How Children's Mercy Kansas City is growing geographically and within service lines 

Rob Steele, MD, is the executive vice president and chief strategy and innovation officer at Mo-based Children's Mercy Kansas City. 

Dr. Steele will serve on the panel "Pivoting Strategy Amid Reimbursement Shifts: Observations, Thoughts and How to Thrive" at Becker's 10th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference on Nov. 7-10 in Chicago. 

To learn more and register, click here.

Becker's Healthcare aims to foster peer-to-peer conversation between healthcare's brightest leaders and thinkers. In that vein, responses to our Speaker Series are published straight from interviewees. Here is what our speakers had to say.

Question: What is the smartest thing you've done in the last year to set your system up for success?

Dr. Rob Steele: The smartest thing we've done is to stick with our strategic plan. We developed and got the approval of our strategic plan right before COVID-19 hit. So we had to reassess and decide whether we would continue, despite all the challenges we had throughout COVID-19. This past year we've been continuing to implement our strategic plan. It's modified in timing because of the challenges we've had with COVID-19, but we've stuck to it. Now two and a half years out, we're glad we did.

Q: What are you most excited about right now and what makes you nervous?

RS: I would say the same thing that makes me excited is the same thing that makes me nervous. We are tackling the mental and behavioral health epidemic, particularly in pediatrics. As part of our strategic plan, we are building, partnering and joint venturing our way to increase our capabilities from a mental and behavioral health standpoint, which is not well reimbursed. It's a lot of investment without necessarily a significant financial return. So that part makes me nervous, but it's the right thing to do to help tackle the epidemic of mental and behavioral health.

Q: How are you thinking about growth and investments for the next year or two?

RS: We may be a bit unique compared to other health systems. For the last three to four years, we've been specifically targeting our financial capabilities to build our cash balance on our balance sheet. We're at a place where we can now invest in our growth geographically and from a service line perspective. So we're going to, and we're one of the few hospitals and systems that increased our bond rating. We just announced that, which is fairly impressive, given that we had so many challenges with COVID-19. Still, we're ready to utilize our strategy of improving our balance sheet to invest in the community.

Q: What will healthcare executives need to be effective leaders for the next five years?

RS: I think it all centers around the workforce. Probably the most prominent hit we've had is our workforce challenges, those that have left healthcare entirely and the challenges of the talent competition. To me, the most effective leaders are the ones that will be able to connect, be creative and coordinate a resilient and engaged workforce.

Q: How are you building resilient and diverse teams?

RS: As part of our strategic plan, we have a lot of very specific initiatives targeting our diversity, equity and inclusion. So specifically with diverse teams, we have recognized the longstanding issues of not having diversity streamed throughout the entire organization. Without getting into details, we have made some very substantive investments in leadership and in capabilities to build diversity within our supply chain, relationships and partnerships within the community.

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