Every four years, when its time to choose a new chief executive for our nation, healthcare consistently ranks near the top of voters concerns. Despite the merits or demerits of the various plans being proposed by this years crop of candidates, the individuals most qualified to bring necessary change to the nations healthcare system arent running for president. A truly effective patient-centered transformation of our industry must come from within our own house, not from the White House.
Thats because the true subject-matter experts come from within the healthcare industry itself. However, expertise and leadership do not necessarily go hand in hand, as evidenced by the failure of our nations healthcare leaders to take the lead in reforming their industry from the inside out. Quite simply, we havent been very good at the hard stuffthe willingness to seek and embrace change.
In the coming years, whether we like it or not, healthcare will undergo a sea change the likes of which it has never seen. Is our leadership ready? Wed better be or those outside the healthcare arena, who have no first-hand experience managing a hospital and dont know whats needed to achieve quality outcomes, will dictate the future of what we do.
We are in the throes of a healthcare revolution. Driven by a tech-savvy public that can access information about treatment options and quality of care with the click of a mouse, as well as mounting public pressure for better returns on our nations huge healthcare investments, the transformation of healthcare will accelerate in the months and years ahead as the industry moves toward greater transparency in both pricing (more and more consumers who pay for healthcare out of pocket are shopping around for the best deals) and performance.
What will the result be of greater public disclosure? At the very least, hospital leaders and the care they deliver will be under the kind of scrutiny that up until now has been reserved for presidents and baseball managers.
Innovative healthcare leaders recognize that there is nothing inbred about navigating a difficult and uncertain course, which is why they are preparing for a tidal wave of change by doing what their patients are doing: becoming better educated. Theyre looking for expertise and educationboth within and beyond their industryto help create a better framework for achieving organizational excellence. This framework is ultimately what will enable healthcare providers to continue meeting the needs of the community and ensuring that patients have access to high-quality, cost-effective care.
Its not going to be easy. Change never is. But as any good pediatrician will tell you, the thing thats going to make you better is going to hurt at first. As the chief executive officer of a $4.6 billion hospital system that created its own corporate university five years ago as part of an overall effort to groom leaders from within, I can tell you that the new healthcare paradigm is going to force some providers out of business.
The key to survival is developing leaders who can think of different ways to provide care and move beyond traditional healthcare management approaches to embrace tools and concepts, such as Six Sigma, that drive change and streamline processes that currently interfere with the delivery of quality care. In short, healthcare leaders must become more in tune with the voice of the customer, instead of establishing processes that are convenient for their organizations.
Building a solid foundation for leadership is the key to meeting both our known obligations today and our unknown challenges in the years ahead. Strong leadership is at the very core of any cultural or operational transformation, enabling healthcare organizations to break down organizational barriers to change and help employees embrace the new world of consumer-driven healthcare.
Healthcare consumers are more knowledgeable about hospitals, doctors and the various options for care than ever. Those factors have combined to serve as the catalyst for unprecedented change.
Now, we as leaders need the foresight and courage to respond and institute change of our own. Are we up to this challenge?