Critics say today's health system CEOs haven't proved willing or able to shift their business model to meet the demands of consumers accustomed to rapid, high-quality service in other industries.
But that's not always true. Four years ago, Dr. Rod Hochman, CEO of Providence Health & Services, hired Aaron Martin away from Amazon to head strategy and innovation. Martin's team has spun out several new products to better engage consumers between episodes of care, then found venture capitalists to turn them into businesses.
One is Xealth, which enables physicians to “prescribe” a wide range of nonmedical products or services for patients directly through the electronic health record, including apps, articles, Lyft rides and health-assisting products.
Martin said what Hochman hired him to do—build deep digital engagement with consumers—is taken for granted in other industries but is brand new in healthcare. Still, he doesn't think he would ever feel comfortable moving into the Providence CEO role himself.
Instead, he urges more healthcare CEOs to learn from Hochman. “I think you need people with clinical or healthcare operational backgrounds working elbow to elbow with folks like me,” said Martin, now Providence's senior vice president and chief digital officer. “It's getting into the lean startup mindset.”
With healthcare changing rapidly, hospital CEO positions turning over at a high rate, and baby boomer senior executives eyeing retirement, some hospitals and health systems realize their next leaders will need a different set of experiences and skills to successfully navigate that new world. For example, these leaders may have to figure out how to run a “health village” rather than an acute-care hospital, a shift recently announced by Ascension's Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Being a hospital CEO has always been a grueling job requiring long hours, high public accountability and the ability to accommodate multiple demanding stakeholders. The new operating environment will require an even greater openness to change, willingness to listen to customers and front-line staff, and courage to radically redesign systems to improve quality and reduce costs.