ve got a problem. If you only use women, you’ve got a problem.” Read more…

 

 

Nancy Schlichting’s willingness to take risks is still paying off for Henry Ford Health System

By | July 1st, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Nancy Schlichting: “Sometimes the hardest things are the right things, but they’re not the things that everyone will gravitate to.”

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.

 

Nancy Schlichting has become known for bold, unconventional leadership during her tenure at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, where she’s served as the CEO since 2003. She’s won numerous awards and led major initiatives, like the process that led to Henry Ford winning the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2011. But the key to great leadership, she says, is developing and nurturing relationships.

 

“I think you have to understand that every interaction matters,” she says. “Leaders are under a spotlight all the time, and so consistency and interest and openness are things that go a very long way. Smile. Lift people up.”

 

For example, when Schlichting eats in the cafeteria, she will sit with anyone.

 

“Unfortunately, I don’t get to the cafeteria as often as I should, but when I do go, I think everyone in the cafeteria must go out and tell everyone I do that. It’s always amazing to me how your reputation gets built, and it’s not by promoting it yourself. It’s just the fact that everyone around you observes.”

 

Her peers in the healthcare industry would probably make the observation that Schlichting is a forward-thinking, fearless leader. Schlichting herself merely says that she has less trepidation about taking risks.

 

“What I’ve found in life is that the most important things you do are probably the hardest, and I think that’s why a lot of people don’t do them. It’s hard sometimes to do the right thing because you’ve got to deal with the potential conflict, the risks that come with it. If I had felt that way when I came to Michigan, we probably wouldn’t have done half the things we’ve done because they weren’t easy. Sometimes the hardest things are the right things, but they’re not the things that everyone will gravitate to.” Read more…

 

 

With King vs. Burwell decided, bold leadership becomes a mandate for healthcare delivery and financing

By | June 29th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

“Teams that come together to think about what can be realized serve their organizations and constituents far better than teams that focus on market protection and guarding the status quo.”

 

By Bob Clarke

CEO, Furst Group

 

The King vs. Burwell decision once again had healthcare leaders, both payers and providers, holding their collective breath to see if years of work would be undone. Now that the Supreme Court has weighed in, by a surprising 6-3 margin, to uphold the ACA and its subsidies, there still remains a lot of work to do. So the question for the healthcare industry is, how can CEOs and boards best demonstrate leadership to their organizations and their communities going forward?

 

Regardless of where one falls in the political debate, this decision was anxiously anticipated by all. Our industry has had more than its share of uncertainty over the years and having this decision behind us will allow for the great work that organizations have done thus far to continue. Without a doubt, patients and families are seeking access to quality care at an affordable cost, all wrapped in a package of transparency. Significant strides have been taken toward this goal but the threat of constant change and disruption of the payment system doesn’t allow an organization to focus or to plan too far ahead.

 

However, we have seen some leaders be very bold and stake their future on this continuing trend. They have been very proactive in creating services and pricing schemes that are consumer-oriented. Their vision has allowed for open discussions with others about potential partnerships and collaborative models. These are trends that need to continue.

 

These are times of uncertainty, to be sure. Bold leadership, however, seizes on this as opportunity. Teams that come together to think about what can be realized serve their organizations and constituents far better than teams that focus on market protection and guarding the status quo. The latter often find themselves holding on to a model that quickly becomes outdated and stagnant.

 

Patients want and deserve excellent care in a system that is far less complicated than what we have had in the past. May the evolution (or rather, the revolution) of healthcare continue and bring our delivery and financing system to a level that was only dreamed about not too long ago.

 

 

 

 

Leadership lessons: ‘Empathy is the engine of innovation’

By | June 17th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

 

Management expert Gary Hamel offers a compelling story in Harvard Business Review about how a health system in Michigan used the so-called “soft skills” to not only improve patient satisfaction scores but to achieve clinical improvements.

 

“Empathy,” declares Hamel, “is the engine of innovation.”

 

The empathy movement has been gaining ground in recent years, perhaps epitomized by Cleveland Clinic’s powerful video series. Hamel spoke to the system CEO at Lakeland Health in Michigan who came into the role and soon discovered that things were in worse shape than he expected.

 

With patient satisfaction scores mired between the 25th and 50th percentiles, the CEO created a strategy called “Bring Your Heart to Work” and set a goal to bring scores to the 90th percentile in 90 days.

 

It actually worked — Lakeland’s scores jumped to the 95th percentile. In one anecdote, hospital security was ready to call the police when a despondent husband reacted angrily to his wife’s terminal diagnosis. A junior nurse stepped in and hugged him. He broke down in tears and the situation was defused.

 

“Beyond the improved satisfaction score,” the executive noted, “there was a clinical benefit. We are in the business of saving lives, of enhancing heath, of restoring hope. When we touch the hearts of our patients we create a healing relationship that generates a relaxation response, lowers the blood pressure, improves the happy neurotransmitters, reduces pain, and improves outcomes — for both the patient and the caregiver.”

 

There is a neat personal revelation embedded in the story, but Hamel concludes, “If you want to innovate, you need to be inspired, your colleagues need to be inspired, and ultimately, your customers need to be inspired.”

 

Hamel provides plenty of leadership inspiration for management teams, and food for thought too. To read the full article, click here.

 

 

 

 

Women executives strengthen leadership teams

By | April 30th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Bob Clarke and Sherrie Barch

 

By Bob Clarke and Sherrie Barch

Furst Group

 

Welcoming women leaders to your leadership team with women executives is a prudent thing to do because a diversity of opinions and experiences can only make your organization stronger. But, according to a recent article by the Associated Press, it makes good business sense too.

 

The story explores a 12-year initiative at Sodexo to increase gender diversity. A company study in 2014 demonstrated that business units dominated by men at the top earned less profit than those led by equal numbers of men and women.

 

That dovetails with a McKinsey study last year which also found that companies with leadership roles equally divided between men and women reported above-median profits, according to the AP.

 

One need only to look at the honorees on this list – the Top 25 Women in Healthcare – to see that the news story confirms what we have known for a long time: both gender diversity and ethnic diversity are essential to success in the mission and business of healthcare today.

 

In our conversations with women leaders, though, we know there is still much work to be done. We need more women CEOs and board members – and more female C-suite leaders in all departments.

 

A report by CNNMoney last month found that women hold only 14.2 percent of the top five leadership roles at companies listed in the S&P 500. Worse yet, the study found that those 500 companies only had 24 women CEOs (4.8 percent). “Corporate America,” CNN concluded, “has few female CEOs, and the pipeline of future women leaders is alarmingly thin.”

 

In this, we’d advocate that healthcare has an opportunity be the industry that leads the way to a better leadership outcome for our country.

 

All of this explains why we at Furst Group are pleased to once again be celebrating the Top 25 Women in Healthcare, our sponsorship with Modern Healthcare. Winners were announced in this week’s issue of Modern Healthcare and we urge you to save the date of Aug. 20 to join us in Nashville, Tennessee, for a gala honoring the Top 25 Women, who are some of our industry’s best leaders regardless of gender. Details on attending are here.

 

 

 

Innovation keeps George Brown, Legacy ahead of the curve

By | October 20th, 2014 | Blog | 1 Comment

 

George Brown: “We believe if you do things right, you don’t have to do them all over again, and that means it’s also less expensive.”

 

One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)

 

George Brown, the CEO of Legacy Health System in Portland, Ore., has had a long and distinguished career as a physician and leader, but his talents in innovation help him keep his organization on the industry’s leading edge.

 

From collaboration and affordable care to medical homes and information technology, Brown and his team have been unafraid to adapt and take risks, providing an example to the northwest region and the country at large. Legacy joined with a number of organizations to form an integrated delivery system, Health Share of Oregon. It’s partnering on the OHSU Knight-Legacy HealthCancer Collaborative. In an era bursting with mergers and acquisitions, the path Brown has charted is intriguing.

 

“I have accepted the need to change from a completely competitive mindset to a collaborative mindset,” he says. “Competition doesn’t help the economics of healthcare – it divides communities.”

 

The Affordable Care Act has prompted soul-searching on the part of many executives, and Brown applauds the arrival of reform.

 

“I believe healthcare is too large of an issue for this country not to have a thoughtful and near-universal solution,” he says. “The Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction.”

 

Although Brown has a sterling history in healthcare, it’s clear he doesn’t waste time looking back. He is especially proud to be on the board of Cover Oregon, despite some of the hits that the exchange took in the media for its early problems.

 

“We’ve enrolled 400,000 people,” he says. “We are moving in the direction to have affordable healthcare for all Oregonians.”

 

The ACA, he says, mirrors some of the measures Legacy has already been working on for some time, foremost of which is quality.

 

“The number one project we have been working on is how to make our organization more efficient,” he says, “and what we’re driving efficiency to mean is quality. We believe if you do things right, you don’t have to do them all over again, and that means it’s also less expensive.”

 

Read more…

 

 

Quality, safety fuel Pujols McKee’s drive at The Joint Commission

By | October 6th, 2014 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Ana Pujols McKee: “When we see a high-performing organization, we almost consistently see a high level of physician engagement.”

 

One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)

 

Ana Pujols McKee’s passion for quality and safety existed long before she joined The Joint Commission as executive vice president and chief medical officer. She previously served as the CMO and associate executive director of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, in Philadelphia, and as a clinical associate professor of medicine at a teaching hospital in Philadelphia. Pujols McKee has championed for years the need for transparency and patient-centered care.

 

“I’ve had my own personal experience with injury as a patient, and I think what began to propel me in this area were some of the unfortunate patient injuries I had to deal with as a chief medical officer. Seeing up close how deep the injury extends to the patient and family is truly overwhelming,” she says.

 

The physicians and nurses who are involved in an incident when a patient is harmed suffer too, she is quick to add.

 

“What we don’t always talk about is what we now refer to as ‘the second victim,’ and that’s the clinician and staff that are injured as well. It’s a tough situation.”

 

Being able to make strides in that area, Pujols McKee says, has been one of the highlights of her career. “When you work at an organization and you start to see those injuries decrease, and you start to see your infection rate come down and you start to see (patient) fall rates come down, there is nothing more rewarding than that – to know that you’re making a difference.”

 

From the time she was a child, she says, she knew she wanted to not only become a doctor but to run a large clinic – “all those altruistic dreams of taking care of people and making people well,” she says with a chuckle.

 

Pujols McKee’s prospects on the surface looked daunting – the world in which she grew up had some prejudicial obstacles blocking her way. She remembers constantly visiting a high school counselor to obtain information on college admission, only to have the woman continually tell her that she was busy or had no guidance for her.

 

Read more…

 

 

Bernard Tyson: Workers will share in healthcare costs, but cost shifting is not sustainable

By | September 18th, 2014 | Blog | Add A Comment

 

Bernard Tyson: “I strongly believe that healthcare is unaffordable in large part because it's siloed, and it's running off the wrong chassis.”

 

One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)

 

At a recent New York Times conference on healthcare, Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard J. Tyson drew applause when he said that healthcare costs can’t continue to be shifted onto the backs of American workers, who have seen few wage increases in the last 20 years.

 

It’s one thing when a consumer activist or patient advocate makes a bold statement like that; it’s quite another when the words come from one of the most powerful healthcare executives in the country. In a conversation the following week, he elaborated on that point.

 

“You have the American people seeing the cost of living going up every year and seeing the cost of healthcare going up three or four times the cost of inflation,” Tyson said. “They see no real wage increases and then they get stuck with the added cost that’s been shifting to them from employers and insurers.

 

“That is not a long-term solution.”

 

What does seem to be working is the Kaiser Permanente business model, in which the organization serves as both health plan and healthcare provider, with capitation helping to fund the delivery of care and hospitals viewed as expense centers rather than revenue generators.

 

“One of the moral obligations that I believe I have as a leader in the healthcare industry is to bring a lot of transparency as to why I believe our model is the best way to go,” Tyson says. “It’s a system that doesn’t pay for volume, that isn’t motivating people to produce more of something in order to get paid. What we have been able to do for almost 70 years is align the incentives of the financing mechanism with the hearts and minds of physicians and other caregivers who continually sign up to do the right thing.”

 

Read more…

 

 

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