Medows, who is African-American, spent the early part of her childhood living in low-income areas of Brooklyn. Her family received medical care from community clinics and through public assistance programs, where she learned about the barriers to treatment.
Providers need to understand the patients and communities they serve to deliver the best care, she said.
"We will best be able to do this with leadership that is as diverse as the patients we care for," said Medows, who practiced family medicine at Kaiser Permanente and Mayo Clinic and previously served as the chief medical officer for the CMS' southeast region. "I know how challenging it can be pursuing careers in healthcare because I've faced many obstacles."
There has been a 50% increase in women leaders at Providence St. Joseph over a three-year period, and the system uses a top-to-bottom approach to identify and elevate women leaders in every region at every level, said Debra Canales, executive vice president and chief administrative officer at the health system.
"We've changed how we hire and how we promote women," Canales wrote in an email. "We've added mentorship programs and support for women at all levels. We've taken a fun approach with programs like 'Chicks in Charge'—and drawn a line on harassment by saying #NotHere. That's how we're trying to make a difference in this traditionally male-dominated industry."
Providence St. Joseph looks to build community partnerships that involve care management, housing and community services to overcome issues related to transportation, education and nutrition. It is expanding its telehealth technology that connects women to pregnancy and pediatric content and services and links seniors to transportation, meals and home care. It also gives physicians a direct line to patients through electronic health records.
The health system will add to its ambulatory network, where its revenue rose significantly in 2017 amid relatively flat inpatient admissions. Outpatient admissions and total surgeries grew 5% and 8%, respectively, as inpatient admissions dipped 1%.
Providence also aims to narrow its capital allocation process with a focus on return on investment and divestment of some non-core assets, some of which may include real estate and revenue-cycle management.
Health system leadership has to approach these issues through the consumer lens, said Zachary Hafner, national partner at the Advisory Board Co.
"They have to identify what population segments they are trying to serve and what they want and need," he said. "They need to construct a communication model designed around how customers want to engage with them. The right partnerships and the right leaders play an important role in executing that vision and integrating the pieces."
Ascension, which was rumored to be exploring a merger with Providence St. Joseph but has ended the endeavor, charted a similar path forward by expanding its ambulatory network, doubling down on telehealth and downsizing its hospital footprint.