Executive Health Administration

Adventures in Healthcare Leadership: Charting New Waters

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 22, 2015 7:35:00 AM / by Anna Montgomery, MPA


The world is flat. There are well-defined edges. Your experience and knowledge gives you a competitive advantage. You know how to sail the seas. One day you wake up to find that the earth is round! Your bounded seas are now vast oceans. Do you cling to what you know? Or do you set out on new adventures? After all, if there’s no edge then you’ve got a lot of exploring to do!

Navigating the waters ahead of you means moving into unchartered territory. In the post reform world of healthcare administration you’re going to need new information and skills. Fortunately, Carol Geffner, President of Newpoint Healthcare Advisors LLC, and Chris Corwin, Consultant at Witt/Kieffer, have scouted ahead. In their whitepaper, Hospital C-Suites: Leading Disruptive Change, they interviewed 20 CEOs, intrepid explorers that are at the forefront of the fleet. They offer up wisdom to guide leaders in a post-affordable care act (ACA) world. Carol shares some key insights into leadership strategies in healthcare from her research:

New Horizons: Partnership Opportunities, Relationships, and Processes

“In our research every CEO mentioned the importance of thinking broadly.” Whether it’s developing new skills yourself, in your current staff or attracting new people, the ability to think broadly is critical for success. Developing integrated systems of care means looking at the big picture. The world of healthcare has changed dramatically. Leaders need to think not just strategically but in broad strokes with an eye for innovation. Where are the new partnership opportunities? What affiliations will help your system function well? Successful leaders will have to imagine a different horizon, envision new relationships, and create new processes. 

Developing a Fleet for a Post-Reform Environment

“Hospital executives, regardless of their position, are faced with challenges that underscore the fact that to survive and thrive, in a post-reform environment, they have to extend care into lower cost, more efficient, ambulatory care.” Hospital ships can’t sail out into the unknown alone. In the landscape of tomorrow new alliances and models will be the norm. Leaders have long been familiar with organizing around vertical service lines. These lines function similarly to product lines in manufacturing. For example, a service line such as Cardiology involves physicians in that specialty, other care providers that support these services, and the resources, equipment, and technology that are needed. Delivering care that is accessible to patients in a low-cost and efficient manner means these service lines now need to be redesigned. Care needs to be offered to the patient at the right time and place, often outside the hospital setting. Building integrated systems of care requires creative partnerships and affiliations. Savvy captains will begin to form fleets with other providers. While some hospital leaders are still focused on driving inpatient hospital care because of immediate revenue needs, it’s just a matter of time before they face the necessity of extending care into the community and home environments.


A New Patient Centric Manifest

As Carol points out, “A heightened emphasis on customer service; meeting and exceeding customers’ needs; and turning the delivery system into a highly functioning customer care system are necessary. Meeting patient and family needs on a human level” is paramount. In this new world patient centric strategies will help keep hospitals on course.

A Self-Aware Captain Makes a Loyal Crew

Effective and diverse teams bring new ideas, valuable dissent, and skills to the adventure. Interdependent leaders recognize that to thrive when facing new challenges everyone's input is required. Engaging, challenging, and retaining a good crew requires an array of soft skills. The leaders of post-reform systems are those with a repertoire of capabilties that include being able to strategically envision innovative ideas, to work collaboratively in a transparent way, and exhibit a healthy level of emotional intelligence. These skills will act like the knotted ropes that keep the ship sailing safely ahead.

Creating patient-centric care effectively requires a culture that also emphasizes the needs of employees. Employees are the link to delivering compassionate and personal care to patients. Satisfied and engaged crew members are far more likely to treat patients well, providing superb customer service. As executives come to understand the impact they have on others they can assess how their actions influence their employees and adapt their behavior accordingly. Doing so allows executive leaders to succeed in building a service-oriented, efficient, and high quality delivery system. A self-aware captain is one the crew trusts, feels loyalty towards, and can give hope to them when the sailing gets rough.


Change is Hard: Here be Dragons

Fear is a natural part of change. Managing and mitigating it will help keep everyone focused on the end goal. On the positive side, change can catalyze imaginative possibility. Building a positive vision of the future helps C-Suite teams drive and manage change. Why do we want to discover new lands? What excitement awaits us? C-Suite teams can shift and reinforce organizational values. They provide an environment that fosters creativity, innovation, and a willingness to change. First, the “CEO starts the process because he/she believes and understands that culture is directly tied to achieving business goals and patient satisfaction.” Then the Board of Directors “needs to be aligned and understand that culture is a critical business objective that links to performance. The commitment at the top is fundamental to driving culture transformation across the organization. Both executive leadership and the Board are key to charting a course that the rest of the organization will come to see as a priority.” The senior leadership team provides resources and support, models change, and creates long-term initiatives. 

Brave New Explorers: Authenticity and Transparency

Executive leaders are forging ahead experiencing the excitement of being the first to see new shores. “As paradigms have fundamentally changed and the future doesn’t reflect the past, leaders need to be highly adaptable in their thinking and approaches to problems.” In the post-reform environment past experience won’t inform future choices. Leaders can no longer rely heavily on legacy thinking and practices to steer them through the turbulent waters ahead. "To succeed in this new world leaders are now challenged to act with greater authenticity and transparency as they attempt to command the hearts and minds of their employees and physicians in driving performance in highly accountable systems."

Preparing for the Journey: Educating Vanguard Leaders

“Education is essential,” Carol says. Higher education, however, needs to be based in the future as well. “Curriculum should have an emphasis on developing vanguard leaders.” Schools need to make it clear that students of health administration will leave transformed. “It’s critical to help a student look inward, so they learn deeply about their own capabilities and weaknesses, prioritizing their ability to be introspective while also gaining new knowledge and skills. Who are they? How do they impact others?” Also, exposing students to views from other industries is necessary. Nautical innovation has often been driven by technological strides in other industries. Healthcare will benefit by learning this lesson and embracing innovation and input from other industries.

It’s a new day. Healthcare leaders can’t go forward by looking backward. Adopting an expanded world-view you can begin to seize the opportunities afforded by your new horizons. Hospital C-Suites: Leading Disruptive Change can be a valuable guide. 


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About Carol Geffner, PhD.
President, Newpoint Healthcare Advisors LLC


Carol has a recognized track record of building and transforming businesses and senior leadership teams that are seeking growth and revitalized competitive positioning. Carol has more than two decades of executive leadership and consulting experience working with a broad range of corporate clients including Fortune 50 companies, global professional service firms, entrepreneurial ventures and nonprofit entities. She’s also a nationally sought out speaker and thought leader. 


Carol has held faculty positions at the Peter F. Drucker and Masatochi Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate School and Chapman University. She has served on the Board of United Way of Orange County and the Ralph Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship at Chapman University. She’s also a current member of the Health Advisory Board for USC Price’s Health Policy and Management programs. Carol earned a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University, an MPA from the University of Southern California, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto.

Topics: Innovative Leadership, Transformation, Affordable Care Act

Anna Montgomery, MPA

Written by Anna Montgomery, MPA

Anna Montgomery earned her MPA at USC Price and is pursuing her EdD at USC Rossier.

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