C-Suite Conversations

What healthcare leaders need to know now

Dignity Health’s Lloyd Dean leads from experience and welcomes ‘healthcare for all’

By | September 4 th,  2014 | Furst Group, Healthcare, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, executive, faith-based, health system, Modern Healthcare, Blog, CEO, diversity, leadership, Lloyd Dean, Dignity Health | Add A Comment


One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)


Lloyd Dean, president and CEO of Dignity Health, has an enviable track record in the volatile world of healthcare, where he made his reputation as a turnaround expert for his work taking the organization (then known as Catholic Healthcare West) from perpetual losses to profitability in the early 2000s. But what continues to make him a leader among his healthcare peers is his anticipation and forward thinking.


In 2009, the organization partnered with Blue Shield of California and a physician network for coordinated care. That put the organization way ahead of the curve on the accountable-care front. Dignity Health’s emphasis on outpatient facilities in the last several years also has earned the positive attention of investors. In addition, Dean led the system as it transitioned from an officially Catholic health system in 2012 to one that still honored its Catholic roots while also allowing for growth through partnerships with both faith-based and non-faith-based organizations.


Dean says such moves demonstrate that Dignity Health “possesses a culture that values innovation, future-focused thinking, experimentation and, above all, a bias for taking action.”


He’s shown a similar decisiveness as he has championed the Affordable Care Act and been heavily involved in California’s health care exchanges, which have fared far better than other state’s systems.


“So far, so good,” says Dean. “The lessons learned in California are that, number one, if there’s a will to accomplish something at all political levels, it can happen and, number two, you have to involve the community.”


On the national scene, Dean has been a visible and vocal supporter of the ACA.


“In the healthcare field, we are going through not an evolution but a revolutionary change,” he says. “I, for one, think it’s long overdue. While it’s complex and while it’s difficult, the objective is sound and it’s something we should be pursuing – healthcare for all.”


Dean sees the ACA compelling healthcare leaders to change, or fall to the wayside.


“For five years, this change has been on a rapid pace, and I think it has caused us as leaders to look at being nimble and being flexible. We need to make sure we have people in place who have the key ability to adapt to rapid change and instability as we implement the Affordable Care Act.”


That includes the C-suite and the board, he adds.


“These are delicate and important times and the stakes are quite high,” he says. “Therefore, the times demand an open and transparent relationship between management and governance. The board must be involved and engaged in key strategies, decisions and investments early in the process. Educating the board on key issues impacting healthcare entities has been and continues to be an important accountability of management.”


In addition, the changing face of healthcare must become more diverse as population health is addressed, Dean says.


“The demographics of this country are changing,” he says. “There are more minorities, and we need to ensure we have leadership that is representative of the nation and of our communities.”


Health disparities are something that Dean was immersed in from the day he was born. His parents were from Alabama but migrated north to Muskegon, Mich., to find work. Dean was one of nine children.


“My father worked in a factory, but it was an on-again, off-again kind of thing,” he says. “Mom was a housekeeper keeping us on the straight and narrow. We were on welfare many times; I know that system well.”


In junior high, Dean was bused to a middle-class white neighborhood, where his fellow students would miss classes because of doctor and dentist appointments, things unheard of among his family and his African-American neighbors.


“My father was the dentist, and I kid people that my mother was the nurse. But I also saw the impact of not having healthcare. I watched people in my community suffering and perishing from diseases. My colleagues at the school didn’t seem to be having those kinds of difficulties. Even as a teenager, you begin to think, ‘There’s got to be a better way.’


“It shaped me in a profound way.”


His father contracted black lung disease and emphysema from working in the factory. But not before he and Dean’s mother impressed upon their children the importance of education.


“Even though we didn’t have any money, education was important, so that gave me a way out,” he recalls. “Also, religion and faith were always very much a part of my family – when I think about my healthcare career, 24 years have been spent in faith-related systems. So I’m truly a product of my environment, and that motivates me.”


Being around the millennial generation also provides a welcome spark, Dean says.


“We’ve got young physicians and other talent coming into our organizations with a different perspective on lifestyle and what is important to them,” he says. “They come with a greater sense of community responsibility and less emphasis on huge corporate structures. In terms of cultural attributes and leadership opportunities, I’m finding that younger people are advancing at a much more rapid pace. Expectations are higher with the current generation.”


At 63, Dean can relate to such expectations, for they resonate with the ones he says he put on himself in a successful career that he is far from ready to close the door on.


“I think about how fortunate I have been to be working in healthcare in this country at a time when reform is actually happening,” he says. “I just hope I have used the blessings God has given me to help others receive quality health care regardless of economic status or ethnic origin.”


Dean doesn’t think much about legacies – there’s too much left to do, he says – but hopes his personal imprint on those he’s impacted will be just as strong as the professional one.


“I hope my family, friends, colleagues and those I have met along my journey will say, ‘He made us smile, and always treated us with dignity, kindness and respect.’ ”


Eugene Woods: Diverse leadership is key to solving health disparities

By | August 25 th,  2014 | American Hospital Association, Furst Group, St. Joseph Health System, Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare, executive, faith-based, health system, Modern Healthcare, Blog, Catholic Health Initiatives, chief operating officer, Christus Health, diversity, Equity of Care Committee, health disparities, leadership | Add A Comment


One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)


As a board member of the American Hospital Association and chair of its Equity of Care Committee, Eugene Woods has an opportunity to see up close how health disparities affect far too many people in the U.S.


“We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that significant inequities exist,” he says, noting a recent study by the Institute for Diversity in Management that indicates only 22 percent of hospitals have utilized data to identify disparities in treatment and/or outcomes between racial or ethnic groups by analyzing one or more of the following: clinical quality indicators, readmissions or CMS core measures. While this is an increase from 20% in 2011, Woods says he wants to see more results from the industry.


“The incidence of infant mortality, diabetes and colorectal cancer are in some cases twice as high among African-Americans as compared to whites. We can, and simply must, do better.”


Woods, who also serves as executive vice president and chief operating officer for the 33-hospital Christus Health system, comes at the issue of diversity from an interesting angle. His worldview was partially formed through his early years growing up in his mother’s hometown in Spain.


“What I learned is that similarities between cultures are much greater than the differences,” he remembers. “And also that, rather than it being something that separates us, we should celebrate our differences because of the richness they bring to human experience.”


His own family today reflects those beliefs, he says.


“My wife and I come from four distinct cultures – Mohawk (Native American), Spanish, African-American and Dutch. And while each has very unique traditions, all share many of the same important values. So when I look at the work I do in healthcare, though we serve people from all different walks of life, the common denominators are our values with respect to human dignity, respect and compassionate care.”


Woods came to Christus after a number of years in Lexington, Ky., where he was CEO of St. Joseph Health System while also serving as Senior Vice President of the Catholic Health Initiatives system. One of the things that drew him to Christus, he says, was the commitment to diversity of CEO Ernie Sadau. In three years, he says, the percentage of diverse leaders at Christus has grown from 10 to 25 percent. Woods played a key role in launching Christus’ inaugural two-year minority fellowship program as well as its executive-in-residence diversity program.


“What I appreciate most is that Ernie has made diversity one of his top priorities and that has set a new tone within Christus in a very short period of time,” Woods says. “He walks the talk and the significant advancements we have made at diversifying our board and leadership team, for example, are directly due to his commitment and passion.”


Along with growth and clinical integration, diversity is one of three key strategic priorities at Christus.


“We sincerely believe that will be a differentiator for us,” Woods says. “We serve such a very diverse demographic that having a culture that is inclusive and an organization that is representative of the many communities we serve is very top of mind for us.”


Personally, Woods says ministry is top of mind for him as he navigates his successful career in healthcare. It’s one of the reasons he made the jump from one faith-based system to another.


“What I love about both faith-based organizations I have served with is that they were founded by Sisters who remain involved and, above all, help keep you very grounded as a leader. They are all about serving those in greatest need.”


A sense of mission also was impressed upon Woods back in 2001 as well. When the 9/11 attacks happened, he had only been on the job for a few days overseeing operations for the Washington Hospital Center. People wounded in the Pentagon attack were brought to the hospital, and Woods remembers many heroes from those days, including two material management workers who drove non-stop from the nation’s capital to San Antonio and back – because all U.S. airports were closed – to pick up supplies needed to treat burn victims.


“But perhaps the key leadership reflection for me afterwards was that it shouldn’t take a crisis to bring out the best in people,” he says. “So my leadership approach has been focused on how to build excellence in day-to-day work.”


On the AHA’s Equity of Care Committee, Woods says he has had the opportunity to watch a number of healthcare providers create a high bar for standards of care when it comes to eliminating disparities. He ticks off a list of outstanding hospitals – Massachusetts General in Boston; University Hospitals in Cleveland, Ohio; Henry Ford Health System in Detroit; Lutheran HealthCare in Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif.


“These systems are doing some incredible things around diversity with great outcomes and are leading the field with best practices,” he says.


He’s hopeful that these hospital’s examples can be a rallying cry for the industry – and a turning point.


“While pockets of progress are evident,” he notes, “we still have a lot of work to do.”


Nursing roots important to Judith Persichilli as she leads one of the largest U.S. health systems

By | August 14 th,  2013 | Catholic, C-suite, Catholic Health East, clinical process, faith-based, health system, hospital, Lean In, Modern Healthcare, nurses, president, Sisters of Mercy, Blog, CEO, healthcare reform, leadership, nursing, safety, work-life balance, quality, Top 25 Women in Healthcare, Trinity | Add A Comment


One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)


“When I wake up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see a nurse. I don’t necessarily see a healthcare executive.”


Those words don’t belong, say, to the CNO of a small Midwest hospital. They’re coming from Judith Persichilli, who serves as interim president and CEO of Trinity/Catholic Health East, one of the largest health systems in the country. (Prior to the merger of Trinity and Catholic Health East, Persichilli was president and CEO of CHE.)


Nursing, Persichilli says, “has always been in my heart. It still is.” In fact, there is no shortage of executives on Modern Healthcare’s list of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare who have a background in nursing, including Persichilli.


Why do many nurses become successful healthcare executives? Persichilli says she thinks she knows.


“The education of nurses prepares them to be leaders,” she says. “You’re educated across the continuum; you understand the clinical process. You need strong relationship and communication skills as you’re dealing with physicians and other allied health professionals to promote a plan of care. At the same time, you are responsible in many instances for the communication with the family and significant others of the patient.”


While Persichilli leads an organization with $12.8 billion in operating revenue, she says healthcare workers at any level can make a significant difference in safety and quality in an era in which cost has become a driving concern.


“With healthcare reform, I truly believe that people with clinical knowledge – including, of course, physicians – have the skills to make the right decisions about the clinical process of care and actually lower the cost of care overall. They will make the right decisions about where patients can safely be taken care of with the highest quality.”


The merger of CHE and Trinity created a huge, national Catholic health system. Previously, some other Catholic systems merged with secular counterparts, but Persichilli said that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned their faith-based roots.


“The other systems that have merged may organize themselves differently, but they still have a faith orientation within their organization,” she says. “We have decided, based on the heritage and the tradition of the women religious who sponsored the healthcare entities that formed into a system, that our system would be Catholic. That doesn’t mean we won’t be welcoming to secular relationships that share our vision and values.”


In fact, prior to the merger, Persichilli was part of a team at CHE that made the difficult decision to sell Sisters of Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center system. The move enabled CHE to create a foundation that enabled the sisters to continue their work with the homeless, a population that depended on the faith-based care in the community.


“One of the Trinity CHE values is courage, taking risks,” she explains. “Our founding congregations came to this country with 50 cents in their pockets to take care of people. Mercy was an excellent hospital, but UPMC was so large. The situation gave us an opportunity to say, what are the unmet needs? How can we continue this ministry that was started more than 100 years ago by the Sisters of Mercy?”


Persichilli says she believes similar crossroads are in the future of many communities.


“I think we’re going to be making more of these decisions in healthcare as you look at the community needs assessments that are required under healthcare reform.”


Reform, she adds, resonates with the work that faith-based systems have been doing for years.


“That’s who we are in Catholic healthcare. It’s not just CHE and Trinity – that’s who we are. Sometimes it means saying, there’s enough acute care. How can we creatively develop the structures and the financial foundation to meet the unmet need? It definitely pulls us into environments that perhaps other people don’t want to go into – the homeless, the vulnerable.”


While it’s a well-known fact that the U.S. spends more than any other country on healthcare with less than stellar results, Persichilli says the belt-tightening prevalent in the industry doesn’t have to make quality decline at all.
“I spent three weeks with Catholic Relief Services in Uganda visiting AIDS clinics and looking at their ‘hospitals,’ ” she says. “And I came back to the United States with the understanding that, even in a time of constraint, we live in an era of abundance. We have to figure out how to tap that strength, to do things better at a higher quality and a lower cost.”


One idea on how to do that? Better communication.


“We can do it. It’s there. It will take people in the provider sector and the payer sector to talk to one another, not past one another.”


Persichilli says industry executives need to know their numbers, but also understand that healthcare goes beyond costs.
“No matter what, you need to know that you’re doing really important work. You have the privilege of taking part in and changing people’s lives. When I was a nurse, I used to say, ‘Let’s all stand together and ask the question: ‘What difference did you make in the lives of your patients today?’ ”


That kind of attitude is especially important to people at the beginning of their healthcare careers, she adds.


“Once you bring meaning to your work,” she explains, “you go about it with such commitment and passion that it’s hard not to be recognized. And once you’re recognized, you’re appreciated. Once you’re appreciated, you’re promoted. And once you’re promoted – if you bring that same passion and commitment forward – you will reach an executive level.”


Persichilli mentors a number of young female executives, but says she doesn’t get sucked into the “Lean In” debate.


“Work-life balance transcends gender when it comes to these executive positions,” she says. “I don’t ever step into somebody’s life and say, ‘You should do this or that.’ I always tell younger women, ‘It has to feel comfortable for you.’ And if it doesn’t feel comfortable for you and your career is going to be stalled as a result, understand the choices you make and be happy that at least you can make them.”


Today, she notes, stress about family isn’t confined to children – it could just as easily be about caring for one’s parents as part of the “sandwich generation.”


“If it’s too stressful and the children or your parents are not being taken care of the way you want, it’s not going to do anyone any good at work or at home. So understand who you are and what’s important to you. I don’t have any children, but I can tell you there’s nothing more important than raising good kids.


“I don’t have the answers here. I just know that, if you’re uncomfortable, own it and figure it out.”


Profiles in Leadership: Proctor puts priority on outcomes

By | August 30 th,  2011 | Healthcare, St. Joseph Health System, strategy, Top 25 Women, faith-based, hospital, Modern Healthcare, outcome, Blog, CEO, leadership, safety, culture, Deborah Proctor | Add A Comment

One in a series of profiles of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare (sponsored by Furst Group)


Outcome vs. strategy: which takes the lead?


Deborah Proctor, president and CEO of St. Joseph Health System in Orange, Calif., makes it clear where she stands on that age-old business dilemma.


“One of the things that I learned in my career is that most people will develop a strategy and then measure how well they’re accomplishing that strategy. To me, that’s an insufficient process,” she says. “I think you have to first determine what outcomes you’re trying to achieve and then develop strategies to get to those outcomes.


“But you keep measuring the outcome and you adapt the strategies if they’re not getting you to the outcome.”


Proctor’s belief in outcomes colored the strategic plan that she and her staff created in 2006, and she made sure it was tangible and accessible for all St. Joseph employees.


“Instead of sharing strategies like improving financial performance or aligning with physicians –which are certainly important – we focused on talking to employees about outcomes,” she says.


St. Joseph identified three goals “that every employee could relate to,” says Proctor:


**That the employees of our system would strive to provide perfect care.


**That the communities served by St. Joseph Health System and its hospitals would be among the healthiest in the nation.


**That every encounter with patients, community members, and one another would be a sacred encounter.


“Perfect care” sounds like an unattainable goal but, to Proctor, who began her career at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California as a registered nurse, it has to do with focus.


“Obviously that’s a very tough standard to live up to,” she admits. “But what are you going to say, that I want to give people the best care 90 percent of the time? I don’t think we can say the aim is anything less. Perfect care doesn’t mean perfect outcome, but it means that everything that’s within our control will be done exceptionally without errors.”


Proctor’s insistence on a culture of safety stems from her experience in another health system.


“We were having a strategic meeting and, in the middle of the meeting, one of the physicians got a phone call that informed him of an unnecessary death had occurred in one of our facilities,” she remembers. “From that time, it really became a focus area for me.”


To make it tangible, St. Joseph Health System set out to improve its record with ventilator-associated pneumonia, which was straggling behind more than 60 percent of other U.S. hospitals. In one year, it moved up to the top 10 percent in the country.


“Quality,” she says, “has always been given an equal standing with finance in terms of what executives are held accountable for on their goals.”


If Proctor sounds like a decisive executive, it’s because she is. But the faith element of her career is never far below the surface.


“My faith is a critical part of my life,” she says. “That ability to have coherence between my personal values and what I’m doing at work – to me, there’s nothing better because it’s so much more than a job.”


And St. Joseph Health System’s mission, “extending the healing ministry of Jesus in the tradition of the Sisters of St. Joseph,” is key to Proctor’s motivation.


“I use all my best business knowledge. But to me, working in a faith-based system is more fulfilling because I’m very clear about our mission and what we’re trying to accomplish – which then makes the business decisions have more relevance and meaning.”

Page 1/1