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Transitioning to CEO? Self-awareness is vital

By | September 20 th,  2018 | Sachin Jain, CareMore Health System, CEO | Add A Comment

jain-2018Sachin Jain develops his team to make his own leadership take root

 

When we last chatted with Sachin Jain, he was transitioning from his role as chief medical officer of CareMore Health System, a subsidiary of Anthem, to become president and CEO of the company.

 

So, what is his new role like, and what observations does he have that might help other new CEOs just stepping into the job?

 

“As the chief medical officer, I had responsibility for more than half the organization,” he says. “But when you’re the leader of last resort, the day never actually starts or ends. You’re just ‘on’ all the time.”

 

Jain says the new role has encouraged him to develop his leadership team and learn to delegate, and to keep in check his tendency to try to do too much.

 

“I’m actually creating boundaries for myself, so I don’t burn out,” he says. “The other piece of it has been getting to the place where my team is making decisions, not just me. I love to be involved in every single detail, but there are times when you have to pull back. I’m learning how to telescope in and out as needed.”

 

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In leadership development, the art of delegation is an undervalued skill, but one that can be taught. Personality assessments often shine a light on this. Some leaders feel they are too busy to delegate or that the quality of the work will be lacking if they don’t address it themselves. Jain’s assessment of his own journey on this path is critical because it not only took weight off his own shoulders but allowed his team to grow in new leadership roles.

 

The value of physician leadership

 

CareMore, which was founded by a physician, just reached its 25th anniversary. It has established a reputation for doing things differently as it transitions from treating primarily a Medicare population to a wider group of patients. It was the first to use taxis, Uber and Lyft to ensure patients made it to their appointments – it saved money in the long run. It bought a refrigerator for a diabetic patient who was previously unable to store insulin. And CareMore just established a chief togetherness officer to combat what it calls an epidemic of loneliness among seniors that has adverse effects on health outcomes.

 

Jain, a much-honored, Harvard-trained physician himself, believes physicians and nurses are more in demand as physician leaders and organizational executives today because health systems and insurers need to have a “clinical soul” to be most effective. “The secret sauce of any great clinical organization is the people. They have to have a high sense of efficacy. Absent that, it’s difficult to deliver high quality care.”

 

Clinicians can sometimes be at a disadvantage when they first step into leadership because their executive peers who are career administrators have in many cases been nurtured and developed as leaders since their formal education ended. That’s where accelerated physician executive development can help to bring clinicians up to speeds on an intensive basis.

 

Jain says universities are also helping in this regard.

 

“I think the reasons that physicians are finding themselves more in demand as leaders is twofold. First, a growing number of physicians are being cross-trained, and more medical schools are offering a dual MD-MBA program,” he says.

 

“Second, the thing that organizations need most is that clinical soul. You need people willing to trade off short-term profits for doing what’s right for patients. By doing that, you’ll have better outcomes for the communities we serve and, in the long run, an even better financial outcome.”

 

4 key qualities for leaders

 

With his clinical credentials and his experience as an executive, Jain and his team have developed four imperatives for leaders at CareMore:

  • “Inspire daily. Be inspirational to your people.”
  • “Be willing to do and say hard things. I think that’s a muscle we all develop over time.”
  • “Learn constantly. We’re all evolving as leaders and people.”
  • “Teach your people constantly as well. When I think about leading people, that’s absolutely critical.”

 

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Vision and mission statements create alignment on leadership teams and enhance executive team performance. The most progressive organizations find great value in developing their own goals for how they can function optimally. But less formal declarations can be essential as well for building internal engagement, like Jain’s lift of key qualities for leaders.

 

“The reality,” he says, “is that people want to stretch and more in their day-to-day work. They want to be trusted to lead and trusted to develop their best.”

 

Executive’s toolkit: The number one mindset that leaders need today

 

These are times of great challenge in healthcare – and great opportunity as well. That’s why Jain says the most needed skill in today’s leaders is something that isn’t always taught in the MD/MBA programs.

 

“I think comfort with ambiguity is the number one attribute needed in healthcare organizations today,” he says.

 

The pace of change in healthcare is making this reverberate in health entities across the U.S. Jain explains why.

 

“The way many organizations are organized and structured, decisions can take months to make. But the reality is, in today’s atmosphere, your strategy could be obsolete in weeks or months, so you need to be comfortable in that tension.

 

“Leaders help people understand this.”

 

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Healthcare executive Ruth Brinkley: 'I'm not retiring'

By | September 29 th,  2017 | Blog, CEO, KentuckyOne, Modern Healthcare, Ruth Brinkley, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | Add A Comment

Photo of Ruth Brinkley

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2017. Furst Group and NuBrick Partners, which comprise the companies of MPI, sponsor the awards.

 

Respected healthcare executive Ruth Brinkley isn’t sure what’s going to happen next in her career, but she says one thing is certain: “I’m not retiring. This is a very exciting time in healthcare and I want to be a part of it!”

 

Weeks after announcing she was stepping down from her post as CEO of the KentuckyOne Health system, Brinkley said she was looking forward to some R&R before she returned to advise new interim chief executive Chuck Neumann for a couple months.

 

“I’m not even thinking about what I’m going to do next,” she says. “I’m taking some time off for a river cruise in Europe. There’s nothing like water to wash over your soul. It’s the first extended time off I’ve had in a long time.”

 

Brinkley says she will take the last quarter of 2017 to think about what she wants to do next in a lengthy career that has seen her go from a segregated, rural small town in Georgia to multiple honors as one of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare. But with an eye on the future, she doesn’t have regrets about the KentuckyOne experience as three health systems attempted to merge – St. Joseph Health System, Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare, and the University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center. “The governor did not approve the merger,” Brinkley says. “He didn’t want a state entity being managed by a church organization.”

 

The end result was that St. Joseph and Jewish Hospital merged into KentuckyOne, which operated University Hospital until this year, when university administrators said they wanted to reclaim the reins.

 

“Integrating these organizations into a statewide system was a great vision; it was laudable,” says Brinkley, whose veteran experience was sought after by Catholic
Health Initiatives to navigate a complex deal. “At the end of the day, the university wanted to go in a different direction.”

 

While KentuckyOne is in talks to divest Jewish Hospital and other Louisville assets, Brinkley has some advice for her fellow executives as the industry endures a volatile time.

 

“The environment is going to get tougher,” she says. “We know there are going to be significant changes in healthcare, and I believe it’s incumbent on all of us to exercise care and due diligence as we move forward. We are all moving from volume to value, yet, I don’t believe that anyone has quite figured out the full equation to make that work.”

 

And, despite industry initiatives to improve the numbers of diverse executives in the leadership ranks, she believes the climate also is getting tougher on that front.

 

“I am seeing a retrenchment, unfortunately,” she says. “I think women continue to advance in our industry, but I’m not certain about progress for people of color. I believe some of the advancements were made because organizations felt it was
important to promote diverse executives to address disparities and equity of care. I’m concerned that I’m seeing some erosion in that area.”

 

Corporate life was far from Brinkley’s thoughts growing up in a small Georgia town. A physician would provide yearly immunizations for children, but Brinkley never had a physical until she went off to college. She was raised by her grandmother, a teacher, who decided that Brinkley should become a nurse.

 

“I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I went to college, but I didn’t want to be what anyone told me I had to be,” says Brinkley with a laugh. “So, I rebelled against being a nurse.”

 

In time, she came around. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at DePaul University and ascended through the ranks. Health systems are increasingly looking to clinicians to lead organizations as well as medical groups, and Brinkley says her background has been a profound asset for her.

 

“I firmly believe that I am a better leader because of my clinical background and experience,” she says. “I believe that the movement from clinical provider to organizational/enterprise leader is best done progressively, adding additional education and experiences along the way.”

 

But the transition isn’t always as easy as some clinicians think it will be, she warns.

 

“For those who truly desire to lead, it can be a challenge to learn the business and operations language and processes. In order to be successful, it is vital that
leaders keep the core business in mind. It is difficult to separate the enterprise from clinical processes and outcomes.”

 

In the same way, she says, it can sometimes be difficult to separate the politics of the day from the healthcare needs of patients.

 

“But I believe in the American spirit. We will figure it out.”

 

 

SIDEBAR: A grandmother's influence looms large

 

Ruth Brinkley’s first and most powerful role model was her grandmother, who raised her from an infant.

 

“She was 4-foot-11 and not even 100 pounds soaking wet. I was 5-foot-6 by the time I was in sixth grade, but I thought she was a giant,” Brinkley says. “I had great respect for her.”

 

In a time when segregation still plagued the South, and when women were sometimes treated with less than respect, Brinkley’s grandmother taught her many leadership lessons, foremost of which was courage.

 

Although she was a teacher, her husband was a farmer. When Brinkley’s grandfather died, her grandmother could have lost the farm – the crop had been planted but the seed and supplies usually weren’t paid back to the store until the harvest came in.

 

“She didn’t know anything about the business side of the farm,” Brinkley remembers. “She had to quickly learn the business and make sure that people didn’t try to take advantage of her because she was a woman. She would say all the time, ‘I may be little, but I’m not dumb.’ ”

 

Other key lessons, Brinkley says, were these:

 

  • Collaboration. “You can’t really accomplish a lot on your own; you have to build teams. She took in a number of other people’s children, but we were all a part of her family.”
  • Use what you have. “Nobody has all the gifts and all the talents, but you learn to use whatever you have and leverage that.”

 

Brinkley took much of the wisdom she learned from her grandmother and turned it into a children’s book called Grandma Said.

 

“She taught me my worth as a woman and as a woman leader,” Brinkley says. “I’m sure there were times when she must have been afraid and alone, but I never saw her flinch.”

 

 

Personal experiences drive Susan DeVore's efforts to transform healthcare from the inside out

By | September 20 th,  2017 | Blog, CEO, Modern Healthcare, Premier Inc., Susan DeVore, Top 25 Women in Healthcare, transformation | Add A Comment

Photo of Susan DeVore

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2017. Furst Group and NuBrick Partners, which comprise the companies of MPI, sponsor the awards.

 

Healthcare is personal.

 

Even though Premier Inc. is one the largest and most successful companies in healthcare, focusing on performance improvement, its CEO, Susan DeVore, has personal as well as professional reasons for seeking to transform the healthcare industry.

 

Her mother died of hospital-acquired sepsis, and her grandson had a major health scare in dealing with a severe hip infection that appeared during a hospitalization. She says her family is far from unique in that regard.

 

“Anybody who’s interacted with our healthcare system has experienced the fragmentation, the lack of coordination and the misaligned incentives,” DeVore says. “It makes it very hard to navigate. And when you have people who are vulnerable or fragile and put them in that system, there are opportunities for things to slip through the cracks that can have significant implications. There are things in your life that happen to you that you’ll never forget.”

 

The experiences have left her determined to make a difference in the quality and safety at America’s health institutions, although she maintains that we nonetheless have “tremendous healthcare” in this country.

 

“It does drive me,” she says. “It does keep me focused on the importance of this work. We want to solve problems before they become unsolvable. Premier is doing important work, and to be able to do it in scalable ways across the country for current Americans and future generations are what get me up every day. This is the best possible place that I could be to try to help drive that transformation.”

 

While there is much uncertainty and confusion over the future of healthcare, DeVore says she doesn’t think government is well-suited to steer the changes that are needed; they have to come from within the system.

 

“I don’t think government can solve the challenges. I don’t think insurance companies by themselves can solve the challenges,” she says. “I actually think healthcare has to be reformed and transformed from the inside.”

 

And Premier, which works with more than 3,700 hospitals across the country, handling everything from data analytics to national collaboratives to group purchasing, hopes to accelerate the pace of change in the industry.

 

“We have a big footprint,” admits DeVore. “About 85 percent of our healthcare systems would say we’re a strategic partner or an extension of themselves, as opposed to a vendor of services or technology. And, because we sit inside the healthcare systems, and because we have a tremendous amount of data and insight, we can collaborate and innovate with them, and have them be our test bed for ideas.”

 

That footprint is growing. Premier recently purchased Lincare’s specialty pharma business and also bought two continuum-of-care companies. It has expanded its collaboration with pharmaceutical giant Merck on chronic care and also has launched a partnership with the American Society of Anesthesiologists to test methods to tackle the opioid epidemic. They’ll work to address post-operative pain management in a number of Premier-affiliated hospitals.

 

“We can help advance policy changes and we can help advance how hospitals improve,” DeVore says. “When I came to Premier 13 years ago, I saw this incredible relationship with healthcare systems, with lots of data, and the ability to have an impact that is continuous as opposed to episodic. It’s a model that doesn’t exist in a lot of other places.”

 

The awards that Premier has garnered don’t exist in a lot of other places either. It’s a past winner of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and, for the past 10 years running, has been named one of the world’s Most Ethical Companies by the Ethisphere Institute.

 

While Premier has flourished under DeVore’s leadership, she’s nonchalant about her own achievements. During talks with college students (and with her Premier staff as well), she is known to ask them what their superpower is, with the notion that passion unlocks stellar work – and superpowers working together in a team lead to great innovation. But ask her about her own superpower, and there’s nothing flashy about her answer.

 

“I think my superpower is the ability to assimilate and solve puzzles, and navigate around, under and over problems to get to the end goal,” she says. “I’d describe it as a navigation skill. I’m trying to see things that aren’t easy to see and to put the puzzle pieces together in a different way to solve problems or capture opportunities.”

 

With healthcare’s convoluted issues looking like a damaged Rubik’s cube, Premier’s healthcare members are probably glad she’s on the case.

 

 

Nancy Howell Agee and her team help rejuvenate a region with Carilion’s success

By | July 11 th,  2017 | Blog, Carilion Clinic, CEO, Modern Healthcare, Nancy Howell Agee, servant leader, Top 25 Women in Healthcare, Virginia Tech | Add A Comment

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2017. Furst Group and NuBrick Partners, which comprise the companies of MPI, sponsor the awards.

 

Roanoke, Virginia, used to be a train town. Railroads carved their tracks into the community on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Roanoke’s manufacturing of steam locomotives helped make a name for the Norfolk & Western Railway. Even the first hospital came into existence because train workers needed care.

 

Like many such towns dependent on one industry that dot the mountains and the plains and the prairies around America, decay began to seep in when the trains started disappearing. But the Roanoke region, at least, has experienced a rebirth, and one of the people responsible for the city’s turnaround has had a close-up view all her life. That would be Nancy Howell Agee, the CEO of Carilion Clinic, a health system that has soared under her leadership and that has partnered with Virginia Tech for an economic rebound that’s pretty rare these days.

 

“Years ago, when I looked out of my office, I looked out at a brown field and a flood plain,” she says. “Now, I look at a thriving medical complex that includes a medical school and a research institute.”

 

The medical school, developed with Virginia Tech, has quickly become the most competitive in the country, with 4,500 applicants vying for 42 openings each year. The research institute, another joint project with Virginia Tech, didn’t even exist eight years ago, but now has more than $80 million in funded research and is getting ready for an expansion that will double its size.

 

“It wasn’t easy; it wasn’t cheap,” Agee says. “We have a fabulous board who have stood with us through some tough times. I think where we are now is an amazing place. We recruited great talent and offered new services to the community. A lot has changed and, in the next 10 years, I think we’ll see even more evolution of that change.”

 

The Carilion Health System became the Carilion Clinic in 2006 as leaders like Agee (the chief operating officer at the time) and then-CEO Ed Murphy saw the need to change its business model to safeguard its future. Agee says Murphy was a “visionary” in transforming the health system into a clinic. She sees herself as more of a “convener and collaborator,” but her fingerprints are all over the renovated system as well.

 

“It was definitely an audacious goal at the beginning,” she allows. “We adapted the plan for what worked for us. But, nothing worth having comes easy. There’s a saying around here that you can take risks without being reckless. And what we kept at the forefront was, ‘How can we pay attention to our mission of improving the health of those we serve?’ It’s not just words written down some place – it’s really how we believe and how we live.’”

 

Agee’s own life and career has had a similar arc of success. Her mom moved to Roanoke at the age of 16 from a coal mining town in Appalachia. She met another teenager and married him. A year later, Agee was born. They lived with Agee’s grandmother, who became a mentor to the young Agee.

 

Her interest in healthcare began at the Christmas before her 5th birthday, when her gifts included a nurse’s kit – including a cap – and a puppy. “You can imagine how much my little puppy got poked and prodded and bandaged,” she says with a laugh.
But her captivation with clinical work solidified at 15 when she was diagnosed with a bone tumor.

 

“I ended up having five surgeries on my knee and was immobilized for the better part of two years, either in a wheelchair or on crutches,” she remembers. “I had extraordinary care from my nurses, and from a wonderful physician, and I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be like them.”

 

Along the way to a storied career in healthcare – one that will see her become the chair of the American Hospital Association in 2018 – Agee became the first member of her family to graduate from high school and college.

 

“My family was proud of me,” Agee says. “But, having said that, they weren’t too certain what to do about education. And so, I chose to go to nursing school first because it was cheaper.”

 

She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and her master’s from Emory University, graduating from both with honors.

 

Agee was a nurse and a nursing leader for years at the health system. She says she loved every aspect of clinical care, but eventually wanted to find a way to make a wider impact.

 

“Being a clinician gives you almost instant gratification,” she says. “You assess what’s happening with the patient, you intervene and you see the results. In terms of my own evolution, I loved that part of healthcare. But eventually, I began to ask myself, ‘How do I make a difference to a broader degree?’ ”

 

That led her to administration, but she carries those nursing roots with her in her efforts to be a servant leader.

 

“I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be at the bedside,” Agee notes. “I’m very visible – that’s important to me personally. I make rounds frequently. I go to all of our hospitals and facilities and talk to the staff. I also spend time with the patients to understand what’s happening with them.

 

“I want to make sure our caregivers are able to put our patients first and get their work done without any obstacles.”

 

It’s not just a business to Agee, who was born at the health system where she has spent her career.

 

“I love this community,” she says. “I love our mountains. I think we’re a strong community, yet we’re humble. We are resilient – and we love what we do. When I leave Carilion, I hope our people will believe I wanted us to have joy and meaning in our work and that we made a difference in the communities we serve. I believe we can do that.

 

“I found my place here.”

 

 

SIDEBAR: Leaving the white coat behind

 

When Nancy Howell Agee made the transition from nurse to executive, she continued to wear a white clinician’s coat – at least until she got some good (and blunt) advice from another executive.

 

“One of my mentors said to me, ‘You need to make a decision here. Are you an administrator or a clinician? The fact of the matter is, you’re confusing people.’ That was good advice.”

 

So, Agee ditched the lab coat. Now, at a time when many health systems have a tremendous need for clinicians to become organizational leaders as the industry continues the evolution to value-based care, she has a few helpful hints from her own journey:

 

  • You can’t do it all. “First of all, you must understand that doing more for more people means you have to give up doing something for a few, and that’s a big jump. You may have to mourn that as well.”
  • Ask great questions. “Be curious. Be disciplined about growing in leadership. Find opportunities to learn more, especially from mentors and advisors.”
  • Make time for your people. “I had a wonderful boss named Charles Crockett, who was the chief medical officer. He would appreciate and recognize people. If a resident or a faculty member was giving a talk or a presentation, he’d go, and ask questions and be thoughtful. He had a hundred other things to do, but he demonstrated such impressive leadership that way.”
  • Don’t forget what your core is. “We make decisions sometimes and they’re hard decisions, but are you doing it because it’s what’s best for the patient? That’s the real test. If that’s your motivation, I don’t think you’re going to go wrong with your decision-making.”

 

 

From lawyer to leader: Debra Cafaro's turnaround of Ventas a remarkable, evolving success story

By | July 7 th,  2017 | Blog, CEO, Debra Cafaro, Modern Healthcare, Top 25 Women in Healthcare, Ventas | Add A Comment

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2017. Furst Group and NuBrick Partners, which comprise the companies of MPI, sponsor the awards.

 

If a Fortune 50 company needed a turnaround artist, few CEOs would be in as much demand as Ventas Inc.’s Debra Cafaro.

 

Her early days at Ventas, when she was asked in 1999 to take over what was then a floundering healthcare real estate investment trust, were bleak beyond embellishment.

 

The stock market halted trading of Ventas’ stock. The actions of management prior to Cafaro’s arrival became the subject of a government investigation for Medicare fraud. Ventas’ sole tenant, Vencor, filed for bankruptcy. The banks and the distressed-debt investors were trying to play both sides of the house and get paid back at the expense of the equity investors. To add insult to injury, the airlines lost her luggage and her clothing on Day One.

 

So how did she and Ventas pull off a feat worthy of a Warren Buffett?

 

“At the end of the day, it was the classic skills of maintaining liquidity, understanding how to negotiate to get some time from our banks and enable them to work with us,” Cafaro says. “We also had to think through a complicated solution for all the parties so that each could give up something but get something in return. Then, we had to get everyone on board with that plan.”

 

It was hardly a quick fix.

 

“That,” she says, “took several years.”

 

Similarly, her own transition from lawyer to corporate leader was not a simple one, she says.
“It’s very different from law, and the evolution of learning to lead and think organizationally continues for me,” Cafaro says. “When you’re in a law practice, you have a very flat organization and you have a fairly homogenous group of people who are highly educated, highly motivated and highly compensated. In a pyramidical company culture, there is a whole suite of skills that I had never been asked to develop, but which I discovered were necessary for success.”

 

Those all were rooted in the importance of communication – understanding people, motivating people and recognizing people and their accomplishments often.

 

“Skepticism is crucial to being a successful lawyer, but in a company, you have to be more affirmative and positive,” she says. “It’s much more like putting together a winning sports team and making the team perform better as a whole than the sum of its parts.” Cafaro knows a thing or two about sports. She recently purchased a minority stake in her hometown Pittsburgh Penguins, just in time to see them win the 2017 Stanley Cup for the second consecutive year.

 

But her rough beginnings at Ventas have kindled her willingness to talk openly about how women executives don’t face a glass ceiling as much as what she calls a “glass cliff” – being forced to tackle difficult assignments straight out of the box and never getting another chance if they fail. Thankfully, Cafaro has never had to look back. Since 2000, Ventas has delivered 25 percent total shareholder returns; it holds a $35 billion portfolio. Even Vencor, initially its only tenant, emerged from bankruptcy and became the nation’s largest post-acute care company under its new name, Kindred.

 

“Ventas operates at the exciting intersection of healthcare and real estate, each of which represents nearly 20 percent of our GDP,” Cafaro says. “In both, there are limited numbers of women CEOs even though research repeatedly shows that women-led companies produce better returns and that diverse groups of decision-makers create better outcomes. But I continue to be optimistic.”

 

Cafaro and her team have worked hard to bring gender diversity into Ventas’ board of directors, which is now 30 percent female. That’s resulted in Ventas being recognized as a “Winning” company on the 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index and as a Corporate Champion by the Women’s Forum of New York.

 

“Our organizations and stakeholders are stronger and more effective when we intentionally develop and recruit diverse leaders,” she says. “I have been very fortunate to have been supported throughout my career by many mentors who had different perspectives – and I learned from all of them.”

 

Cafaro says her earliest mentors were her parents. Her father was a mail carrier who bought and sold coins as a side job to help pay for her education at Notre Dame. Her mother was a homemaker. “My parents – who were first-generation children of immigrant parents – were my role models,” she says. “They made so many sacrifices so my sister and I could have a better life. First, they believed in surrounding yourself with high-quality people who shared your values. Our skilled and long-tenured team at Ventas certainly follows that leadership lesson. The other lessons of leadership they taught me include: always doing my best, working really hard, treating everyone with respect and remembering to smile and show kindness.”

 

Her team at Ventas represents another key element that helped the company stave off extinction: people committed to a cause.

 

“When I got to Ventas, the staff was small, and many of them were not really suited for or interested in the challenges that were ahead – that’s not what they had signed up for,” she says. “So, we had to build a world-class team of people who were experts in the areas at issue and were able to work through them and come up with good solutions. It was difficult. It took a huge commitment by a lot of people.”

 

Oh, there was one other factor in Ventas’ success.

 

“You need luck too,” Cafaro notes with a laugh. “It always takes a little bit of that, and we got some.”

 

 

SIDEBAR: The anatomy of risk

 

One of Debra Cafaro’s early mentors, lawyer Howard Kirschbaum, says the Ventas CEO’s success is due in part to an innate sense around what risks are worth taking. Cafaro doesn’t disagree.

 

“Taking risks has been an important part of Ventas’ success,” she notes. “Most people do not understand that, sometimes, the status quo is the riskiest approach. We all get comfortable with the idea that things we’re familiar with have less risk. And that is analytically false.”

 

For example, individuals sometimes put all their savings into their companies’ 401K accounts, Cafaro says, and think it’s not a risky move because they are very familiar with their employer and the account. “But we know that diversification is better,” she adds.

 

In the same way, risk helped Ventas grow. When Vencor, Ventas’ sole tenant, emerged from bankruptcy, it was a victory – but it also meant that all of Ventas’ holdings were limited to post-acute assets. Merger and acquisition is intrinsically a risky proposition but, in Ventas’ case, it allowed the company to diversify into four other sectors: private-pay senior living, hospitals, medical and outpatient office buildings and university-based life science innovation centers.

 

“We’ve done at least 10 successful enterprise acquisitions,” Cafaro notes. “Because of where we started, with one tenant and one asset class, that ability to diversify through merger and acquisition has proven to be a great strength both for growth but also for risk mitigation. And that turns on its head some very conventional thought processes.”

 

 

Hospital Safety Grade is a simple but powerful way that Leah Binder and Leapfrog Group help make patients safer

By | May 25 th,  2017 | ambulatory care, Blog, CEO, children's hospitals, employers, Healthcare, Hospital Safety Score, Leah Binder, Leapfrog Group, maternity, Modern Healthcare, outpatient, patient safety, president, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | Add A Comment

 

One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2017. Furst Group and NuBrick Partners, which comprise the companies of MPI, sponsor the awards.

 

Sometimes, the simple things are the easiest to understand. Perhaps that’s one reason that the Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Grade has caught on in such a big way – even with hospitals, who largely weren’t all that thrilled when it was initially launched five years ago.

 

“The response of hospitals has been one of the brightest spots for me in my career,” Leapfrog President and CEO Leah Binder says. “Hospitals are approaching their Hospital Safety Grade constructively. They’re talking about what they are going to do to improve and how proud they are of this ‘A.’ They talk about how they’re not going to stop their efforts to ensure that patients are safe, and describing what those efforts will be.”

 

Every six months, Leapfrog assigns an A, B, C, D or F grade to 2,600 general, acute-care hospitals, rating their performance on safety. It uses standardized measures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, its own hospital survey, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Hospital Association.

 

“Many people – even if they’re on the board of a hospital – don’t realize the problem of safety,” Binder says. “When they look into it, they realize how many things can go wrong in a hospital, and that makes a big difference. That’s why I think it’s been important for us to highlight this in a way that’s easily accessible to laypeople.”

 

While everybody wants an “A,” Binder has seen unfavorable grades spur some action.

 

“We see boards get very upset. We see community members get upset. We see repeated articles in newspapers about poor grades,” Binder observes. “We’ve found that it gets their attention, which is a good thing. In fact, we’ve seen hospitals just completely turn around their safety programs when they get a bad grade.”

 

What people outside the healthcare industry don’t always recognize is that the Leapfrog Group was founded by large employers and groups who purchase healthcare and wanted to see some changes in the quality of the care they were paying for.

 

“Employers are not in the business of healthcare,” says Binder. “They’re in the business of doing other things. They make airplanes, and they make automobiles and they run retail department stores. And so, they don’t have a staff of 500 to figure out what’s going on in healthcare, so they rely on organizations like us to try to pull all those resources together for them and help them make the right strategic decisions.”

 

Leapfrog has some compatriots in this area, including the National Business Group on Health, regional groups, and a newcomer called Health Transformation Alliance, in which 20 major employers are teaming up to lower prescription costs, review claims together, structure benefits and create networks.

 

“There’s probably at least 50 organizations that represent specialties for physicians alone,” Binder says. “I don’t think there are nearly enough organizations that are advancing purchaser concerns about healthcare delivery. The purchasers pay for about 20 percent of the $3 trillion healthcare industry, which is a lot of money.”

 

Despite the increased scrutiny, Binder says she thinks the healthcare industry has taken its eye off safety, given the myriad deaths still linked to errors each year.

 

“I think the industry has not been focused on patient safety enough. They’ve been distracted by the compliance with the Affordable Care Act, value-based purchasing, bill payments, new models for financing and delivering care, and change in state and CMS regulations. While those efforts are important, nothing is as critical as making sure people don’t die from preventable errors. Safety has to come first, every minute of every day. Otherwise, patients will suffer.”

 

Binder is doing her best to keep the priority on patients. – in fact, the organization is broadening its reach at the request of its members to take a closer look at other sticky matters in safety:

 

  • Maternity. “Employers pay for half of all the births in this country. Childbirth is by far the number-one reason for admission to a hospital. A C-section is the number one surgical procedure performed in this country. So, we now have some incredible data on maternity care, and employers are starting to meet with hospitals and design packages that encourage the use of hospitals with lower C-section rates based on the Leapfrog data.”
  •  

  • Outpatient and ambulatory care. “We’re going to start rating outpatient surgical units and ambulatory surgical centers. That’s a big priority for purchasers because they are sending a lot of employees to ambulatory surgical centers because they tend to be lower-priced. That’s great – some of them are excellent – but we don’t have enough good data nationally to compare them on safety and quality.”
  •  

  • Children’s hospitals. “There’s a lot of people who would never travel outside their community for their own healthcare, but will travel if they have a very sick child. This year, we added two new measures. We ask pediatric hospitals to do a CAP survey for children’s hospitals. The other thing we’re looking at is exposure to radiation. Sometimes, children have repeated imaging and it can really add up.”
  •  

    Although it is Leapfrog’s job to act as a watchdog for employers and patients, Binder says she does see some positive movement.

     

    “There are bright spots,” she says. “There is a Partnership for Patients program that just concluded with CMS that has demonstrated some real impact. We see reductions in certain kinds of infections and real changes in the ways that hospitals are approaching patient care to address safety. CMS has tracked some saved lives as a result of those changes, and we certainly appreciate those numbers. We’re going in the right direction; we just need a lot more push.”

     

     

    SIDEBAR: Making a difference with the mundane

     

    Hospital deaths and injuries from errors are not always obvious.

     

    “When someone dies from an error or an accident, it’s not easy to track,” says Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group. “It often doesn’t show up in claims. It can be complicated – the death might be attributed to something else even though, say, there was clearly an infection that hastened the death. It’s just kind of the course of business in the hospital.”

     

    Nearly two decades after the ground-breaking report “To Err is Human,” far too many people are still being killed and injured in healthcare settings, Binder says.

     

    “More than 200,000 people are dying every year from preventable accidents in hospitals,” she says. “We believe that’s a low estimate. There’s lots of accidents and problems in hospitals we can’t measure because no one is tracking them. An example of that would be medication errors, which are the most common errors in hospitals. There’s not a standardized way of tracking that, so we don’t even know how many deaths or adverse events result.”

     

    What is especially frustrating for Binder and her team is that many injuries and deaths happen in spite of the fact the healthcare industry knows how to prevent them. “The fact is, patient safety requires a disciplined, persistent commitment to the mundane habits that save lives,” she says.

     

    “How much more mundane can it possibly be than to say, ‘Everybody needs to wash their hands all the time’? ‘We need to wear the right protective clothing.’ ‘Follow the rules – every single rule every single time.’ ‘We need to do the same checklist every time we do a surgery.’

     

    “Let’s face it, these sound boring. But done systematically, they save lives. And everyone in patient care needs to be disciplined about doing them.”

     

     

    Delaware Valley ACO's Katherine Schneider uses population health to improve patients' lives, one at a time

    By | May 16 th,  2017 | accountable care organization, AtlantiCare, Blog, CEO, chief executive officer, clinical imformatics, clinical integration, clinician, community benefits, Delaware Valley ACO, family medicine, Healthcare, Jefferson Health, Katherine Schneider, Main Line Health, Medecision, Middlesex Health system, Modern Healthcare, physician executive, population health, president, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | Add A Comment

     

    One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2017. Furst Group and NuBrick Partners, which comprise the companies of MPI, sponsor the awards.

     

    Katherine Schneider, MD, the president and CEO of the Delaware Valley ACO in the Philadelphia region—an accountable care organization owned by Main Line Health and Jefferson Health—has long been ahead of the game in whatever pursuit she has chosen.

     

    She was part of the first group of U.S. physicians to earn subspecialty certification in clinical informatics. She led the implementation of value-based payment models at Middlesex Health System in central Connecticut, long before “value-based” was a common adjective in the healthcare lexicon. She was the senior vice president of health engagement at AtlantiCare, leading its pioneering move to accountable care and co-designing a value-based insurance benefit for 10,000 employees. She also served as executive vice president and chief medical officer for Medecision, which provided population health technology for health systems and health insurers.

     

    That’s a lot of trailblazing but, to Schneider, it’s just a steady progression along the path of transforming care.

     

    “Whether you call it community benefits, clinical integration, population health or accountable care, this concept of a health system being responsible for more than just transactional care is really what this is all about.”

     

    Major achievements started early for Schneider, who skipped from sixth to ninth grade as an adolescent, ending up in college at 15 and in medical school four years later.

     

    “When I was 11, we moved from New York City to Austria due to my father’s work,” she says. “I went from a very good private school in Manhattan to a very small, hands-on international school.

     

    “I had the threat of ending up at an Austrian convent school hanging over me,” she jokes, “so I did really well.”

     

    Though she was much younger than her medical-school classmates, she can’t resist some more self-deprecation.

     

    “Yes, I was 19 when I went to medical school, but I made up for it because I spent nine years in medical and graduate school,” she says of the combination MD-PhD program she enrolled in. “To make a long story short, I became much more interested in public health and policy. So, I actually switched into the epidemiology program at Columbia University.”

     

    She also chose family medicine, not one of the higher-paying specialties.

     

    “Family medicine seemed to me a great fit for someone interested in population health and policy,” Schneider says. “It’s womb to tomb, broad clinical experience.”

     

    That made giving up the practice of medicine difficult when she eventually had the opportunity to potentially impact more lives in a different kind of role. Not that she doesn’t have some regrets about not seeing patients anymore.

     

    “I do miss it,” she admits. “But there are a lot of really good doctors out there. I was a good doctor too, but I have a skill set that not a lot of people have, which is a combination of the population-health aspects and the clinical experience. I’m seeing opportunities to transform the healthcare system to improve population health outcomes. That’s been my career niche since the day I finished my residency training.”

     

    Schneider finds her role leading one of the nation’s leading ACOs to be inspiring, but also challenging at times.

     

    “I was recently at a fireside chat featuring Michael Dowling, the CEO of Northwell Health, and he said that, to be in healthcare, you have to be an optimist but you almost have to be chronically unhappy with the status quo.”

     

    Schneider says she wouldn’t describe herself as an optimist, but says she “is pretty resilient and determined,” traits she learned from her mother who fought—and beat—tuberculosis as a young woman. “What I learned from my mom is the power of perseverance against the odds.”

     

    The perseverance these days comes from battling that persistent status quo—part of the marching orders for an ACO—where so many factions in healthcare have lobbyists to protect their interests, even when change can streamline care or bring about better outcomes.

     

    “What one person calls waste is someone else’s lunch,” she says. “If you’re going to get waste out of the system—even through innovation—that’s still taking money away from someone and they’re going to fight it tooth and nail. We’re not going to solve this problem unless we’re willing to admit that and take it on.”

     

    Schneider, for one, is ready to wade into the fray.

     

    “I truly believe that we can do better and that most of us want to do better to serve our community and our country.”

     

     

    SIDEBAR: In a sea of data, the power of stories

     

    Katherine Schneider is a national leader in clinical informatics, but she’s a big believer in the power of stories. That’s why she and her team at Delaware Valley ACO open their meetings with a value-based story of impacting the life of a patient or a provider.

     

    “You can talk all you want about care management and Triple Aim but, ultimately, if you can tell the story of how you’ve changed a patient’s life or a physician’s practice, people get it,” she says.

     

    One example: A 92-year-old woman has been to the emergency room numerous times because she can’t get out of her bathtub. She calls her friends from the tub, who call 911. Over and over. Delaware Valley steps in and, within 24 hours, has connected her to free services in her community that come in and install grab bars and railings and retrofit her home. She doesn’t need to call for help anymore.

     

    “Not everything we do is that simple,” Schneider cautions. “We also work with some extremely overwhelming, complex patients and make some small wins for them. A win is not like a cell in a spreadsheet. It’s not a graph on a PowerPoint. It’s really in the stories.”

     

     

    Top 25 Women in Healthcare announced

    By | March 3 rd,  2017 | 2017, Blog, CEO, executive, Healthcare, leadership, Modern Healthcare, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | Add A Comment

    MH-2017

     

    We hope to see you July 19 in Nashville.

     

    That's when Modern Healthcare will honor the Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2017, in tandem with the Women Leaders in Healthcare conference. The winners were announced this week.

     

    The awards, sponsored by Furst Group and NuBrick Partners, the companies of MPI, honor 25 of the most powerful executives in the healthcare industry, in addition to 10 additional executives selected as Women Leaders to Watch.

     

    The Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2017 are:

     

  • Nancy Howell Agee, President/CEO, Carilion Clinic
  • Leah Binder, President/CEO, Leapfrog Group
  • Marna Borgstrom, President/CEO, Yale New Haven (Conn.) Health System
  • Deborah Bowen, President/CEO, American College of Healthcare Executives
  • Mary Brainerd, President/CEO, HealthPartners
  • Ruth Brinkley, President and CEO, KentuckyOne Health
  • Debra Cafaro, Chair/CEO, Ventas
  • Susan DeVore, President/CEO, Premier
  • Deborah DiSanzo, General Manager, IBM Watson Health
  • Judith Faulkner, President/CEO, Epic Systems Corp
  • Halee Fischer-Wright, President/CEO, Medical Group Management Association
  • Tejal Gandhi, President/CEO, National Patient Safety Foundation
  • Laura Kaiser, Incoming CEO, SSM Health
  • Sister Carol Keehan, President/CEO, Catholic Health Association
  • Sarah Krevans, President/CEO, Sutter Health
  • Karen Lynch, President, Aetna
  • Beverly Malone, CEO, National League for Nursing
  • Patricia Maryland, CEO, Ascension Healthcare
  • Nancy Schlichting, Retired CEO, Henry Ford Health System
  • Lynn Simon, President of Clinical Services/Chief Quality Officer, Community Health Systems
  • Paula Steiner, President/CEO, Health Care Service Corp.
  • Marilyn Tavenner, President/CEO, America's Health Insurance Plans
  • Annette Walker, President of Strategy/CEO, Providence St. Joseph Health/St. Joseph Health
  • Emma Walmsley, Incoming CEO, GlaxoSmithKline
  • Marla Weston, CEO, ANA Enterprise
  •  

    In addition, here are the 10 executives chosen as Women Leaders to Watch:

     

  • Julia Andrieni, CEO, Houston Methodist Physicians' Alliance for Quality
  • Christine Candio, CEO, St. Luke's Hospital
  • Mandy Cohen, Health and Human Services secretary, State of North Carolina
  • Laura Forese, Executive VP/COO, New York Presbyterian
  • Sally Hurt-Deitch, Market CEO, the Hospitals of Providence
  • Kathy Lancaster, Executive VP and CFO, Kaiser Permanente
  • Sue Schick, Chief Growth Officer, UnitedHealthcare Community & State
  • Katherine Schneider, CEO, Delaware Valley ACO
  • Marla Silliman, SEO Children's and Women's Health Services, CEO, Florida Hospital for Children
  • Suzanne White, Executive VP and CMO, Detroit Medical Center
  •  

    For more information, click here.

     

     

    Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare–Delvecchio Finley: Leaders understand that medical care is only part of the solution to disparities

    By | December 29 th,  2016 | Alameda Health System, Atlanta, Blog, CEO, diversity, Duke University, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, health disparities, Healthcare, leadership, Modern Healthcare, public housing, public policy, quality, safety, safety net, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare | Add A Comment

     

    Classic content: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare for 2016.

     

    Delvecchio Finley doesn’t shrink back from a challenge.

     

    That’s one of the reasons his last two jobs have been leading California public health organizations with different but significant issues. But as he surveys the changes needed not only within his own health system but throughout the nation as a whole, he is adamant that healthcare is only part of the solution for what ails the U.S.

     

    “Even though access to care and the quality of care is important, access to stable housing, food sources, education and jobs play a greater influence collectively on our overall health,” says Finley, CEO of the Alameda Health System. “I think the evolving research in the field is making it a lot more evident to all of us that those issues are significant social determinants of health.”

     

    The interconnectedness of all those factors makes health disparities harder to eradicate, Finley says, but one way to begin is to address the lack of diversity in healthcare leadership and the healthcare workforce as a whole.

     

    “Making sure that our workforce is representative of the community we serve – that people who are coming to us for care aren’t just the recipients of that care but can also play a major role in providing or facilitating that care – is what starts to provide access to good jobs and stable housing, and in turn begins to build a good economic engine for the community.

     

    “Thus, you’re reinvesting in the community, and that’s how we start to get at the root of this and not just through the delivery of the services.”

     

    Finley has some life experience along those lines. He grew up in public housing in Atlanta, where access to healthcare was poor even though the actual care was excellent when he and his family received it. In his neighborhood, he says, the three fields of employment that offered paths to upward mobility were healthcare, education and law enforcement. He was a strong student, and enjoyed helping people, so he was eyeing a future as a physician during his undergraduate years at Emory University, where he earned his degree in chemistry.

     

    “Upon finishing my degree, I realized that I loved science but wasn’t necessarily as strong in it as I needed to be to become a doctor,” he says. “But I still loved healthcare and wanted that to be something I pursued.”

     

    He explored other avenues and ended up earning his master’s in public policy at Duke University. Finley was the first member of his family to graduate from college and to get a graduate degree as well, but not the last, he is quick to point out.

     

    “The thing that I’m most proud of is that, while I was the first to graduate from college, that achievement has set a path for my cousins, nieces and nephews, who have continued to shatter that ceiling for our family.”

     

    He says it was also within his family – and within public housing – where he first began learning leadership skills that would result in him becoming one of the youngest hospital CEOs in the country.

     

    “I spent a fair amount of my childhood being raised by my aunt, and she was a force of nature,” Finley says with a laugh. “She served as president of the tenant association and she used that position to strongly advocate for reasonable services and humane treatment for people who were in a very challenging circumstance. I learned from her that we have a responsibility to use our gifts – and to use our voice and our station in life – to help people.”

     

    That was certainly the impetus for taking the helm at both Alameda and his previous post as CEO of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.

     

    “Both of them are safety-net organizations that serve a disproportionately underserved community,” Finley says. “That resonates with me from both a personal and professional standpoint. They have both provided a chance to work with a team to get our hands around some of these issues because of the very important work and role that these organizations play in their communities.”

     

    At Harbor, the bigger challenges were regulatory, not having good, documentable evidence of the quality and safety of the care that was being provided, “which we were able to fortunately surmount and proceed from there,” he says.

     

    The difficulties that Finley and his team at Alameda have had to address are different, he says. “A lot of it was short-term economic hardship combined with the growing pains of going from a historical health system that had grown exponentially through recent acquisitions of two community hospitals. We’re just beginning to stabilize and right-size the ship.”

     

    The elements for achieving lasting change, both for the health system and the community, are within reach, he says. Alameda’s skilled nursing facilities recently outperformed a lot of private organizations in earning a 5-star rating from CMS, something Finley hopes can be replicated systemwide with a new strategic plan that promotes greater “systemness” and a focus on access, quality, patient experience, and innovative approaches to care delivery.

     

    Alameda Health System is also a benefactor of the a state Medicaid Waiver called Medi-2020, which is a partnership between CMS and the State of California that aims to promote continued transformation of the safety-net delivery system for Medi-Cal recipients. And, internally, Finley plans to bring more Lean management processes to Alameda in the next fiscal year.

     

    He had begun to explore Lean several years ago when he was at Harbor-UCLA. He and leaders from a number of systems – including Alameda – took trips to watch Lean in operation at ThedaCare in Wisconsin, Virginia Mason in Washington, and Denver Health in Colorado.

     

    “I appreciated that Lean wasn’t just a performance improvement methodology and the flavor of the day, but it was an operating system,” he says. “I think my other takeaway from the trip was that Lean is very hard to do. You’re going to have fits and starts, but if you commit to it, it can lead to some very transformative outcomes for your organization and for the community you serve.”

     

    Transformative outcomes? Finley personally knows a thing or two about that.

     

     

    2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Gene Woods: The best leaders reinvent their organizations, and themselves

    By | December 16 th,  2016 | ACHE, American Hospital Association, Blog, Carolinas HealthCare System, CEO, Christus Health, diversity, Equity of Care Committee, Ernie Sadau, Eugene Woods, Gene Woods, governance, healthcare disparities, leadership, Modern Healthcare, National Call to Action, quality, safety, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare | Add A Comment

     

    Classic content: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare's Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare for 2016.

     

    It’s the little things that tell you a lot about people.

     

    After CHRISTUS Health nominated Eugene “Gene” Woods, its chief operating officer, for Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare awards, the respected executive took a position as president and CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System. But when Woods was presented the award at a Chicago banquet six months later, two tables of CHRISTUS people, including President and CEO Ernie W. Sadau, flew in to show their appreciation to Woods. It was a classy move that revealed volumes about the character of both CHRISTUS and Woods.

     

    “CHRISTUS Health was honored to support Gene’s acceptance of this award for the same reason we nominated him—because we firmly believe that his time at CHRISTUS had a positive impact on our ministry,” Sadau says. “Our relationship was truly a symbiotic one, and we wanted to honor that and cheer Gene on to his future endeavors.”

     

    Woods helped lead CHRISTUS’ international expansion, expanding in Mexico, and establishing flagships in Chile and Colombia, where he was able to use his Spanish fluency (his mother is from Spain) to communicate with the teams there.

     

    “I really enjoyed working with Ernie, the sisters and the whole CHRISTUS team,” Woods says. “We were able to diversify the organization and reposition CHRISTUS internationally. But I’ve always had the goal of serving as the CEO for a large nationally recognized organization committed to being a model for redefining healthcare in the next decade. And that is why I am so excited to be leading Carolinas HealthCare System. It has the depth and breadth of capabilities to chart a new course.”

     

    Carolinas is not a turnaround situation. It’s a historically successful healthcare provider and the second largest public healthcare system in the nation, serving patients through nearly 12 million encounters each year. But, during his interview, Woods says board chair Ed Brown quoted the famous adage that, “What got us here won’t necessarily get us there.”

     

    Woods says his opportunity is to inspire his Carolinas team “to set a bold agenda for change that outpaces the industry and brings true value to individuals and communities.” In so doing, he says, he’ll be following in a tradition of innovation at the system.

     

    “What I appreciate about Carolinas is that there have been a number of pivotal crossroads in our history where leaders could have tried to hold onto the past. Instead, they took the risk of reinventing the organization, and that’s really the reason it’s been so successful.”

     

    Success in leadership has been a staple of Woods’ storied career, from serving as president of the ACHE club at Penn State University, where he earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, to his positions with the American Hospital Association, where his term as chair begins in 2017 and where he also serves as chair of the Equity of Care Committee.

     

    But his interest in healthcare actually stems from two childhood incidents that showed him both the promise and the challenge of the healthcare industry.

     

    When he was 10 years old, he was with his mother, sister, aunt and uncle in a car that slammed into a brick wall at a high rate of speed.

     

    “Miraculously, we all survived,” he says. “I don’t remember the impact. I just remember that, as soon as the accident happened, it seemed like everybody was instantly there to care for us. It was just an amazing moment.”

     

    A later encounter with medical care ended tragically.

     

    “One of my aunts died in a hospital of a medication error. She had three young children,” Woods remembers. “It was something that could have and should have been avoided. To this day, I think about what life could have been like for her kids if that didn’t happen to my Aunt Carmen.”

     

    Thus, patient safety has been a key priority for Woods throughout his career—in fact, his first management job in a hospital was as a director of quality. He recognizes the industry still has a long way to go on that front but says the latest AHA statistics show the trends moving in the right direction. Between 2010 and 2014, the AHA says hospital-acquired conditions decreased by 17 percent, saving 87,000 lives and $20 billion in healthcare costs.

     

    “The goal is to reach zero harm, and I believe the field is on the right track in that regard,” he says.

     

    While he also believes much progress is being made in diversifying senior leadership in healthcare, he’s very firm on how that needs to become a bigger priority at the board level.

     

    “Our boards do not reflect the communities we serve,” he says flatly. “One of the biggest levers in diversifying an organization is when the board declares that it’s a priority. That was done at CHRISTUS and again here at Carolinas. I think it is an obligation of governance.”

     

    What gives him optimism is the work of the AHA Equity of Care Committee, where it’s been demonstrated how diversity leads to improving healthcare disparities. In fact, more than 1,000 health systems recently signed the AHA’s National Call to Action pledge to eliminate disparities. Woods says the goal this year is to have 2,000 systems sign the pledge.

     

    “That pledge includes improving collection of race, ethnicity and language preference data so, as we’re studying disparities in care, we have the right data set to use for that,” he says. “The pledge also includes increasing cultural competency training and increasing diversity in governance and leadership. You can’t solve for population health issues without solving for the disparities in care that exist and, in some cases, very dramatic disparities.”

     

    After many years as a leading voice in healthcare, Woods remains bullish on where the industry is headed. In a recent talk to students at his alma mater, he told them the opportunities are brighter than at any time in recent memory.

     

    “It’s an exciting time to be in healthcare because, in some respects, we’re all learning together,” he says. “Young people have an opportunity to bring an innovative spirit to their careers. But we can never forget that it’s about patients and communities. If you’re in it for those reasons, you’ll be successful.”

     

     

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