High Stakes

Healthcare Playlist: Six Hits from the Becker’s Hospital Review 8th Annual Meeting

Scott Becker purposely designs his annual hospital conference to be a whirlwind of conversations that reflect the current crazed state of the U.S. hospital industry. For four days, eight tracks of concurrent 40-minute sessions are loaded with expert panelists who touch everything from physician burnout to Washington politics, from AMCs to EMRs to M&A.

The thousands of hospital leaders who attend can’t possibly hear it all. They create a playlist from the wide selection and hope to keep up.

With that, here are few takeaways from my own playlist from last week’s Becker’s Hospital Review 8th Annual Meeting in Chicago.


Track One: “Unconventional Leadership”

Nancy Schlichting, former CEO of Henry Ford Health System, spoke on “Unconventional Leadership,” which happens to be the name of her new book. Schlichting is well known for turning Henry Ford from a troubled system losing $90 million a year to a profitable, Malcolm Baldridge-winning organization in less than a decade (and despite Detroit’s downward economic spiral). Some of her soundbites and thinking:

  • “When hospitals use corporate language, we lose something. We lose support and energy that could have been ours.” In other words, speak to your business needs, but speak as a caregiver and speak to the heart.
  • “Leaders lean into the hard work.” There is plenty of hard work to be done in healthcare today. Don’t ignore it, dive into it. Said another way: If you’re not doing the hard work, you’re not leading.
  • “I looked for disruptive people to help me” lead Henry Ford. To be clear: She did not look for “disruptors” who cause trouble and offer no solution. Instead, she looked for leaders willing to try new approaches to improve care and lower cost, even if disruptive to the status quo. Healthcare needs to embrace leaders willing to be disruptive to transform their organizations.
  • “Make healthcare feel small.” During her time at Henry Ford, she would walk the halls, sit with anyone and have a conversation about their lives and their care. It’s easy to make healthcare feel big, impersonal, overpowering – none of which leads to good care or a good patient experience (or a good employee experience, for that matter). Instead, remember that care happens among a small group of people looking out for each other.
  • “Diversity is where innovation happens.” When brought together in the right environment, diversity of backgrounds and professional experiences allows people to create something new together. For example, she brought physicians and insurance executives together to create new services and systems for Henry Ford. They didn’t necessarily like or understand each other at first, but once they got to know each other and found their common goals, new things happened that benefited all.


Track Two: Physicians Need Healing Themselves

Dr. Michael Privitera, professor of psychiatry and medical director at University of Rochester Medical Center and chair, Medical Society of the State of New York Task Force on Physician Stress and Burnout. He perhaps astounded his audience with his research showing that 54 percent of physicians show signs of burnout and 40 percent report signs of depression. That compares to 8 percent of the general population. His insight on the situation:

  • Physician satisfaction is directly correlated with patient satisfaction. The happier the doctors, the happier the patients.
  • Stress affects cognitive memory. The more stress you have, the less you can recall. The less you can recall, the more likely you are to make errors and increase the stress of others. Stress, then, can lead to bad care, bad outcomes and more medical malpractice lawsuits.
  • Key causes of physician stress include requirements for documentation, EMRs and pre-authorization for providing care for patients.
  • Of note, the rise of EMRs means physicians now eat into their “pajama time,” working at home to complete patient charts and other documentation instead of spending time with their families or otherwise relaxing. Technology means you cannot leave the work behind.


Track Three: Academic Medicine Must Dance with Entrepreneurialism

On a panel addressing “key issues for academic medical centers” that included leaders from Temple University Health System, The University of Chicago Medicine, University of Miami, Hofstra Northwell Health and Nebraska Medicine, the group – in different ways – made a common point: Academic medical centers must provide value today and must be able to prove it.

“Our brand isn’t enough anymore, if it ever was,” said one panelist. “We have to be entrepreneurs now. The world won’t come to our door. We must go out into the world.”


Track Four: M&A Deals Falling into Two Camps

Our own Anne Hancock Toomey spoke with Juniper Advisory’s Rex Burgdorfer and McGuireWoods Partner Jeffery Peterson on the M&A market in the panel “Assessing Deals and Whether or Not to Merge, Sell or Align.”

A key takeaway from Toomey’s comments: Hospital deals today are happening on two paths in two timeframes.

There continues to be a steady pace of local, relatively small transactions where regional systems are acquiring or partnering with nearby hospitals to strengthen or protect their market share. These deals can happen relatively quickly – there were 100 announced in 2016 with at least that many more forecast for 2017.

On the second path are the transformational partnerships between major systems designed for scale and in anticipation of population health. These happen between healthy, forward-looking systems, are often creatively designed and can take a long time to complete. This is where great change will happen.


Track Five: A Formula for Value

Johnese Spisso, president of UCLA Health and CEO of UCLA Hospital System shared her system’s formula for understanding, measuring and creating value in their health system. At UCLA, value equals the patient experience plus the clinical outcome divided by the cost.


*Bonus Track: Pump Up the Vision

Speaking of formulas, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke and said nothing about healthcare. Instead, he offered a packed audience his formula for success and challenged everyone to follow it. Elements of his equations:

  • Have a vision. A concrete, unwavering vision. The kind that took him from Austria to America to Los Angeles to Sacramento.
  • Work your ass off. When others are playing, work.
  • Ignore the naysayers. Everybody has them. And the more successful you are, the more you will have. He noted that his accent and muscular body were perceived as hindrances to achieving success in Hollywood. Instead, they became trademark strengths.


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