Not letting the parade pass by, per Christus Health's Chris Karam

Chris Karam serves as senior vice president at Christus Health-Louisiana & Southeast Texas. 

Mr. Karam will serve on the panel "What Will Add the Most Value to Healthcare Organizations in the Next 3 Years" 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 roundtable, which will take place in Chicago from Nov. 7-10, 2022.

To learn more about the conference and Mr. Karam's session, click here.

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

Chris Karam: I've been very intentional in communicating to my group of Christus hospitals our focus — decrease agency costs, which is huge, and lower length of stay. This mantra has ensured my leaders know where to devote their time, and hopefully they can direct their teams where to prioritize their efforts.

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

CK: July 1 began our new fiscal year. I'm excited about a "new beginning." With the pandemic now in a phase of our new normal and with a tough hurricane season leading up to the pandemic in Louisiana and Southeast Texas, the prospect to hit the restart button generates hope for the future. To that end, I'm nervous and pray that we are spared of another surge of COVID-19 and more hurricanes and/or other weather events in our part of the world.

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

CK: As we focus on growth, a big emphasis is capturing volumes and caring for patients who seek care with us. Because of staff and physician shortages, we have closed beds and don't accept transfers at times. That saddens me since our Founding Sisters opened their arms to all.  We want to return to that ability to grow and care for those seeking care in our various settings.   Because we've been in some of our communities for over 100 years and have rich histories in others, many of our investments are spent on replacing technology, equipment and facilities to meet the demands of this generation of care.

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

CK: To be effective over the next five years as a healthcare leader, one will need to execute on operations extremely well, be open to work and partner with various stakeholders and not get distracted from the big things. That includes staying close to your associates, physicians and payers. I truly believe a leader can't delegate that to others. With so many outside traditional providers like hospitals and physicians jumping into our space such as CVC, Walgreens, Walmart, Amazon, insurers, private equity groups, etc., healthcare leaders must ensure they don't wake up one day and see the parade has passed them by!

Q: How are you building resilient and diverse teams?

CK: More than ever, we're "checking in" on our teams to ask how they're doing. And of course, act on those areas where we can help. Personally, I try to encourage my team and expect their teams to find the right work-life balance. Sounds trite? But, it is a big deal! Living that example is critical and celebrating associates who are taking the time off, thus "giving permission" to have balance is so helpful. 

As for diversity, we have always tried to look like the communities we serve. Identifying diverse candidates for interviews and promoting from within helps in this approach to diversity. Unfortunately, the days of old where you could hire someone and allow them to "learn on the job" have gone since there are so many challenges and top performance is needed immediately to not jeopardize the mission of an organization. Building talent takes time, and the time to start is now! I'm always looking for that associate that has "star power" who we can develop for a promising future.

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