What healthcare leaders need to know now


Best of 2015: Hospice leader Liz Durst Fowler says patience, adaptability are key ingredients for effective leadership

By | December 31st, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Liz Durst Fowler: “Today’s leaders need to be prepared to adjust their vision as needed while they are building a team that is resilient and nimble.”


Like most strong leaders, Liz Durst Fowler is a decisive executive who takes appropriate risks to help her organization position itself for growth and success.


Yet when she stepped into the role of chief executive officer at Hospice of the Bluegrass in Lexington, Ky., she knew a different approach was necessary, not only for the organization but for her staff. That’s because her predecessor was quite successful in her role and renowned as a trailblazer in the industry.


“Leading in this situation has taken great patience,” Fowler says. “I want to make improvements and do more. That is one of the hallmarks of a CEO, and I am usually very quick to act. But in this situation, my biggest mistake would have been acting too fast. It has been very important to me to get to know the organization’s strengths, the strengths of the individuals on my team, and to show my deep respect for what has been accomplished here.”


But in the rapidly evolving world of healthcare, that did not mean standing still. While acknowledging a proud history, Fowler needed to allay the fears of a workforce that had experienced layoffs prior to her arrival.


“I have always believed in building upon strengths,” she says. “In taking the time to learn our strengths, I have been able to prioritize the changes we will embark on. The team is much more confident because they know the change is happening using our strengths as individuals and as an organization.”


As Fowler built trust, her staff let her know what was needed to bring them fully on board with her vision for the future: transparency and honesty. They too were invested in Hospice of the Bluegrass, they assured her, and wanted their work to make a difference.


“Healthcare is changing at a rapid pace,” Fowler says. “It is essential to be crystal clear with your team about what the vision is today, but be honest about the future – it is uncertain. Today’s leaders need to be prepared to adjust their vision as needed while they are building a team that is resilient and nimble.” Read more…



Best of 2015: Kaiser Permanente’s Donna Lynne says healthcare leaders need to be able to handle crisis, volatility

By | December 25th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Donna Lynne: “As a leader, you need to be nimble and you need to be confident that the people who are working for you can execute.”


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


Kaiser Permanente’s success in Colorado when the federal insurance exchange launched in January 2014 was a perfect example for Donna Lynne and her team of the new type of leadership needed under reform.


Lynne, president of Kaiser’s Colorado health plan and the EVP who leads its Pacific Northwest and Hawaii regions, said Kaiser was anticipating perhaps 3 percent growth when the new era began. Instead, Kaiser’s membership in the state grew a whopping 14 percent overnight.


“We recognized that we were beginning to have a situation that required extraordinary measures,” she says. “As a leader, you need to be nimble and you need to be confident that the people who are working for you can execute.”


Lynne’s leaders put together rapid-response teams to tackle needs like customer service, ID cards, appointment-setting and billing. “These were people who had not had healthcare before,” reasons Lynne, “and if their first experience with a health plan was not a great one, then we ran the risk of them making a different decision a year later.”


The approach was successful, says Lynne, and helped her team develop new skills.


“The primary characteristic of what people need to be able to manage in healthcare reform is volatility,” she says. “You need to be able to deal with ambiguity but you also need to have the skill set to be able to manage in a crisis environment.”


Crisis is nothing new to Lynne. She began her career more than 30 years ago working for the New York City government at a time when the city was bordering on bankruptcy. But she witnessed a remarkable thing. Leaders from government, business and labor unions set aside their own agendas and worked together to bring the city back from the brink.


“Everybody had to give a little to rescue the city from a crisis situation, and that taught me a lot,” she says. “You realize very quickly how interdependent you are on other people.” Read more…



Best of 2015: From Brigham and Women’s to the NFL, Elizabeth Nabel looks to make a difference

By | December 18th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Elizabeth Nabel: “It’s important … to stand up for what you believe in, and not be afraid to be different or unpopular to get something done.”


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.” Read more…



Best of 2015: Nancy Schlichting’s willingness to take risks is still paying off for Henry Ford Health System

By | December 11th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Nancy Schlichting: “Sometimes the hardest things are the right things, but they’re not the things that everyone will gravitate to.”


Classic content: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.


Nancy Schlichting has become known for bold, unconventional leadership during her tenure at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, where she’s served as the CEO since 2003. She’s won numerous awards and led major initiatives, like the process that led to Henry Ford winning the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in 2011. But the key to great leadership, she says, is developing and nurturing relationships.


“I think you have to understand that every interaction matters,” she says. “Leaders are under a spotlight all the time, and so consistency and interest and openness are things that go a very long way. Smile. Lift people up.”


For example, when Schlichting eats in the cafeteria, she will sit with anyone.


“Unfortunately, I don’t get to the cafeteria as often as I should, but when I do go, I think everyone in the cafeteria must go out and tell everyone I do that. It’s always amazing to me how your reputation gets built, and it’s not by promoting it yourself. It’s just the fact that everyone around you observes.”


Her peers in the healthcare industry would probably make the observation that Schlichting is a forward-thinking, fearless leader. Schlichting herself merely says that she has less trepidation about taking risks.


“What I’ve found in life is that the most important things you do are probably the hardest, and I think that’s why a lot of people don’t do them. It’s hard sometimes to do the right thing because you’ve got to deal with the potential conflict, the risks that come with it. If I had felt that way when I came to Michigan, we probably wouldn’t have done half the things we’ve done because they weren’t easy. Sometimes the hardest things are the right things, but they’re not the things that everyone will gravitate to.” Read more…



Susan DeVore’s bold leadership puts Premier on a path to transform healthcare

By | December 4th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Susan DeVore: “If you believe in innovation and want to make a big difference, then you have to experiment.”


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


Susan DeVore, the CEO of Premier Inc., is one of the most successful executives in the country. DeVore took the helm in 2009, integrating the company’s supply-chain capabilities with a formidable treasure trove of data and analytics, to create a leading healthcare performance improvement company dedicated to transforming healthcare from the inside. She took the company public in 2013 with an IPO of $760 million. The stock opened above estimates at $27 per share and has increased in price more than 25 percent.


Yet DeVore has led the growing company with the heart of an entrepreneur, including spending $100 million to beef up and integrate its data platform with streams of information from its members’ statistics on supply chain, labor, clinical, and safety measures, among others.


“Because we have all this data at Premier, we’re able to build, test and scale ideas that might actually transform the system,” she says. “If you believe in innovation and want to make a big difference, then you have to experiment.”


Since assuming the role of CEO, DeVore has grown Premier into the largest alliance of health systems in the country. Majority-owned by its members, Premier represents 68 percent of U.S. community hospitals and leverages multiple businesses and partnerships along healthcare’s value chain to drive change. Under DeVore’s leadership, Premier:


• Operates a leading group purchasing organization (GPO) representing $44 billion in hospital purchasing volume, with 1,900 GPO contracts across 1,100 suppliers.


• Provides data and analytics, and cloud-based data-warehousing services to health systems through a platform amassing insights on approximately 40 percent of U.S. health system discharges, including clinical, financial and operational data, while enabling peer-to-peer information sharing among more than 100,000 healthcare workers.


• Convenes large-scale national collaboratives, with 1,100 health systems engaged in data-driven, transparent performance improvement efforts in partnership with federal agencies like CMS. These initiatives have influenced healthcare policy, including the Medicare value-based purchasing program.


DeVore is well aware that, today, just over 5 percent of all public companies are managed by a woman CEO and public boards of directors only have 10 to 15 percent representation by women. While she had always been a champion of fostering leadership at a general level, there came a point in time that DeVore recognized an opportunity to develop leadership programs specifically for women at Premier.


“I don’t want to discriminate the other way, if you will,” she notes. “I want to make as many investments in men and in ethnic diversity as I do in women. But there are some specific topics that women can address together: How are you perceived? How do you speak up? How do you have a voice? How are you memorable? How do you advance your career?” Read more…



The Best of 2015–Sister Carol Keehan on gender diversity: If you only use 50 percent of your talent, that’s a problem

By | November 25th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Sister Carol Keehan on gender diversity: “Whether it’s the Catholic Church or whether it’s healthcare, if you only use 50 percent of the talent you’ve got, that’s a problem.”


Classic content from 2015: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.


As the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association since 2005, Sister Carol Keehan is arguably one of the most powerful healthcare executives in the country and played a significant role in getting the Affordable Care Act passed. Yet there was a time in her life as a hospital executive with a nursing background that she felt stymied in her efforts to help the poor obtain medical care, so she went back to school to get a master’s degree in finance.


“I thought I had a lot of really wonderful ideas, particularly for how we could take care of people who couldn’t afford care. And I would always get just literally nailed by the finance person,” she remembers. “They would say, ‘That would be a nice idea, but you couldn’t do it for these reasons.’ And most of the time, those reasons were, ‘It’s easier for me not to get involved.’ But that’s just not right.”


Armed with that degree and an understanding of the intricacies of Medicaid, cost-based reimbursement and the art of negotiating contracts with insurance companies, Keehan became an even more formidable force to be reckoned with. She’s been honored by many, including a Trustee award from the American Hospital Association and another from Pope Benedict XVI. And in 2010, Time magazine named her one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.


Keehan says she sees more women following a similar path in healthcare these days. “More and more, you’re going to see women reclaiming leadership positions,” she says. “More women are going into business schools, and more women are getting a degree in finance in addition to a degree in nursing.”


Gender diversity in leadership is important, she says, and should simply be common sense. She notes that it was primarily sisters from religious orders who built some of the largest healthcare systems in the U.S.


“Whether it’s the Catholic Church or whether it’s healthcare, if you only use 50 percent of the talent you’ve got, that’s a problem,” she says. “If you only use men, you’ve got a problem. If you only use women, you’ve got a problem.” Read more…



The Best of 2015: Deborah Bowen finds healthcare is still about people trying to make a difference

By | November 20th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Deborah Bowen: “My legacy, I hope, is going to be all about building the culture of ‘and.’ ”


Classic content from 2015: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.



Deborah Bowen guides one of the most influential associations in healthcare, but her complex work with C-suite leaders is rooted in a simple desire: to change people’s lives for the better.


As the president and CEO of the American College of Healthcare Executives, Bowen heads an enterprise that assists administrators in developing their abilities to lead their organizations. Its Fellow certification (FACHE) is one of the most respected designations in the halls of a health system and its annual Congress is one of the industry’s biggest draws. But Bowen says she herself is drawn to the servant leaders she sees all around her.


“I think one of the great things about this profession and this field,” she says, “is that I’ve always found the people in it are very dedicated to giving back. I think we all come to it from a place of trying to make a difference in whatever way we can.”


Bowen began her career as a social worker dealing with some of the toughest issues out there – drug addiction and alcoholism.


“I started out working with heroin addicts,” she says. “That is a difficult line of business because people often don’t get better because they don’t have the right support networks. Some of them get detoxified, but then they’re going right back into the same environment that probably drove them to addiction in the beginning. That was the catalyst for me to say, ‘Maybe there is another way to do this work that might have more impact.’ ”


She moved on to Wisconsin’s Department of Health and Social Services, where she gave grant money to programs battling drug abuse and alcoholism.


“That’s where I started to learn a little but more about what it means to influence decision-makers,” Bowen says, “and if you influence decision-makers, you can potentially have a bigger imprint in changing policy.”


Read more…



ICYMI: Mary Brainerd of HealthPartners, one of the Top 25 Women in Healthcare

By | November 13th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Mary Brainerd: “I think anyone I know who has worked in healthcare and then has encountered the healthcare system as a patient … is changed by that experience.”


Classic content from 2015: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.


While HealthPartners CEO Mary Brainerd is pleased that more people now have insurance through the Affordable Care Act, you’ll have to excuse her if she’s a little frustrated with how the law has had a rocky start in Minnesota, where innovations that already existed were scuttled by Obamacare.


For example, Minnesota residents who had pre-existing conditions already had insurance coverage through a special high-risk pool that included businesses as well as individuals. It had been functioning just fine for 30 years. The ACA shut the program down. Those individuals were forced to buy insurance products on the clunky exchange and now, in Year 2, are facing rate hikes of more than 50 percent because the risk pool is too small.


“That’s a federal issue, and we wish it would change,” Brainerd says. “But it appears no one has the political will at the federal level to ask, ‘What’s not working, and how can we help make it better?’ The more you segment the market when people have serious health conditions, the higher the costs are both for these individuals and for these smaller funding pools that are responsible for covering their costs.”


It’s an intriguing patient-centric perspective on Brainerd’s part, and comes from an angle that’s a little different than the typical healthcare-industry party line. But perhaps that’s to be expected from a respected executive with a degree in philosophy (as well as an MBA).


“I think there are actually a lot of areas in which both philosophy specifically and liberal arts in general add value, and that is that you spend time studying many different perspectives on the same topic,” she says. “So when you’re faced with challenges and decisions, you’re less likely to think there’s a formulaic right answer. Instead, you’re more likely to think there are many perspectives on this issue to explore and understand before moving to quick decisions.”


A 2013 merger with the ParkNicollet system was significant for HealthPartners because it doubled the organization’s patient base to more than 1 million and expanded the payer-and-provider capabilities that the company had been executing for 50 years. Other healthcare organizations are now jumping into the payer-provider mix, and Brainerd has some advice for them.


“I think the challenge for organizations that are just creating those capabilities is not to think of them as two separate businesses but instead to look at them as very integrated, synergistic businesses that have the same strategy. We have the same strategic plan for our delivery system as we do for our health plan, and it’s focused on people as our chief resource and asset.”


Yet the enormity of merging two large organizations was a challenge. Read more…



Banks, Mazzenga present on leadership development at 30th annual NAHSE Education Conference

By | November 6th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment



Furst Group Principal Deanna Banks and NuBrick Partners Managing Partner Joe Mazzenga shared their insights around leadership development and diversity recently at the 30th annual NAHSE Education Conference. Their presentation: “Enterprise Leadership: What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.”



Classic content from 2015 Top 25 Women in Healthcare: Maureen Bisognano from the IHI

By | October 30th, 2015 | Blog | Add A Comment


Maureen Bisognano: “There is no way that healthcare can be provided by a specific discipline anymore.”


Classic content from 2015: One in a series of interviews with Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare for 2015.


For the last 20 years, it’s been common for healthcare executives to look to the aviation industry for both inspiration and best practices in improving quality and safety. But Maureen Bisognano, CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, thinks perhaps we should look beyond the horizon for the next step.


“Twice this year, IHI has led a study tour down to NASA,” says Bisognano, who is retiring at the end of the year. “When you walk into NASA, there is a wall that tracks the journey of a space shuttle from when it comes onto the launch pad until it returns safely back home.”


That board also tracks every near-miss, equipment failure, employee injury and fatality that has happened across the shuttle program. And when teams see that wall, that gets them thinking about the depth of the details in such transparency.


“Nobody in healthcare understands safety that way,” she says. “If we make an analogy to healthcare, the left side of the map might answer questions like: Have we safely admitted patients into the hospital? Do we understand everything about that patient’s care and life outside the hospital, and have we brought that knowledge to the people who will be caring for that patient in the hospital?”


The other side of the board, Bisognano says, could provide responses to the question, “Have we safely guided this patient back into the community with access to medications, food and care?” Looking at healthcare issues from a different angle is standard operating procedure at the IHI, which can usually be found on the cutting edge of health innovation. And, while it is true that the healthcare industry is adjusting to some of the biggest changes in its history under the Affordable Care Act, it’s Bisognano’s belief that the current disruptions are small compared to what’s coming down the pike.


“I think leadership is in the midst of a transition,” she says. “Leaders are going to be out in the community in ways they never were before. They’re going to begin to understand what it’s like to live in a particular neighborhood –how can their hospital or physician practice or ACO create health in that environment? They’re going to be looking way outside the walls of the organization. I think they’re going to be challenged by managing multi-professional teams, because there is no way that healthcare can be provided by a specific discipline anymore.”


Those are bold words, but Bisognano says that scenario is the end result of what it means to move “upstream” into a community to deliver care, a concept that has been around for years but is gaining new urgency as hospitals and health systems seek to prevent readmissions. And data is the key to that, Bisognano notes. Read more…



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