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

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

Photo of Susan DeVore

 

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

 

Healthcare is personal.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

Revisiting the Top 25: Leon Clark helps guide the transformation of Mayo Clinic

By | September 28 th,  2016 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, chief administrative officer, integrated medical group, Mayo Clinic, Modern Healthcare, transformation, Blog, leadership, mentor, Leon Clark | Add A Comment

 

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

 

For many years, Mayo Clinic has been arguably the leading brand in patient care. But as it has evolved over the past two decades, Leon Clark has had a hand in the transformation process.

 

He’s now chairman of the research administration department, where he’s in charge of a $675 million operating budget. When he joined in 1997 after stints at Ameritech and American Express, he was a unit manager in accounting. Clark has had a steady rise at Mayo, and he remembers the smart evolution of a respected American institution.

 

“At that time, Mayo started to realize that, if it were sustain its full tripartite mission – practice, education and research – that it would need to diversify its activities and generate income from sources other than just practice,” he says.

 

Among Mayo’s purchases back then were a continuing care retirement community that included retirement homes and skilled nursing facilities, and a medical transport company. Clark joined Mayo to help the controller align and assess the diverse businesses.

 

That led to opportunities to become the operations director of Mayo’s health plan and third-party administration operation and the chance to run the OB-GYN clinical department at Mayo. Over the last decade, working in research at Mayo, he is helping to engineer another round of reinvention.

 

“We’ve started to reposition research at Mayo to be more aligned with a traditional R & D operation,” Clark says. “One of the challenges for academic medical centers is, how do we reposition research assets to drive transformational change in patient care? So what we have are scientists who, in many cases, work in university environments where the incentives are misaligned with the goals of the clinical practice.

 


“They’re rewarded based on grants and publications, and not necessarily on improvements in patient care or creating products and services that advance patient care and differentiate the operation.”

 

So what Clark and his team are doing is looking at Mayo Clinic through a completely different lens.

 

“My physician partner and I approach it from the perspective that Mayo Clinic is an integrated medical group practice first,” he says. “Our research and educational activities essentially underpin the practice and we are creating new capabilities that will contribute to the advancement of patient care and ultimately differentiate Mayo in the marketplace.”

 

That’s an important distinction in the post-Affordable Care Act era.

 

“As healthcare payment reform takes shape, there’s a greater likelihood that many patients who would benefit from care at Mayo would be locked out due to a narrowing of their network or for other reasons,” Clark says. “So what we have to do is create compelling and differentiating capabilities that will inspire people to come out of their network and seek care here because, in my view, they’re going to be better off in the long run.”

 

Clark is glad he himself came to Mayo himself almost 20 years ago. He credits former chief administrative officers Jeffrey Korsmo, now the CEO at Via Christi Health in Wichita, Kan., and recently retired Shirley Weis for being invaluable mentors in his leadership journey.

 

“Early on in my career, Jeff took an interest in me personally and wanted to make sure I had a successful career at Mayo,” he says. “But the other thing he did for me was to run interference for me when I needed it and to point out landmines when he knew I was on a path that would probably lead to me stepping on one. I found out after the fact that he had conversations with other leaders about me as well.”

 

That was crucial, he says, because diverse executives don’t always get second chances after they’ve made a mistake.

 

“All of us make mistakes in our careers,” he says. “In fact, I worry about people who don’t make mistakes because that means they’re not stretching enough to make a difference. Our industry needs folks who are innovative and who think transformationally. That might lead to making mistakes and the question is, how do we recover? If you’re a member of a minority group, historically, it’s been more difficult.”

 

Mayo is a big company ($8 billion) but a small community. It’s governed primarily by committee, and some of that work allows executives to expand their exposure to the entire organization and to get involved in things that aren’t necessarily part of their day-to-day purview. In that setting, relationship management is important, and Clark says that is one reason he has flourished there.

 

“People know me, and they know I’m well-intentioned,” he says. “So even if I step on a landmine, I tend to get a little bit of grace.”
He’s committed to passing that on.

 

“I think it’s an obligation of every leader to identify, coach and mentor the next generation of leaders, so I’ve been very intentional and active around that,” Clark says. “The demographics are changing – Mayo wants to serve every patient who benefits from our care, and those people are increasingly diverse. We want to give them the full Mayo experience. So how can we do that? We need to diversify our employees so we can better understand our patients and serve them better.”

 

 

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.

 

 

Leon Clark helps guide the transformation of Mayo Clinic

By | April 15 th,  2016 | Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, chief administrative officer, integrated medical group, Mayo Clinic, Modern Healthcare, transformation, Blog, leadership, mentor, Leon Clark | Add A Comment

 

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

 

For many years, Mayo Clinic has been arguably the leading brand in patient care. But as it has evolved over the past two decades, Leon Clark has had a hand in the transformation process.

 

He’s now chairman of the research administration department, where he’s in charge of a $675 million operating budget. When he joined in 1997 after stints at Ameritech and American Express, he was a unit manager in accounting. Clark has had a steady rise at Mayo, and he remembers the smart evolution of a respected American institution.

 

“At that time, Mayo started to realize that, if it were sustain its full tripartite mission – practice, education and research – that it would need to diversify its activities and generate income from sources other than just practice,” he says.

 

Among Mayo’s purchases back then were a continuing care retirement community that included retirement homes and skilled nursing facilities, and a medical transport company. Clark joined Mayo to help the controller align and assess the diverse businesses.

 

That led to opportunities to become the operations director of Mayo’s health plan and third-party administration operation and the chance to run the OB-GYN clinical department at Mayo. Over the last decade, working in research at Mayo, he is helping to engineer another round of reinvention.

 

“We’ve started to reposition research at Mayo to be more aligned with a traditional R & D operation,” Clark says. “One of the challenges for academic medical centers is, how do we reposition research assets to drive transformational change in patient care? So what we have are scientists who, in many cases, work in university environments where the incentives are misaligned with the goals of the clinical practice.

 


“They’re rewarded based on grants and publications, and not necessarily on improvements in patient care or creating products and services that advance patient care and differentiate the operation.”

 

So what Clark and his team are doing is looking at Mayo Clinic through a completely different lens.

 

“My physician partner and I approach it from the perspective that Mayo Clinic is an integrated medical group practice first,” he says. “Our research and educational activities essentially underpin the practice and we are creating new capabilities that will contribute to the advancement of patient care and ultimately differentiate Mayo in the marketplace.”

 

That’s an important distinction in the post-Affordable Care Act era.

 

“As healthcare payment reform takes shape, there’s a greater likelihood that many patients who would benefit from care at Mayo would be locked out due to a narrowing of their network or for other reasons,” Clark says. “So what we have to do is create compelling and differentiating capabilities that will inspire people to come out of their network and seek care here because, in my view, they’re going to be better off in the long run.”

 

Clark is glad he himself came to Mayo himself almost 20 years ago. He credits former chief administrative officers Jeffrey Korsmo, now the CEO at Via Christi Health in Wichita, Kan., and recently retired Shirley Weis for being invaluable mentors in his leadership journey.

 

“Early on in my career, Jeff took an interest in me personally and wanted to make sure I had a successful career at Mayo,” he says. “But the other thing he did for me was to run interference for me when I needed it and to point out landmines when he knew I was on a path that would probably lead to me stepping on one. I found out after the fact that he had conversations with other leaders about me as well.”

 

That was crucial, he says, because diverse executives don’t always get second chances after they’ve made a mistake.

 

“All of us make mistakes in our careers,” he says. “In fact, I worry about people who don’t make mistakes because that means they’re not stretching enough to make a difference. Our industry needs folks who are innovative and who think transformationally. That might lead to making mistakes and the question is, how do we recover? If you’re a member of a minority group, historically, it’s been more difficult.”

 

Mayo is a big company ($8 billion) but a small community. It’s governed primarily by committee, and some of that work allows executives to expand their exposure to the entire organization and to get involved in things that aren’t necessarily part of their day-to-day purview. In that setting, relationship management is important, and Clark says that is one reason he has flourished there.

 

“People know me, and they know I’m well-intentioned,” he says. “So even if I step on a landmine, I tend to get a little bit of grace.”
He’s committed to passing that on.

 

“I think it’s an obligation of every leader to identify, coach and mentor the next generation of leaders, so I’ve been very intentional and active around that,” Clark says. “The demographics are changing – Mayo wants to serve every patient who benefits from our care, and those people are increasingly diverse. We want to give them the full Mayo experience. So how can we do that? We need to diversify our employees so we can better understand our patients and serve them better.”

 

 

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