What healthcare leaders need to know now


On the horizon: 6 key issues for healthcare leaders in 2013

By | December 18th, 2012 | Blog | Add A Comment




By Bob Clarke

Furst Group CEO


When the dust settled on the 2012 elections, healthcare leaders could finally exhale and look out at a landscape that had a bit more certainty about the future. For one thing, healthcare reform emerged as a winner, just as it had five months earlier in the Supreme Court. But the certainty of reform’s forward momentum means there won’t be any dust on the calendars of healthcare decision-makers, who have much to do in a short amount of time as reform’s deadlines approach.


Beyond that busyness, here are a few trends to keep your eye on in 2013:


The march of the ACOs and exchanges. The number of ACOs continues to grow as reform takes hold as a reality. Tellingly, for-profits are sitting this one out. And when it comes to exchanges, a number of GOP-controlled states are opting for the sidelines as well, as the government scrambles to get its own infrastructure up and running in those vacuums. Will it be ready in time? Hard to say.


Political fireworks. Reform remains a divisive force in the land, with congressional GOP leaders still looking for ways to block its implementation. Obamacare is even more of a lightning rod at the state level. For example, nine Wisconsin lawmakers want to pass a bill that would allow the state to arrest any federal workers who attempt to enforce the ACA’s requirements in their state.


Learn the lingo. Former Modern Healthcare editor David Burda notes that “Manage by Medicare” and “What’s your number?” are the new catchphrases in the healthcare industry as organizations wrestle with ways to cut operating costs so they can stay in business at a time when Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates are dropping.


Read more…



Profiles in Leadership: Top 25 Minority Executives


Kimberlydawn Wisdom overcame obstacles; now, she helps her community do the same

By | December 4th, 2012 | Blog | Add A Comment


Kimberlydawn Wisdom: “As an emergency medicine physician, the community comes to you in various states of disarray. I thought that, if I could go out and meet them where they are, I could have a greater impact.”


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


As a successful physician executive at Henry Ford Health System, Kimberlydawn Wisdom, MD, has attracted the attention of governmental leaders far and wide. Jennifer Granholm, then governor of Michigan, named her as the state surgeon general in 2003, a post she held for eight years. More recently, President Obama appointed her to his Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion and Integrative Public Health. But the path to a medical degree was one that Wisdom had to clear of a number of obstacles.


First and foremost was the era in which she grew up, a formidable boulder indeed.


“In the 1950s and ‘60s, there wasn’t a plethora of physicians of color,” notes Wisdom, Senior Vice President of Community Health & Equity and Chief Wellness Officer of Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and an assistant professor for the University of Michigan Medical Center. “In my junior year of high school, my guidance counselor said I should choose a profession that was more suited for my race. For her, saying ‘I want to be a doctor’ was like someone saying, ‘I want to be an astronaut.’ She actually did want to ensure my success. But I think her sense was, ‘Let me bring you back down to something that’s manageable and achievable.’ “


Yet Wisdom’s mother, who grew up in the small community of Coatesville, Pa., did in fact have an African-American physician. And Wisdom became a caregiver for her mom at home as she dealt with severe migraines.


“During my childhood, she spent a lot of time in bed and I was regularly bringing her aspirin or some other type of pain medication,” Wisdom says. “It was very impactful to me as a young child to watch her go through that. But on another level, I could bring her water, I could bring her comfort. That began to ignite this desire to consider how I could care for people long-term.”


Read more…



Profiles in Leadership: Top 25 Minority Executives


The undercover exec: Wright Lassiter III scoped out his hospital before he took the job, then forged a bond with his board to stage a remarkable turnaround

By | September 11th, 2012 | Blog | Add A Comment



Wright Lassiter III: “I think it’s important for CEOs to partner with their boards to drive change.”


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


Back in 2005, before Wright Lassiter III interviewed for the position of CEO at the then-beleaguered Alameda County Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., he decided to see for himself if there were some signals of hope in an institution that had seen 10 CEOs crash and burn in the previous 11 years.


“I flew in the afternoon before and grabbed a taxi over to the hospital,” he says. “I was in street clothes; I wasn’t in a suit. No one knew who I was. I walked into the ER waiting room and then walked the hallways. I wanted to get a sense of how the staff functioned; to see if people might help you find your way.”


What he found surprised him, especially for an organization with such a troubled recent past. Everyone he encountered was consistently courteous and helpful to him as a visitor, and to patients.


“There wasn’t one interaction that was negative,” Lassiter remembers. “The people doing the work in the trenches serving the community were doing the best they could.”


That, Lassiter says, gave him some hope that the health system could be turned around with the right moves. It also helped persuade him to give up a solid, comfortable position at JPS Health Network in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where he was senior vice president of operations.


Fast-forward a few years and the work that Lassiter has accomplished earned him a glowing write-up in Fast Company magazine, a spotlight that brought him national attention as well as some good-natured ribbing from his peers, he adds.


But to Lassiter, none of it would have happened without the backing of his board of trustees, a source of strength that is sometimes overlooked in the business world, he says.


“Two board members who served on the search committee that selected me are a large part of the reason why I considered the job in the first place,” Lassiter says. “They were instrumental in the turnaround. I think it’s important for CEOs to partner with their boards to drive change.”


Read more…



Profiles in Leadership: Top 25 Minority Executives


Technology’s a great tool, but AT&T’s Geeta Nayyar says it’s still all about the patient-physician relationship

By | August 13th, 2012 | Blog | 1 Comment


Geeta Nayyar: “If you really want to have the impact in healthcare delivery that we are all talking about all of the time, it has to be done with doctors and patients.”


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


She’s the chief medical information officer for one of the largest firms in the world, but AT&T’s Geeta Nayyar, M.D, MBA, wants you to know that it’s not about the technology.


“It’s about people, and finding out how to make their lives better.”


At 33, she’s one of the youngest honorees of Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare awards program, but she’s been at this medicine thing a long time – she got into medical school at age 17.


“Both of my parents are physicians,” she explained. “I always was, and still am, a geeky science person, really fascinated by biology. But at the same time, I was always a very social person. So, clinical medicine just made sense because it was a joining of the best of both worlds.”


Her current role doesn’t call for it, but Nayyar made sure her employer would allow her to keep that aspect as an active part of her life.


“AT&T has been very supportive, and I am still on faculty at George Washington University in the department of rheumatology,” she says. “I still see patients. It’s only part-time, but I really enjoy it. And as much as healthcare keeps changing, it really is a valuable asset in my role.”


Nayyar says she sees technology as just another tool for physicians, like a stethoscope. She says her students at George Washington agree.


“The doctors that I teach now, in medical school and residency, can’t live without their tablets and smartphones – so why would they practice without them?” she says. “It is becoming so much more intuitive to use them. So if it helps you practice better medicine, why wouldn’t you?”


Read more…



Profiles in Leadership: Top 25 Minority Executives


Ben Chu helps Kaiser Permanente make quality count

By | July 6th, 2012 | Blog | Add A Comment



Ben Chu: “If you talk to the hospital leaders and members of the boards across the country, there is an enormous amount of energy working to find ways of taking care of their communities.”


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


Benjamin Chu, MD, MPH, MACP, oversees Kaiser Permanente Southern California and Hawaii as group president. In the seven years since he arrived, Kaiser Permanente has amassed many awards for quality. He also is chairman-elect of the American Hospital Association and will begin serving in that capacity in 2013. Prior to joining Kaiser, he was president of New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corp., the largest public health system in the country. He also served as associate dean at both Columbia University and New York University.


Following is an edited transcript of the conversation:


You have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. What spurred you to go for an M.D.?


I think I always was going to be a doctor. Unlike a lot of people who have a core basic science orientation, I was always more interested in the human side of medicine. Psychology, child development, and anthropology are more in line with things I was thinking about. As you know, in medicine, there are a lot of behavioral and developmental aspects. In order to be effective, you have to understand the cultural determinants of health. All of these factors led me to pursue work in a field where I could actually help people. There is a whole sociology and culture of medicine that one cannot fully understand unless viewed from the psychological perspective.


You spent most of your life out East before moving to California. What spurred that move, and has it worked out as you expected?


I was running the NYC public hospital system under Mayor Bloomberg. It was an incredible experience and an incredible job. We were doing very innovative things in that system. It is a huge system that cares for 1.3 million NYC residents. When the opportunity arose to move to California and run a large chunk of Kaiser Permanente, the prospect piqued my interest. How far can you take a systems approach to delivering on improving the health of the population under the care of a large system? In Southern California, Kaiser Permanente has 3.6 million members, three times the size of the population we were caring for in NYC. The nice part about it is that the components and pieces are linked in a large multi-physician group that only works with the health plan and the hospitals. The health plan allows for pre-payment for care of the population. There is an entire delivery system under us that allows us to decide how to parcel resources in order to achieve the goal of maximizing the health of the population we serve.


How do you get a big system like KP to deliver on its promise and to take healthcare to a whole different level?


That was both the challenge and the fun part of coming to KP & California. Read more…



Profiles in Leadership: Top 25 Minority Executives


Change, challenge invigorate Saad Ehtisham

By | June 25th, 2012 | Blog | Add A Comment


Saad Ehtisham: “If you can lead people, you’ll be much more successful than having to manage people.”


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


If Saad Ehtisham is something of an expert at change management, you might say it’s because those skills began to be honed at a young age.


After graduating high school in Pakistan, he began to look for a solid university for pre-med studies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the majority of his mother’s family resides. (He’d been inspired to pursue a career in healthcare after helping to take care of his grandmother after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.) Ehtisham ultimately chose Baylor and, while he ultimately chose a route in nursing and healthcare administration instead of pursuing an MD, he cites that experience as a building block in his rapid rise through the healthcare industry.


“When you emigrate to a country at a young age, you tend to grow up a lot faster,” said Ehtisham, 42, the CEO of University Medical Center in Lebanon, Tenn., in a calm voice that sounds as Texan as a 10-gallon hat. “Going to Baylor was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was one of two students of Asian-Indian-Pakistani descent, and we were able to open up the university to greater diversity. It was a great atmosphere and I made some lifelong friends.”


He finished up with bachelor’s degrees in science and biology at Baylor, then continued his studies at Texas Woman’s University, where he earned bachelor of science degree in nursing, a master’s in business administration, and a master’s in health care administration. He took his degrees and started his medical career as a phlebotomist, drawing blood from patients. He became a nurse and worked his way up. He’s been a medical and surgical director, a chief nursing officer, a chief operating officer, and even served as an interim CEO in a career that has taken him all over the country, from Texas to New Mexico, Kentucky, Indiana and now the Nashville area. Ehtisham says the changes he’s experienced in his wide-ranging career have helped him better understand healthcare.


“One of the things I have learned in moving around the country is that healthcare is regionalized,” he says. “It really is different in different parts of the country. That’s helped me to become more diverse in my approach to healthcare.”


Read more…



Profiles in Leadership: Top 25 Minority Executives


Michael Ugwueke helps Methodist South turn around

By | June 5th, 2012 | Blog | Add A Comment



Michael Ugwueke: “If you try to wait till everything’s perfect, you’ll never get off the ground.”


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


Michael Ugwueke is CEO of Methodist South and Methodist North hospitals in Memphis, Tenn., where he also serves as senior vice president of the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare system. He came to Methodist in 2007 from Provena St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Ill., where he worked as vice president of operations. Ugwueke, who came to the U.S. from his native Nigeria as a college student, turned around the troubled Methodist South facility, instituting a 30-minute emergency-room guarantee to the community in the process. His success led his bosses to add Methodist North to his responsibilities. Following is an edited transcript of the conversation:


Do your ERs still have the 30-minute guarantee in place?


Yes, we’re still doing it. When I first got into town, Methodist South was not very highly regarded. We were trying to turn the hospital around. There were a lot of issues stemming from perception of poor quality, low volume and low employee morale.


And one of the things that occurred to me is that most of our patients – over 80 percent – came through the emergency room. To make any noticeable impact, change had to start from the emergency room. When we went about trying to improve the turnaround process in the ED, that equally meant that we also needed to improve the turnaround process for major ancillary departments, specifically the lab and radiology departments. We wanted to make sure we streamlined our operations to remove all bottlenecks that affect quality and efficient delivery of service to our ED patients.


The 30-minute guarantee was part of my overall strategy, because what I really wanted to do was to create a new story about Methodist South. I knew that if we were able to create a new story, it would eventually take over and the old story of Methodist South would gradually die away. Read more…



Profiles in Leadership: Top 25 Minority Executives


Sam Ross just wanted to be ‘the black Marcus Welby,’ but life had bigger plans

By | May 22nd, 2012 | Blog | 2 Comments


Samuel Ross is the CEO of Bon Secours Baltimore Health System.


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


As a young man growing up in Texas, Samuel Ross says he wanted to be “the black Marcus Welby,” a family physician who returned to his hometown and found great success, just like the ‘70s TV doctor portrayed by Robert Young.


While Ross did indeed become a family physician in private practice, real life had different plans for him. He eventually served as chief medical officer, among other jobs, at Parkland Hospital & Health System in Dallas before becoming CEO of the Bon Secours Baltimore Health System. He also oversees Bon Secours’ Kentucky facilities and its system-wide Supply Chain.


And, far from the middle-class patients Welby tended to, Ross’ experiences in the poor neighborhood surrounding Bon Secours sometimes have less to do with the medicine he studied, and more to do with population health. In the last twenty years, including time under Ross’ watch, Bon Secours has built apartment buildings for seniors and opened a banking center for the community. They don’t teach much about that in medical school. Read more…



Are health insurers really on the way out? Not so fast

By | February 8th, 2012 | Blog | 3 Comments


Tim Frischmon

By Tim Frischmon

Principal, Furst Group


A recent op-ed in the New York Times by two former advisers to the Obama administration has caused a stir in healthcare circles with its assertion that health insurers will be “extinct” by 2020 due to the introduction of accountable care organizations (ACOs). Other industry veterans like Vince Kuraitis and Gregg Masters (see post and comments) have weighed in with rebuttals but, as someone who speaks with industry leaders on both the payer and provider side on a daily basis, I think there are a few points that need to be made.


There is a basic truth to the article by Ezekiel J. Emanuel and Jeffrey B. Liebman. The number of people who are enrolled in a fully insured HMO benefit plan has been diminishing and will continue to be squeezed by the development of health exchanges and ACOs. With 60% of the employer market in self-funded/Administrative Service Only products, the health insurance industry has been responsive to the needs of large employers looking for new and more innovative ways to increase quality of care while helping to minimize costs (i.e., Wellness, Disease Management, greater consumer involvement in key health care decisions).


But too many of Emanuel and Liebman’s arguments are knee-jerk attempts to throw dirt at insurance companies, and too much of their praise of ACOs> Read more…