The healthcare industry has much to be thankful for

"It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have."
-Fred Rogers

In my years serving as CEO of healthcare systems, I always took special care around this time of year to express my thankfulness to our employees for their hard work and compassion, and for the amazing work we get to be part of every day in the healthcare industry. This year, I would like to share what I am grateful for with you—my friends and colleagues—in hopes that you will stop and reflect on the many blessings in your life and work, and find meaningful ways to share that gratitude with those around you.

1. Compassionate, dedicated healthcare professionals

It is the caring, brilliant, committed people we work alongside every day that make this such a special time to be part of the healthcare field. Together we have the privilege of healing and inspiring our patients and communities. It is an honor that I do not take for granted.

2. Innovation and advancements

In the span of my career, I have seen incredible advances in the medical field. 90% of what we do in hospitals today wasn’t available to patients 50 years ago. From digital technology to curing diseases, innovations in modern medicine are increasing people’s quality of life.

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Leading with calm urgency in times of crisis

Whether coming from outside your organization or internally within your own hospital or health system, crisis situations have a lasting mark on the healthcare organizations they impact—and the CEOs who run them. Disasters—and how executives respond to them—can cost them their jobs and, more significantly, the public’s trust in their organization.

The fact is, you can have the best health system in the nation, and one crisis can eliminate years of goodwill and good work. Clear, decisive, prompt communication from a healthcare organization’s CEO is the key to navigating disasters while maintaining trust.

As a leader, you must bring calm urgency to communications with:

  1. Your employees,
  2. Other organizations and stakeholders in the community,
  3. And the general public

Employees

When a crisis occurs, many executives focus primarily on their message to the general public, trying to provide accurate, up-to-date info, stay ahead of public opinion, and set the tone for communication about the incident. While this is certainly important, it is also essential to provide care and attention to your employees.

In times of crisis, a lack of stability impacts the workplace culture. Employees at every level of the organization will feel the effects of this. As an executive, it is your responsibility to ensure your hospital’s greatest asset—its people—receive accurate and timely communications regarding the crisis your organization is facing. Make your confidence in your staff clear, and actively seek out ways to be a source of stability.

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Bridging the Gap Between Providers and Payers

Cheryl, a patient of a large, multi-city health system, received a call from her insurance company. Looking at Cheryl’s medical history, you’ll find her Type 2 diabetes is well-managed with oral medications. She sees her endocrinologist every six months to monitor her blood glucose and lipid profiles.

One day she received a phone call from her health insurance provider indicating that she could save substantially on her insurance copay by switching one of her daily medications. In the same week, she received a phone call from the local pharmacist who said the insurance company had contacted him asking he suggest changing this same medication.

Cheryl was frustrated and confused by the conversations because she adheres to her doctor’s care plan, and her diabetes is well-maintained. At each appointment, the endocrinologist indicates there is no reason to change any of her medications.

So, at her next appointment with this doctor, she mentioned both phone calls. After discussing the suggestion, her doctor indicates he doesn’t see a need to change medications if the current medication is not creating a financial burden on Cheryl.

In the end, Cheryl is pleased with the care she receives from her doctor, trusting his judgment and knowledge of the care she needs. However, she’s frustrated by the insurance company’s persistence in wanting her to change medications (because this wasn’t the first time they called about it) and drawing her pharmacist into the conversation to attempt persuading her. She assumes the insurance company is motivated by the financial gains they can make with the pharmaceutical companies, which then trickles down to the local pharmacy.

And, her perception is her reality, correct or not: Her doctor cares about her health, and the insurance company cares about money.

Just like Cheryl’s reality, here are some perceptions that the general population may have that can be overcome through the intentional and conscientious approach to care.

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Looking to the future of healthcare

Leaders in the insurance arena gather to discuss innovation while remaining practical and compliant

I recently had the privilege of hosting the Think Tank at the Rise Association West Summit 2019 conference in San Diego, containing many of the top senior-level insurance executives from around the country. These impressive and inspiring individuals provided unique insights into practical and compliant innovation ideas impacting the future of healthcare.

Think Tank participants shared “What’s Working in Their Organization and the Overall World of Healthcare Innovation,” focusing on how to get the most comprehensive, accurate, and robust insights in taking accountability for the health of their members. In addition, we considered the latest innovation in telehealth, predictive analytics, AI, and machine learning. Furthermore, participants discussed the broader view in overcoming barriers to members’ health including social determinants and the keys to provider and payer collaboration in solving many of these issues together.

The final two hours allowed for a vigorous discussion centered on, “What does the Future of Healthcare Innovation Hold,” as we explored drivers of innovation and examined the role of health plans and providers in innovating the healthcare delivery system.

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Are hospitals and provider health systems where innovation goes to die? The Subtlety of Influence and Partnering for Innovation

Politicians, businessmen, and even housewives ask the questions: “Why is healthcare so complicated? Why can’t it be simpler?”

They even demand: “I need care, tell me the price, and don’t make me wait so long.”

Amazon knows me as a member of Prime and maintains my information securely in the cloud. Amazon knows where I live with my saved data/information and then delivers to my house in three days or even less. They know me. “Why do I have to keep filling out the same paperwork at my hospital every time I arrive? It is my regular appointment with my same doctor and the same office and hospital. Why don’t they know me by now?”

Apple has all those apps I can just download from the app store for service, education, entertainment or every day conveniences.

“If physicians and hospitals are so sophisticated with all their expensive equipment, why can’t I just get an app to simply make an appointment, review my bill and pay utilizing PayPal?”

“I’ll tell you what causes a real headache, trying to pay a bill after a stay at my hospital.”

Finally, “Why can’t I just download my healthcare information and take it with me wherever I go?”

Industry-wide, we providers are internally focused on creating results; too often myopic in our approach. Ongoing comparisons within the healthcare industry are continuous and judicial yet we restrict our world toward outmaneuvering only the local competitors; however, our patients are judging us by the expectations created outside of healthcare through their engagement in the broader world of technology and business.

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