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2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare: After a complex merger, Ruth Brinkley works to build a new culture at KentuckyOne Health

By | November 28 th,  2016 | merger, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, Ruth Brinkley, Blog, Catholic Health Initiatives, CEO, CHI, diversity, leadership, Louisville | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Mergers and acquisitions are complicated equations when just two organizations are involved. But three? That’s a daunting challenge for anyone. Small wonder that Catholic Health Initiatives turned to a veteran CEO like Ruth Brinkley to choreograph the complicated venture and lead the new KentuckyOne Health system.

 

Brinkley, who revamped the sprawling organization to survive and thrive under reform, says the bumps in the road are beginning to get fewer and farther between. “I’m a big believer in culture and the impact of culture on strategy and on building excellence,” she says. “One of the things we have consciously worked on since the very beginning was to shape a desired culture. I would say we’re 60 to 70 percent of the way there.”

 

KentuckyOne Health is comprised of the former Saint Joseph Health System, the former Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare, and the University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center. It is a complicated arrangement. Catholic Health Initiatives is a majority owner of KentuckyOne. The other owner is Louisville-based Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. But the individual hospitals that were Jewish hospitals are still Jewish; the Catholic ones are still Catholic; and the university hospital remains secular. The partnership with the university was held up by former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who initially challenged a full three-way merger over concern that the public university hospital would be required to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And that, in turn, slowed down the process and the culture work by about a year.

 

Daunting? Absolutely. But Brinkley’s eyes were wide open from the beginning.

 

“I did expect this to be a big job, a big bite, so to speak,” says Brinkley, who left Carondelet Health in Tucson, Ariz., to return to Louisville and CHI. “I believe in the merger, in the vision of what we set out to do. When the days or the issues get tough, I go back to the belief in that vision.”

 

Brinkley had already achieved much in her career as a CEO and a lauded leader in Catholic healthcare for many years. Her resume was full. But the prospect of the merger energized her, moved her geographically closer to her children and grandchildren, and brought her back to her what she calls her extended family at CHI.

 

 

“The real draw was the excitement of the vision for this merger and what it was to accomplish. And it felt familiar. It felt good coming back to CHI. It’s always been a wonderful place to work. You see the mission come alive, and you see the values in people’s hearts.”

 

While the work of the merger more than filled her days, and many of her evenings, it was a temporary diversion from a personal tragedy.

 

“I had experienced a big loss in my life; my husband passed away when I was in Arizona,” she says. “Time is a great healer and work is a great healer, if you use it correctly. But I will also tell you that we all eventually have to pay the debt of grief. I like to say that grief can be delayed, but it won’t be denied. The work gave me something to focus on, but we each have to go back and deal with the issues we need to deal with, and I did that as well.”

 

Brinkley’s career has taken her from rural Georgia, where her grandparents raised her, to urban Chicago as a student and a nursing leader, to a number of other settings. So she is well-versed in the many types of populations that KentuckyOne serves, from Appalachia to Louisville. “The needs are very different across the state,” Brinkley says. “We try our very best to represent and reflect the communities we serve.

 

“We know that healthcare does not begin and end inside the walls of a hospital, so we’ve developed outreach programs to decrease the use of the emergency room for routine care, and to decrease readmissions. We’re starting to focus more on the social determinants of health.”

 

Brinkley says she learned many key lessons on leadership from her grandmother, who encouraged her to become a nurse, as she was growing up in Georgia – in fact, in 2009, she wrote a children’s book called “Grandma Said” to honor the woman who shaped her early life. But in Georgia, Brinkley also saw the sad results of those aforementioned social determinants, as family and friends dealt with suffering brought on by health disparities. Thus, she makes it a key priority to move her organizations upstream into the communities whenever possible.

 

“We know that a hospital only impacts 20 or 25 percent of health status,” she says. “The rest are social determinants. So, for example, at our St. Mary’s facility in west Louisville, we are starting a community garden. It’s a somewhat challenged area with a lot of immigrants. The city is leasing us 4 or 5 acres of land. We are going to engage the community and staff and hopefully be able to help people grow their own vegetables, because we had found through our community health assessment that this was a real need.”

 

Another need that Brinkley has been talking about for a number of years is the push to increase diverse leadership at the highest levels of healthcare organizations. Patients, she says, benefit greatly from diversity.

 

“It’s where our greatest opportunity is to serve the community,” she says. “It’s so important for our patients to have people in leadership who look like them and can relate to them. We have a lot more work to do, but we’ve made a good start at KentuckyOne.

 

“You have to let people know through word and deed that you understand their experience.”
With a wealth of experiences to draw from, Brinkley is trying to do just that.

 

 

2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare: Wright Lassiter: In healthcare's new order, no time to bask in past success

By | November 8 th,  2016 | Allegiance Health, Baldrige, merger, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Health Alliance Plan, Modern Healthcare, president, succession, succession planning, transformation, Alameda County Medical Center, Blog, CEO, HealthPlus of Michigan, Henry Ford Health System, Nancy Schlichting, Wright Lassiter III | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Wright Lassiter earned kudos as a CEO for engineering a huge turnaround of the troubled Alameda County Health System in California. Now, as he succeeds Nancy Schlichting as the leader of the prestigious and celebrated Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, you might think he could take a deep breath and relax a bit.

 

But that’s not how he sees it at all.

 

“As we look at the next 5 to 10 years, the way that quality and safety outcomes will be measured will be different,” he says. “We’re clearly moving even more from volume to value and risk, so I think the measures for success for Henry Ford in the future will be different than they have been for the last 10 or 15 years. I strongly believe that there is transformation required for our organization. We need to focus differently than we have in the past.”

 

Henry Ford won the coveted Malcolm Baldrige Award for quality in 2011, just one of a series of major accomplishments in its long history of stellar healthcare. Lassiter says one of his tasks in seeking to propel Ford to even greater heights is to remind his staff that past glories are no guarantee of future results.

 

“In a rapidly changing industry that may require different things of us, some days I worry about the complacency that could spring from so many years of excellence,” he says.
In particular, notes Lassiter, the future success of Henry Ford may not be as closely tied to the success of hospitals as it has been in the past.

 

“For the next five or 10 years, we’re going to have to leverage our large medical group, community medical staff and our insurance company much more effectively than we have in the past,” he says. “That will require both executional and cultural shifts to do even more of what we call integrated care and coverage, this notion of a more narrow network. And I think we’re perfectly situated to do that.”

 

 

To grow, Henry Ford is stretching out beyond its traditional home of Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, where it has provided care for the past century. In recent months, the health system has merged HealthPlus of Michigan, an insurance company 75 miles north of Detroit, into Health Alliance Plan and merged Allegiance Health, a system 90 miles west of Detroit, into the system. They’re also partnering on the Aldara Hospital and Medical Center, a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that will open later this year.

 

“These are the kinds of things we’ll be doing more of in the next five-plus years and that will require some transformation,” Lassiter says.

 

The announcement of Lassiter’s appointment as Schlichting’s successor struck some as unusual in the healthcare world simply because of the length of the handoff was two years. But, as Lassiter notes, there were some unusual circumstances.

 

“If it was a planned succession within the organization, two years is not necessarily that unusual,” he says. “But for us, the board thought it made sense because they had agreed on Nancy’s retirement date, and there was a lot of strategic work that they wanted to happen. The board was very clear that they wanted the new CEO to be fully engaged in the strategic work to reduce the risk of transition derailment or midstream change.”

 

When Lassiter came aboard, Schlichting quickly moved many of her key executives into a structure that reported to Lassiter. A number of those leaders, who had been contemplating their own retirements, warmed to Lassiter quickly and agreed to stick around as part of the transition team. And then came one of those unexpected circumstances that upped the ante – in June 2015, President Obama asked Schlichting to become the chairperson of the Commission on Care, which Congress established to find the best way to provide healthcare to military veterans.

 

“Nancy has acknowledged from day one that there was no way she could have served the nation in this role unless she and the Henry Ford board had agreed on an overlapping transition period,” Lassiter says. “The commission requires her to travel quite a bit, and that has actually accelerated the transition process as well.”

 

As Lassiter puts his own stamp on Henry Ford over the next decade, what will constitute success? He lists four items:

 

• HFHS will leverage its Baldrige award to become a high-reliability organization, one that can put its safety record up against the aviation and nuclear industries;

 

• It will be seen as the leading value-based healthcare system in the country;

 

• It will have developed a comprehensive statewide delivery system across Michigan – and beyond;

 

• It will be in the top 10 percent in metrics for employee engagement, physician engagement, customer service and safety scores.

 

“If I could look back 10 years and we had achieved these things, I’d say we had been wildly successful,” he says.

 

 

After a complex merger, Ruth Brinkley works diligently to build a new culture at KentuckyOne Health

By | June 3 rd,  2016 | merger, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Modern Healthcare, Ruth Brinkley, Blog, Catholic Health Initiatives, CEO, CHI, diversity, leadership, Louisville | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Mergers and acquisitions are complicated equations when just two organizations are involved. But three? That’s a daunting challenge for anyone. Small wonder that Catholic Health Initiatives turned to a veteran CEO like Ruth Brinkley to choreograph the complicated venture and lead the new KentuckyOne Health system.

 

Brinkley, who revamped the sprawling organization to survive and thrive under reform, says the bumps in the road are beginning to get fewer and farther between. “I’m a big believer in culture and the impact of culture on strategy and on building excellence,” she says. “One of the things we have consciously worked on since the very beginning was to shape a desired culture. I would say we’re 60 to 70 percent of the way there.”

 

KentuckyOne Health is comprised of the former Saint Joseph Health System, the former Jewish Hospital & St. Mary’s HealthCare, and the University of Louisville Hospital and James Graham Brown Cancer Center. It is a complicated arrangement. Catholic Health Initiatives is a majority owner of KentuckyOne. The other owner is Louisville-based Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence. But the individual hospitals that were Jewish hospitals are still Jewish; the Catholic ones are still Catholic; and the university hospital remains secular. The partnership with the university was held up by former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who initially challenged a full three-way merger over concern that the public university hospital would be required to follow the Ethical and Religious Directives of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. And that, in turn, slowed down the process and the culture work by about a year.

 

Daunting? Absolutely. But Brinkley’s eyes were wide open from the beginning.

 

“I did expect this to be a big job, a big bite, so to speak,” says Brinkley, who left Carondelet Health in Tucson, Ariz., to return to Louisville and CHI. “I believe in the merger, in the vision of what we set out to do. When the days or the issues get tough, I go back to the belief in that vision.”

 

Brinkley had already achieved much in her career as a CEO and a lauded leader in Catholic healthcare for many years. Her resume was full. But the prospect of the merger energized her, moved her geographically closer to her children and grandchildren, and brought her back to her what she calls her extended family at CHI.

 

 

“The real draw was the excitement of the vision for this merger and what it was to accomplish. And it felt familiar. It felt good coming back to CHI. It’s always been a wonderful place to work. You see the mission come alive, and you see the values in people’s hearts.”

 

While the work of the merger more than filled her days, and many of her evenings, it was a temporary diversion from a personal tragedy.

 

“I had experienced a big loss in my life; my husband passed away when I was in Arizona,” she says. “Time is a great healer and work is a great healer, if you use it correctly. But I will also tell you that we all eventually have to pay the debt of grief. I like to say that grief can be delayed, but it won’t be denied. The work gave me something to focus on, but we each have to go back and deal with the issues we need to deal with, and I did that as well.”

 

Brinkley’s career has taken her from rural Georgia, where her grandparents raised her, to urban Chicago as a student and a nursing leader, to a number of other settings. So she is well-versed in the many types of populations that KentuckyOne serves, from Appalachia to Louisville. “The needs are very different across the state,” Brinkley says. “We try our very best to represent and reflect the communities we serve.

 

“We know that healthcare does not begin and end inside the walls of a hospital, so we’ve developed outreach programs to decrease the use of the emergency room for routine care, and to decrease readmissions. We’re starting to focus more on the social determinants of health.”

 

Brinkley says she learned many key lessons on leadership from her grandmother, who encouraged her to become a nurse, as she was growing up in Georgia – in fact, in 2009, she wrote a children’s book called “Grandma Said” to honor the woman who shaped her early life. But in Georgia, Brinkley also saw the sad results of those aforementioned social determinants, as family and friends dealt with suffering brought on by health disparities. Thus, she makes it a key priority to move her organizations upstream into the communities whenever possible.

 

“We know that a hospital only impacts 20 or 25 percent of health status,” she says. “The rest are social determinants. So, for example, at our St. Mary’s facility in west Louisville, we are starting a community garden. It’s a somewhat challenged area with a lot of immigrants. The city is leasing us 4 or 5 acres of land. We are going to engage the community and staff and hopefully be able to help people grow their own vegetables, because we had found through our community health assessment that this was a real need.”

 

Another need that Brinkley has been talking about for a number of years is the push to increase diverse leadership at the highest levels of healthcare organizations. Patients, she says, benefit greatly from diversity.

 

“It’s where our greatest opportunity is to serve the community,” she says. “It’s so important for our patients to have people in leadership who look like them and can relate to them. We have a lot more work to do, but we’ve made a good start at KentuckyOne.

 

“You have to let people know through word and deed that you understand their experience.”
With a wealth of experiences to draw from, Brinkley is trying to do just that.

 

 

Wright Lassiter: In healthcare's new order, no time to bask in past success

By | May 20 th,  2016 | Allegiance Health, Baldrige, merger, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, Health Alliance Plan, Modern Healthcare, president, succession, succession planning, transformation, Alameda County Medical Center, Blog, CEO, HealthPlus of Michigan, Henry Ford Health System, Nancy Schlichting, Wright Lassiter III | Add A Comment

 

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

 

Wright Lassiter earned kudos as a CEO for engineering a huge turnaround of the troubled Alameda County Health System in California. Now, as he succeeds Nancy Schlichting as the leader of the prestigious and celebrated Henry Ford Health System in Michigan, you might think he could take a deep breath and relax a bit.

 

But that’s not how he sees it at all.

 

“As we look at the next 5 to 10 years, the way that quality and safety outcomes will be measured will be different,” he says. “We’re clearly moving even more from volume to value and risk, so I think the measures for success for Henry Ford in the future will be different than they have been for the last 10 or 15 years. I strongly believe that there is transformation required for our organization. We need to focus differently than we have in the past.”

 

Henry Ford won the coveted Malcolm Baldrige Award for quality in 2011, just one of a series of major accomplishments in its long history of stellar healthcare. Lassiter says one of his tasks in seeking to propel Ford to even greater heights is to remind his staff that past glories are no guarantee of future results.

 

“In a rapidly changing industry that may require different things of us, some days I worry about the complacency that could spring from so many years of excellence,” he says.
In particular, notes Lassiter, the future success of Henry Ford may not be as closely tied to the success of hospitals as it has been in the past.

 

“For the next five or 10 years, we’re going to have to leverage our large medical group, community medical staff and our insurance company much more effectively than we have in the past,” he says. “That will require both executional and cultural shifts to do even more of what we call integrated care and coverage, this notion of a more narrow network. And I think we’re perfectly situated to do that.”

 

 

To grow, Henry Ford is stretching out beyond its traditional home of Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, where it has provided care for the past century. In recent months, the health system has merged HealthPlus of Michigan, an insurance company 75 miles north of Detroit, into Health Alliance Plan and merged Allegiance Health, a system 90 miles west of Detroit, into the system. They’re also partnering on the Aldara Hospital and Medical Center, a hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that will open later this year.

 

“These are the kinds of things we’ll be doing more of in the next five-plus years and that will require some transformation,” Lassiter says.

 

The announcement of Lassiter’s appointment as Schlichting’s successor struck some as unusual in the healthcare world simply because of the length of the handoff was two years. But, as Lassiter notes, there were some unusual circumstances.

 

“If it was a planned succession within the organization, two years is not necessarily that unusual,” he says. “But for us, the board thought it made sense because they had agreed on Nancy’s retirement date, and there was a lot of strategic work that they wanted to happen. The board was very clear that they wanted the new CEO to be fully engaged in the strategic work to reduce the risk of transition derailment or midstream change.”

 

When Lassiter came aboard, Schlichting quickly moved many of her key executives into a structure that reported to Lassiter. A number of those leaders, who had been contemplating their own retirements, warmed to Lassiter quickly and agreed to stick around as part of the transition team. And then came one of those unexpected circumstances that upped the ante – in June 2015, President Obama asked Schlichting to become the chairperson of the Commission on Care, which Congress established to find the best way to provide healthcare to military veterans.

 

“Nancy has acknowledged from day one that there was no way she could have served the nation in this role unless she and the Henry Ford board had agreed on an overlapping transition period,” Lassiter says. “The commission requires her to travel quite a bit, and that has actually accelerated the transition process as well.”

 

As Lassiter puts his own stamp on Henry Ford over the next decade, what will constitute success? He lists four items:

 

• HFHS will leverage its Baldrige award to become a high-reliability organization, one that can put its safety record up against the aviation and nuclear industries;

 

• It will be seen as the leading value-based healthcare system in the country;

 

• It will have developed a comprehensive statewide delivery system across Michigan – and beyond;

 

• It will be in the top 10 percent in metrics for employee engagement, physician engagement, customer service and safety scores.

 

“If I could look back 10 years and we had achieved these things, I’d say we had been wildly successful,” he says.

 

 

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

By | August 5 th,  2015 | Affordable Care Act, delivery, merger, payers, Triple Aim, financing, Modern Healthcare, organizations, ParkNicollet, providers, Blog, cancer, CEO, Head + Heart Together, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, leadership, Mary Brainerd, Northwest Alliance, safety, HealthPartners, quality, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | Add A Comment

 

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.

 

“There are 23,000 people making decisions across our organization every minute of every day, and so what we do and how we do it has to come from that shared sense of value and a common sense of purpose,” Brainerd says.

 

As the vehicle for that mission, HealthPartners’ culture is known as “Head + Heart, Together.” Internally, it has helped build cohesion. Externally, it has encouraged the organization get in front of the trend toward collaboration. For example, HealthPartners, Allina Health and a physicians’ group were all thinking about building an MRI center in one region of the Twin Cities metroplex. Instead, they worked together and built one center that they all utilize.

 

HealthPartners and Allina also joined forces in an initiative called the Northwest Alliance, with a view to achieving Triple Aim results in quality and health improvement, especially in urgent care and mental health services.

 

“Neither of us alone would have been able to bring that capability to the community,” she says.

 

The results, she says, have been so strong that HealthPartners and Allina are planning to extend the original 7-year agreement before it even expires.

 

Brainerd is equally committed to HealthPartners’ ties with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, making, as in the case with the Northwest Alliance, the Triple Aim its overarching view of care. The Triple Aim’s focus on quality and safety is an area in which her personal experience has shaped her.

 

More than a decade ago, she was a patient in her own system as she dealt with breast cancer. Her care was excellent, but there were some less-than-stellar interactions with the system that made her re-evaluate what HealthPartners’ patients experience.

 

“I think anyone I know who has worked in healthcare and then has encountered the healthcare system as a patient, either themselves or a close family member, is changed by that experience,” she says. “Still, to this day, I almost viscerally recall that feeling of vulnerability that you have, and also the understanding that the physical challenges of treatments and surgeries is in many respects not even half the challenge of the emotional and psychological impact of a serious illness.

 

“It was a life-changing experience for me, and I hope it made me a better leader for our organization.”

 

While Brainerd says she believes the healthcare industry had made significant progress in safety, she also wonders what other blind spots exist.

 

“If, 10 years ago, we didn’t see those issues in patient safety, what are the things we’re not seeing today that future leaders will reference and say, ‘Why weren’t they focused on that?,’ ” she says. “For example, in our aim to minimize pain, we’re actually creating an environment where there are many worse health consequences as the result of the abuse, misuse and overuse of narcotics. More than 80 percent of the world’s narcotics are prescribed in the United States. And then I wonder what tomorrow’s example will be. I want to look for it.”

 

 

Healthcare merger and acquisition is booming. A new article in AHA's Trustee magazine helps corporate culture survive and thrive once the dust has settled.

By | June 19 th,  2015 | American Hospital Association, Furst Group, Healthcare, merger, Bob Clarke, SSM Health, Blog, Joe Mazzenga, Trinity Health, Trustee magazine, acquisition, corporate, culture, executives, HonorHealth, IU Health | Add A Comment

 

As this is written, the country's largest health insurers are sizing each other up for merger and acquisition. The consolidation that has become commonplace among healthcare providers has come to payers as well, and the next several months should begin to determine what the terrain will look like once the dust has settled.

 

The financials are, of course, the driving force in any transaction like this. But the human factor should not be overlooked. Thus, we're proud to be part of a timely new article in Trustee magazine, published by the American Hospital Association, that talks to healthcare executives who have emerged from the experience with some advice and caution on tackling the thorny job of creating a new corporate culture out of two entities that may have done business very differently in the past.

 

Executives from organizations like HonorHealth, IU Health, SSM Health and Trinity Health share their stories with Trustee. Furst Group's Bob Clarke and Joe Mazzenga offer insights as well from their decades of experience.

 

Click here to read the article.

 

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