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Diversity fuels Karen Lynch’s leadership at Aetna

By | July 24 th,  2017 | Modern Healthcare, president, Aetna, Blog, diversity, Karen Lynch, meental health, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | 21 Comments

 

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.

 

A commitment to diversity usually starts at the top of an organization, and Aetna President Karen Lynch is pleased that her employer is routinely recognized for the fact that its board is 40 percent female. But she knows there is more to be done.

 

“If you look at the studies that have been published, 73 percent of medical and health services managers in the U.S. are women, but only 4 percent of healthcare CEOs are women. So, clearly, we have some growth to move forward on,” she says.

 

But her thinking goes beyond gender diversity.

 

“When I think about diversity, it’s also about ethnic diversity. It’s about ‘Do we have diversity with veterans and LGBT and multigenerational, multicultural talent?’ I think there’s more to be done there as well.”

 

Make no mistake, though – Lynch is “quite proud” to be the first female president of Aetna.

 

“It’s such a great honor,” she says, but quickly adds, “As you can imagine, I didn’t get here by myself.”

 

Healthcare executives often talk about the importance of mentors and sponsors in their career. Lynch points to one from her childhood as a foundation for success in life – the aunt who raised Lynch and her three siblings after Lynch’s mom committed suicide. Lynch was 12 at the time.

 

“My aunt grew up in the Depression,” Lynch remembers. “Her parents came over from Poland. They were ailing, and she took care of them. She worked in a factory her entire life. Her husband passed away early on. She took care of her only son, and then she took on the responsibility of all four of us.”

 

Lynch says her aunt – and life itself – helped imbue her with resilience and a positive, constructive attitude. She says she met her father once, but does not regret his absence. “I think it’s made me the strong person I am today. I have a perspective of optimism, and the glass is always half-full.”

 

When Lynch was in her 20s, her aunt died from emphysema and breast and lung cancer, the result of heavy cigarette smoking. Nonetheless, her positive impact on Lynch had already been formed.

 

“My aunt was a very strong woman,” Lynch recalls. “She didn’t let anything get in her way. She instilled values in us like, ‘You can do anything that you set your mind to. And don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do anything.’ ”

 

Her influence is evident in Lynch’s career arc. And it was, in part, her aunt’s illness that led her ultimately to a career in healthcare after a stint as an auditor for Ernst + Young.

 

“I remember sitting in her hospital room thinking, ‘I don’t know what questions to ask the doctors. I don’t know what to do to care for her,’ ” Lynch says. “I’ve made it my life mission now to bring the services to individuals so they can answer those questions when someone’s in need. Or, better yet, how do we keep people healthy in the first place?”

 

Lynch leads by example in that vein. She is a lifelong runner, although she has added spinning to her regimen to ease the pounding on her knees.

 

“If I’m going to run a healthcare company and advocate health, it’s important for me to remain healthy.”

 

Lynch says her training at Ernst + Young prepared her for leadership in two ways.

 

“One important lesson I learned was how to be an effective communicator with people at all levels of an organization,” she says. “When you’re an auditor, you have to talk with the most senior leaders of an organization as well as the front-line people. I had to learn quickly how to adapt my communication style.”

 

She also learned how to take opportunities as they emerged, she says.

 

“When you’re in public accounting, you’re thrust into situations that are uncomfortable and uncertain, and you have to quickly adapt and be flexible,” Lynch says. “I think those skills are equally important as a senior executive, because you never know what might come your way on any given day.”

 

Lynch and her organization have had to deal with a lot of uncertainty over the past year as the potential merger of Aetna and Humana fell through. The experience, however, hasn’t altered the company’s strategy, she says.

 

“Humana would have helped to accelerate our strategy, but that strategy remains the same – to be consumer-focused, transforming relationships with providers, focusing on the local community and building the next generation of talent,” she says.

 

Lynch says health insurers in general need to own their mistakes, but adds that payers don’t promote themselves enough in regard to the positive outcomes they quietly foster among their members. She recounts the story of one female college student she worked with who was anorexic. Lynch’s organization helped the young woman get into a treatment facility. She got help, returned to school and graduated from college. She signed up with Teach for America and has gone on to have a successful career.

 

“Those are the kinds of things we do that no one knows we do,” Lynch says.

 

“Maybe we’re too modest, but we need to tell our story because we are doing some phenomenal things across the nation.”

 

 

SIDEBAR: U.S. health includes mental health

 

 

Aetna President Karen Lynch has always been quite active in charity work. That stems, in part, from her aunt who raised Lynch and her three siblings after their mother committed suicide.

 

“My aunt talked about and instilled in us the importance of giving back,” Lynch says today.

 

She says she sees the importance of that in her work every day.

 

“I have a passion for holistic healthcare and taking care of the whole person,” she says, “because with every chronic condition, many people are also suffering from a mental health condition. There are a lot of co-morbid diagnoses.”

 

Her mother informs that passion as well.

 

“Because my mom died by suicide, I believe very strongly in promoting mental health awareness and making sure people have access to the services that they need.”

 

Lynch found a strong partner in that endeavor in her husband Kevin, who founded the Quell Foundation two years ago to eradicate the stigma of mental health disorders.

 

“He gives scholarships to children who have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and also to kids who want to go to college to work in the field of psychiatry or psychology. And I personally fund the scholarship for kids who have lost a parent through suicide.”

 

This year, the Quell Foundation will provide $200,000 in scholarships to young people across the country. It’s one more motivation Lynch cites for doing what she does in her career.

 

“I get up every single morning,” she says, “trying to think about how we can have a positive impact on people’s lives and make this healthcare system better.”

 

 

Laura Kaiser of SSM Health brings courage, conviction to questions around healthcare's future

By | June 8 th,  2017 | Affordable Care Act, chief executive officer, Furst Group, Harvard Business Review, Modern Healthcare, NuBrick Partners, president, SSM Health, Ascension, Blog, costs, Cuba, Intermountain Healthcare, New England Journal of Medicine, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | 4 Comments

 

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.

 

U.S. healthcare has more questions than answers right now, but Laura Kaiser doesn’t shy away from them.

 

As the new president and CEO of SSM Health, Kaiser brings an impeccable resume back to her hometown of St. Louis, along with an inquisitive mind and a willingness to eschew the status quo.

 

“We need to think about how we make healthcare sustainable, affordable and accessible,” she says. “There’s always going to be a need for emergency care – acute, critical care, for injuries and illnesses that are unforeseen. But we need to invest in programs and services to minimize chronic conditions that are in fact preventable, because that will help us lower the overall cost of care.”

 

She’s outlined some of her thinking in major periodicals as co-author of articles in the Harvard Business Review and the New England Journal of Medicine. In HBR, she opined on “Turning Value-Based Care Into A Real Business Model.” And, in the medical journal, she and co-author Thomas Lee, MD, were blunt in encouraging big pharma to become full partners in the quest for value-based care: “As payers and providers work together to improve value, will pharmaceutical companies join that effort, or will they acts as vendors that merely maximize short-term profits for shareholders?”

 

“I think any approach to affordable care must have all stakeholders involved and engaged,” she says today. “I actually heard from one of the pharma companies after that was published, and they are interested in having further dialogue.”

 

Kaiser has no problem saying that healthcare is a right, not a privilege, for all humans, a stance her faith-based system supports completely.

 

“I’ve said this to many people without any intended partisan viewpoint,” Kaiser says. “No matter where you sit politically, healthcare isn’t political. For all of its flaws, the Affordable Care Act did three very important things. First, it heightened awareness about the need to provide excellent healthcare to all Americans. Second, it alleviated some financial hardship for people with pre-existing conditions. Last, it extended the availability of healthcare for people up to the age of 26 on their parents’ insurance coverage.”

 

A year and a half ago, Kaiser saw a different approach to healthcare during a fact-finding mission to Cuba, and she has been ruminating on it ever since.

 

“I wanted to see how it is that this small country – and one that has relatively limited resources compared to the U.S. – has better health outcomes than we do,” says Kaiser. “How are they doing that?”

 

Kaiser discovered that physicians, nurses and statisticians are embedded in each community at a rate of about one for every 1,000 to 1,500 residents.

 

“I visited a few of those clinicians,” Kaiser says. “Their medical records are spiral-bound notebooks with pencils. They provide primary care to patients and, if they need a higher level of care, patients are sent to a specialty practice, similar to a federally qualified health center in the U.S. If they end up needing hospitalization, they are simply referred to one of the hospitals across the country. It is a single system.”

 

And medicine is free, including insulin for people with diabetes.

 

“A lot of people in the U.S. have to make the terrible choice between buying medicines or food,” she says. “If we changed our approach, we could create incentives for people to stay healthy, and the overall cost of healthcare in this country would decrease. So, that’s my dream.”

 

At the time of the trip, Kaiser was chief operating officer of Intermountain Healthcare, a Utah-based health system known far and wide for its quality. Earlier in her career, she spent 15 years with St. Louis-based Ascension, another health system with a stellar reputation. Now, in taking the helm as only the third CEO in SSM Health’s history, she has a similarly pristine heritage to draw from – SSM Health was the first health system to be awarded the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2002.

 

“The organization is deeply rooted in continuous quality improvement,” she says. “They have been on the cutting edge since the time of the Baldrige award, so there really is a great foundation on which to build the health system of the future.”

 

The answers that Kaiser and her team come up with should offer some interesting architecture for the future of SSM Health – and American healthcare.

 

 

SIDEBAR: The end of life brings questions, and courage, too

 

Much of the country’s healthcare spending occurs during the final weeks and months of patients’ lives. SSM Health President and CEO Laura Kaiser says that needs to be discussed openly and extensively.

 

“Discussing death and dying is becoming more acceptable thanks to people like Dr. Atul Gawande, who wrote the wonderful book Being Mortal, and Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Option B, a powerfully written book about recovering after suffering the loss of her husband,” says Kaiser, whose parents eventually chose hospice care after battling cancer. “Death and dying can be difficult to discuss, but it is something we need to grapple with as a country and as a society.”

 

She saw great courage in her parents as they made difficult decisions at the end of their lives.

 

“What my dad chose and experienced in hospice was beautiful care. It is what everyone should have if that’s where you find yourself,” Kaiser says. “Many years later, my mom made the same choice and had a similarly extraordinary experience.”

 

Her parents’ bravery flows through Kaiser and gives her confidence while she confronts complex issues as one of the nation’s leading healthcare executives. Kaiser’s dad, a chemical engineer, was her first mentor about leadership. She has fond memories of him from her childhood, listening to classical music in the car while driving to the library together. They shared a love for the “Peanuts” cartoons – especially Lucy, seated in her counseling booth, offering a listening ear for five cents.

 

“I trusted my dad’s counsel and would knock on his home-office door, saying, ‘I have my nickel.’ He would say, ‘Come on in for the consult,’ ” says Kaiser with a chuckle. “I had many 'consults' with him and am the better for it today.”

 

 

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

By | May 25 th,  2017 | Healthcare, ambulatory care, Leah Binder, maternity, Modern Healthcare, patient safety, president, Blog, CEO, children's hospitals, employers, Hospital Safety Score, Leapfrog Group, outpatient, 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 | chief executive officer, Healthcare, Medecision, population health, accountable care organization, Main Line Health, Middlesex Health system, Modern Healthcare, president, Blog, CEO, clinical imformatics, clinical integration, clinician, community benefits, Delaware Valley ACO, Katherine Schneider, physician executive, AtlantiCare, family medicine, Jefferson Health, 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.”

     

     

    2016 Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare--Bruce Siegel: Diverse leadership is a must on the road to equity of care

    By | December 14 th,  2016 | America's Essential Hospitals, Center for Health Care Quality, Equity, population health, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, C-suite, healthcare disparities, Modern Healthcare, president, risk adjustment, safety net, Blog, boards, CEO, diversity, Johns Hopkins, academic medical centers | Add A Comment

     

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

     

    Thirty years ago, Bruce Siegel had what he calls “a rude awakening,” running headlong into the perplexing spider web of health disparities as a young MD. It’s been something that he’s spent his entire career trying to solve, albeit not with a stethoscope.

     

    “I went off to medical school and started my internship, and I was stunned by what I encountered,” says Siegel, now president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. “I worked in the clinic at our hospital, and it was just a tidal wave of diabetes, heart disease and lung cancer. Most of it was preventable. And the other thing I noticed was that it was mostly affecting communities of color.”

     

    It was a frustrating experience, one that led Siegel to pursue a master’s in public health at Johns Hopkins University and try to find public-policy solutions to the nagging issues he saw as a physician. “I felt like I was running an assembly line that never ended. I’d see 200 people with these problems. I’d send them back out and they’d be back a month later.”

     

    The New Jersey Department of Health helped pay for Siegel’s education at Hopkins, so he owed them some time when he graduated. He did so well that he eventually became a very young state commissioner of health, then parlayed that experience into running New York City’s health system and a Tampa, Fla., hospital. His early years in leadership after being a clinician were rocky, he admits.

     

    “It was a crucible in many ways,” he says. “Sometimes, it was very uncomfortable and I was probably in over my head at points. But it’s where I began to learn that leadership is about giving people space. I really think a leader’s job is to create a safe space for talented people and tools to help them move forward. If I’m giving orders, then I’m failing.”

     

    Siegel joined America’s Essential Hospitals in 2010 after eight years as a professor and the director of the Center for Health Care Quality at George Washington University. But at each step of the way, his thoughts went back to those diverse patients in the clinic who found little hope in healthcare. “I had so many patients of color for whom the system simply wasn’t working, but I didn’t understand why.”

     

    In recent years, Siegel has begun to see a change as he leads the nation’s essential hospitals, his association’s term for public and other non-profit hospitals with a safety-net role. The association’s members often are a driving force, he says.

     

    “It’s great to be in the company of change agents,” he says. “Our members have leaders who care about these problems and are working to fix them. Equity is now front and center in the American agenda. We’re not there yet, but at least today we have the tools.”

     

    At times, it’s still a tough slog, he notes. One of the must-haves on the road to equity is diverse leadership, and the effort to improve that is stalled. Medical schools are failing to enroll minority communities, and boards have been far too quiet on the lack of diversity, Siegel says.

     

    “I don’t think our boards of directors are demanding this,” he says. “They need to be unequivocal that this is an expectation, not just a nice thing to do. But I don’t think our hospitals are going to look diverse in the C-suite if our boards don’t.”

     

    Lack of diversity, Siegel says, is short-sighted because it is harmful to patients and harmful to an organization’s bottom line.

     

    “The slow walk on diversity is just bad business,” he says. “We’re not going to succeed if our leaders don’t fully understand the lives of our community and their priorities.”

     

    America’s Essential Hospitals is working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on a population health project, and Siegel sees a disconnect between some healthcare executives and the communities they try to serve. “I’ve been in communities where, if you ask the CEO, he or she will talk about chronic disease management as their main concern on population health. But if you ask the people, they’ll say their most pressing need is a safe street for them to walk on, and safe playgrounds for their children. We’re not going to get to population health without addressing what people think of as health.”

     

    In the same way, he adds, population health can’t be attained if you weaken the academic medical centers which comprise much of the association’s membership. The AMCs, with their three-legged stool of clinical care, education and research, sometimes feel the ACA is applied like a wildly swung ax, Siegel says.

     

    “These are places in America that do what no one else does,” he says. “They attract the sickest people who have the greatest social and economic challenges. Home may be a homeless shelter. English may not be their first language. These patients may have a harder time navigating the healthcare system, and they may be readmitted through no fault of the hospital.”

     

    Siegel’s association is pushing Congress for a risk adjustment for these hospitals, which, he notes, had an aggregate operating margin slightly in the red for 2014. Compare that to, say, the pharma industry, which banks about 20 percent profits each year.

     

    “To me, the future of healthcare is that hospitals will be at risk for dollars they get. I accept that,” Siegel says. “We’ll do everything we can to make that better, but we also need the regulators and the payers to do their part.”

     

    The challenges of America’s Essential Hospitals’ members are personal to Siegel. He and his sister were both born in a public hospital. Their mom emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti. “My family very much depended on a safety net when they came to America. So these issues are near and dear to me and my loved ones.”

     

     

    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.

     

     

    Bruce Siegel: Hospitals need to listen to their communities to tackle health disparities

    By | July 18 th,  2016 | America's Essential Hospitals, Center for Health Care Quality, Equity, population health, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, C-suite, healthcare disparities, Modern Healthcare, president, risk adjustment, safety net, Blog, boards, CEO, diversity, Johns Hopkins, academic medical centers | Add A Comment

     

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

     

    Thirty years ago, Bruce Siegel had what he calls “a rude awakening,” running headlong into the perplexing spider web of health disparities as a young MD. It’s been something that he’s spent his entire career trying to solve, albeit not with a stethoscope.

     

    “I went off to medical school and started my internship, and I was stunned by what I encountered,” says Siegel, now president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals. “I worked in the clinic at our hospital, and it was just a tidal wave of diabetes, heart disease and lung cancer. Most of it was preventable. And the other thing I noticed was that it was mostly affecting communities of color.”

     

    It was a frustrating experience, one that led Siegel to pursue a master’s in public health at Johns Hopkins University and try to find public-policy solutions to the nagging issues he saw as a physician. “I felt like I was running an assembly line that never ended. I’d see 200 people with these problems. I’d send them back out and they’d be back a month later.”

     

    The New Jersey Department of Health helped pay for Siegel’s education at Hopkins, so he owed them some time when he graduated. He did so well that he eventually became a very young state commissioner of health, then parlayed that experience into running New York City’s health system and a Tampa, Fla., hospital. His early years in leadership after being a clinician were rocky, he admits.

     

    “It was a crucible in many ways,” he says. “Sometimes, it was very uncomfortable and I was probably in over my head at points. But it’s where I began to learn that leadership is about giving people space. I really think a leader’s job is to create a safe space for talented people and tools to help them move forward. If I’m giving orders, then I’m failing.”

     

    Siegel joined America’s Essential Hospitals in 2010 after eight years as a professor and the director of the Center for Health Care Quality at George Washington University. But at each step of the way, his thoughts went back to those diverse patients in the clinic who found little hope in healthcare. “I had so many patients of color for whom the system simply wasn’t working, but I didn’t understand why.”

     

    In recent years, Siegel has begun to see a change as he leads the nation’s essential hospitals, his association’s term for public and other non-profit hospitals with a safety-net role. The association’s members often are a driving force, he says.

     

    “It’s great to be in the company of change agents,” he says. “Our members have leaders who care about these problems and are working to fix them. Equity is now front and center in the American agenda. We’re not there yet, but at least today we have the tools.”

     

    At times, it’s still a tough slog, he notes. One of the must-haves on the road to equity is diverse leadership, and the effort to improve that is stalled. Medical schools are failing to enroll minority communities, and boards have been far too quiet on the lack of diversity, Siegel says.

     

    “I don’t think our boards of directors are demanding this,” he says. “They need to be unequivocal that this is an expectation, not just a nice thing to do. But I don’t think our hospitals are going to look diverse in the C-suite if our boards don’t.”

     

    Lack of diversity, Siegel says, is short-sighted because it is harmful to patients and harmful to an organization’s bottom line.

     

    “The slow walk on diversity is just bad business,” he says. “We’re not going to succeed if our leaders don’t fully understand the lives of our community and their priorities.”

     

    America’s Essential Hospitals is working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on a population health project, and Siegel sees a disconnect between some healthcare executives and the communities they try to serve. “I’ve been in communities where, if you ask the CEO, he or she will talk about chronic disease management as their main concern on population health. But if you ask the people, they’ll say their most pressing need is a safe street for them to walk on, and safe playgrounds for their children. We’re not going to get to population health without addressing what people think of as health.”

     

    In the same way, he adds, population health can’t be attained if you weaken the academic medical centers which comprise much of the association’s membership. The AMCs, with their three-legged stool of clinical care, education and research, sometimes feel the ACA is applied like a wildly swung ax, Siegel says.

     

    “These are places in America that do what no one else does,” he says. “They attract the sickest people who have the greatest social and economic challenges. Home may be a homeless shelter. English may not be their first language. These patients may have a harder time navigating the healthcare system, and they may be readmitted through no fault of the hospital.”

     

    Siegel’s association is pushing Congress for a risk adjustment for these hospitals, which, he notes, had an aggregate operating margin slightly in the red for 2014. Compare that to, say, the pharma industry, which banks about 20 percent profits each year.

     

    “To me, the future of healthcare is that hospitals will be at risk for dollars they get. I accept that,” Siegel says. “We’ll do everything we can to make that better, but we also need the regulators and the payers to do their part.”

     

    The challenges of America’s Essential Hospitals’ members are personal to Siegel. He and his sister were both born in a public hospital. Their mom emigrated to the U.S. from Haiti. “My family very much depended on a safety net when they came to America. So these issues are near and dear to me and my loved ones.”

     

     

    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 Ascension, Patricia Maryland’s patient-centered focus aligns with a passion for analytics

    By | September 25 th,  2015 | Healthcare, Patricia Maryland, executive, Modern Healthcare, patient-centered care, president, analytics, Ascension, Blog, leadership, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | 1 Comments

     

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

     

    As the oldest daughter in a large family, Patricia Maryland, Dr.PH, was often left in charge when her mother was hospitalized during a years-long struggle with Type 2 diabetes. Her mother eventually died of complications from the condition, and Maryland recalls her frustration with the fragmented healthcare system in which they found themselves.

     

    “We didn’t understand at that time she needed more than general primary care,” she says. “Someone should have been helping us navigate her care to the appropriate subspecialist and other support systems as her condition continued to worsen.”

     

    Unfortunately, similar stories have played out within hospitals and health systems across the United States.

     

    As president of healthcare operations and chief operating officer of Ascension Health, a subsidiary of Ascension, Maryland is committed to leading change – knowing from experience the great need for personalized, coordinated care in this ever-changing healthcare environment.

     

    “I think we can do a better job in healthcare,” says Maryland. “The time has come for us to turn the process upside down – or should I say right-side up – organizing the providers around the needs of the patients, not expecting the patients to figure where to go in our complicated health systems to get the care they need at the convenience of the providers.”

     

    As the world’s largest Catholic health system, Ascension’s mission is steeped in delivering spiritually-centered, holistic care to all with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable. Maryland makes a point of saying that all healthcare leadership should approach the business of healthcare from a similar perspective.

     

    “Without passion for why we are here and what we are trying to do, we will not be able to be the transformational leaders that healthcare needs today.”

     

    That passion has not dampened her business objectivity, however. Quite the contrary. Maryland’s passion is paralleled only by her dedication to analytics, cultivated through her master’s degree in biostatistics and doctorate in public health.

     

     

    Maryland explained that biostatisticians tend to work in pharmaceutical industries or medical research areas, with a focus is on efficacy, research, precision and statistical analysis. However, she believes that in today’s health industry, metrics are essential for all healthcare leaders.

     

    “Data analysis is the lifeline of any business, particularly a healthcare organization,” she says. “It is vital that we maintain clear and measurable data so that we can address opportunities for improvement that would not be realized otherwise. By tracking trends, Ascension analyzes where we need to go and what decisions we need to make on any given initiative.”

     

    Maryland says statistics are especially crucial as the roles of payers and providers overlap and converge.

     

    “As we think about population health management and the direction that the health industry is moving, analytics and the ability to predict outcomes using data is so important,” she says. “Predictive analytics have helped us manage risk.”

     

    Her background has come in handy as Ascension has moved boldly into this new era of providers taking on risk. She was one of the architects of Together Health Network (THN), formed by partnering with Trinity Health, another Catholic system, to create a physician-led, clinically integrated network in the state of Michigan. THN worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to create Connected Care, a Medicare Advantage product that rolled out in January 2015 and already has surpassed enrollment projections.

     

    “We are especially attractive to payers because our organizations – both Trinity and Ascension – have some of the best metrics in the state,” Maryland says. “We are able to offer the value combination of high quality and low cost to major payers, and to take on and manage their members with a level of consistency.”

     

    With Ascension operating in 23 states as well as the District of Columbia, the THN experience has been a strong test run to for the organization in developing comprehensive, integrated systems of care. It’s also working to round out other parts of the care continuum – including senior care and home care – so it can better serve its communities.

     

    Ascension also has taken the plunge into insurance. The system acquired U.S. Health and Life Insurance Co. last December and is using that platform as well as MissionPoint Health Partners, its population-health management company, to develop benefits and gain experience by managing the quality and cost of care for Ascension’s own associates and their dependents. In essence, it has become its own incubator for development of an insurance product for self-insured employers.

     

    “We are going to pilot it first with our own employees,” Maryland says. “Once we have a proven track record with our associates, we’ll take it to market. How do we go anywhere else and offer the product unless we ourselves can say, ‘Look at our results.’ This is also why data is so important. We believe we have the best practices, and with this data we will be able to demonstrate it.”

     

    From new partners to new products, healthcare’s future looks a lot different than it did just a few short years ago. Yet despite the changes in how her system and the industry operate, she says the fundamentals are the same. After all, as Maryland knows, healthcare is deeply personal.

     

    “Considering Ascension’s scale and scope, we asked ourselves, ‘If not us, then who?’ We are committed to leading change in the healthcare arena,” she says. “Through standardizing and connecting once disparate systems, we remain true to our Mission of delivering compassionate, personalized care to those who need it the most.”

     

     

    From Brigham and Women’s to the NFL, Elizabeth Nabel looks to make an impact

    By | August 26 th,  2015 | risk, cardiologist, heart disease, Modern Healthcare, NFL, NHLBI, president, Red Dress Heart Truth, Blog, intellectual humility, value-based care, women, academic medical centers, Brigham and Women's Health Care, Elizabeth Nabel, Top 25 Women in Healthcare | Add A Comment

     

    Elizabeth-Nabel-Headshot

     

     

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

     

    Elizabeth Nabel already was one of the nation’s premier cardiologists and researchers before she began leading the respected Brigham and Women’s Health Care system in Boston as president in 2010.

     

    Yet even with such an impeccable pedigree, she has never been shy about taking risks. She took on a very visible role earlier this year as the first-ever chief health and medical advisor to the NFL. And when she was director of the government’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, she worked with commercial industries – even Diet Coke – to spread the message that women were just as susceptible to heart issues as men.

     

    “For me, these positions aren’t about visibility, but about the impact I can make,” Nabel says. “I feel it’s important to be a positive deviant, to have the courage to take risks and stand up for what you believe in, and not be afraid to be different or unpopular to get something done.”

     

    While the NFL recently has had its share of controversy, she sees her role as an opportunity to make sports safer for people far beyond the professional level.

     

    “The NFL has the opportunity to innovate in a way that will impact the health and safety of all athletes of all kinds, at all levels. I see this partnership as a great way to apply the knowledge acquired through the efforts of the NFL to the greater population of professional, amateur and recreational athletes.”

     

    Before taking on her current position at Brigham and Women’s, Nabel served as director of the NHLBI from 2005 to 2009. It was there that she sought to drive change by launching the Red Dress Heart Truth campaign that still is going strong today.

     

    The Red Dress, she says, “is a symbol of women and heart disease. Our goal was to raise awareness about heart disease in women to encourage them to take action and improve their heart health.”

     

    Nabel lined up 150 partners, including 50 companies, to spread awareness. That included Diet Coke, which stamped the campaign on its cans and delivered a visibility that the government agency couldn’t have touched on its own.

     

    “The strategy wasn’t without risk, and it earned me some harsh public criticism from detractors who felt it wasn’t the place of government to ally so closely with industry,” she says. “But I firmly believed it was the right thing to do, and looking back I consider these partnerships instrumental to The Heart Truth’s tremendous success.”

     

    Due in part to the campaign, Nabel says heart disease awareness among women has risen to nearly 70 percent, compared to 34 percent just a decade ago.

     

    As a cardiologist, Nabel’s concern for women’s heart health is natural, yet there is a deep-seated connection to an incident early in her career.

     

    “One night, a 32-year-old woman arrived in the emergency room where I worked,” she says. “She described vague symptoms: aches, fatigue, a low-grade fever – nothing terribly specific. I ran some tests, didn’t find anything telling, and sent her home with Tylenol. Two days later she came back with a full-blown heart attack.”

     

    Nabel was stunned – it contradicted her medical education that males were typically the only gender with heart issues.

     

    “I had been trained by the best,” she continues, “and the best had taught me what the best had taught them: Heart disease was a man’s disease, and the primary symptom of heart attacks was chest pain, which my patient did not have. Thank goodness, that woman survived. The experience stayed with me, and I recognized the need to raise awareness about women’s heart health.”

     

    If you called that incident a humbling experience, Nabel might agree – she sees no need for egos where patient care is concerned. In fact, she delivered a fascinating TED talk on the need for intellectual humility. From her vantage point at Brigham and Women’s, she stresses the need for those who work in healthcare to admit what they don’t yet know.

     

    “An essential part of our mission at BWHC is to educate the next generation of healthcare providers,” she says. “Based on my experiences as a physician and researcher, I believe it’s vital for future healthcare providers to understand the importance of challenging the known and putting our ‘knowledge’ to the test.”

     

    Admitting what you don’t know, she says, can actually be the starting point for breakthroughs.

     

    “An oft-shunned word—ignorance—carries great importance when we consider it as the driver of scientific inquiry, and thus, the molder of new knowledge. Yet when myths—such as heart disease as a man’s disease—are widely believed to be facts, ignorance can kill. If we can help the next generation of care providers embrace the idea of humility, it will open the door for a wider range of new discoveries that will ultimately save lives.”

     

    With value-based care becoming the holy grail in healthcare, discovery and innovation are sorely needed, Nabel says. Yet the pressures on academic medical centers are multiplying, from readmission penalties to cuts in NIH funding.

     

    “In the context of healthcare’s new economic reality, innovation is more important than ever,” she says. “The answers to so many of the challenges we face in healthcare are so close – it is incumbent upon us to provide an environment where solutions can be cultivated and future innovations can flourish.”

     

    Nabel hopes the game-changers that are within reach don’t get derailed by outside forces.
    “We must help the policymakers and the public understand that investments in biomedical research drive improvements in patient care, which could ultimately reduce cost.”

     

     

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