Transform, Adapt, Lead: Three Leadership Takeaways from the Becker’s Hospital Review Annual Meeting

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Becker’s Hospital Review Annual Meeting attracted healthcare leaders who explored a wide range of topics focused on the urgent, demanding strategic issues of the day:

Transformation: Difficult but Not a Choice

Joel Allison, CEO at Baylor Scott & White, used his keynote to forcefully call for hospitals to “change healthcare,” saying “if you do not like change, you’ll hate being irrelevant.” Regulatory barriers that “protect the status quo” are a top concern. The challenge is to pursue true transformation. Dramatic cost reduction is certainly a key component of such change, but Allison warned that cutting alone is insufficient since you cannot “diminish your way to greatness.” Rather, organizations must reduce fundamental variations in care to drive lasting change.

That message was picked up by Barry Arbuckle, CEO of MemorialCare Health System in the panel, “Biggest Issues and Best Opportunities in Healthcare for 2016.” Among several topics, the panel discussed the major shift of care from inpatient to outpatient. After noting that “keeping up with the pace of change” is challenging, Arbuckle described how capital is flowing to the “community rather than the campus” with important implications. The ambulatory shift reduces revenue, but gains valuable market share.

Consolidation is one of the biggest manifestations of transformation. Several speakers offered hard-won advice on the issue of increasing scale. Michael Dowling, CEO of Northwell Health, panelist on “Politics, Strategy, Managed Care, and More” counseled that in the drive to expand “you don’t have to own everything, but need to own enough to be sustainable.” It is essential for healthcare systems to be fully integrated, find the right balance between a system approach and local autonomy, and focus on where each structure produces the best value.

Adapt to Changing Workforce

Consultant Dr. Jean Ann Larson and Santosh Mohan, Clinical Transformation Fellow at Stanford Health Care, addressed “Navigating the Changing Dynamics of the Intergenerational Workforce.” The speakers described the meaningful behavioral and attitudinal differences between the generations in four areas: work expectations, communication, learning, and diversity. Successful strategies take these differences into account while focusing on the top five expectations shared across the generations, shown in the graphic:

Changing Workforce-healthcare

With millennials now the largest segment of the American workforce, it is not surprising that this cohort is receiving considerable attention. Amelie Karan, Millennial Specialist, and Chris Karan, CEO at Christus St. Michael Health System, in “What Leaders Should Know about Millennials and Vice Versa” offered three ways to engage this group:

  • Communicate the meaning and purpose of the organization
  • Ask for their input and insights
  • Provide public and private affirmation

Taking a broader view of employee engagement was Craig Saylor, CEO at Somerset Hospital, who used his session “Buy In: A Two Way Street” to demonstrate his organization’s approach to the issue that many frontline employees can identify potential solutions for workflow problems yet feel “there is no platform to convey their ideas.” A structured online mechanism was put in place to encourage specific feedback. The result was a 63% improvement in employee survey response to the statement “my ideas are seriously considered.”

Physician Engagement and Leadership a Priority

The critical importance of physicians was emphasized in the panel “Strategy: Thinking Five Years into the Future.” Anthony Armada, CEO of Swedish Health Services urged organizations to pursue a “best-practice environment for physicians” characterized by “a culture that values the physician partnership.”

A session on “Hospitals: Survival of the Adaptable” stressed physician leadership as central to change. Bryan Becker, VP Integrated Care at DaVita Healthcare Partners and Brian Sanderson, Managing Partner at Crowe Horwath, called for expanding physician leadership widely across organizations and migrating the focus to a broad array of management issues rather than the typical narrower emphasis on quality and medical staff.

The view from senior executives at the Becker’s Hospital Review Annual Meeting was clearly on transformational change, workforce management, and physician engagement as influential elements in the vital drive to improve patient care, enhance workforce engagement, and increase revenue and market share.

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