Healthcare’s Imperative for Long-Game Leadership

Among today’s leaders in healthcare, few health system executives have the fortitude and patience to stand by a long-term investment until it pays dividends. CommonSpirit Health CEO Lloyd Dean, who announced that he is retiring in 2022, is someone whom we should all aspire to model.

While his accomplishments are too numerous to list, his devotion to improving equitable access to care is unwavering. At this crucial time for health equity, does Dean’s retirement this year pose a risk for the success of this movement? I’m confident it does not. The once-in-a-generation leadership demonstrated by Dean cannot end with his tenure at a single company. Together, we must look to his example to inspire companies, industries, and multiple generations to take up the common cause in pursuit of health equity. 

Playing the Long Game

Intergenerational leaders like Dean act with the future in mind. Putting aside short-term gains, they focus on creating a culture and community of inclusiveness and adaptation. They are passionate stewards of resources, sharers of knowledge, and guardians of organizational values. 

Characteristics of intergenerational leadership include: 

  • A strong focus on the “why” of the organization, as embodied in its mission and values.
  • Comfort investing in future-facing solutions that don’t reap immediate ROI.
  • A commitment to mentoring and nurturing the next generation of leaders.
  • Desire to leave a lasting impact and personal legacy.

A truly intergenerational leader works to unite Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Z in a common cause that lays a strong foundation for generational continuity.

Healthcare's Open Door

Today, the need for intergenerational leadership in our industry has never been greater.

The pandemic made healthcare worse for everyone but especially for communities of color. In less than two years, COVID-19 has killed1 one in 500 Americans, one in 240 Native Americans, one in 390 Hispanics, and one in 480 Blacks. These disparities shed light on decades of systemic discrimination and has created an imperative for healthcare executives to lead in more just and inclusive ways.

As any good CEO knows, disruption always travels hand in hand with opportunity. Today’s healthcare leaders have a once-in-a-century window to reimagine, reinvent, and rebuild healthcare. Our mandate is to renovate in sustainable ways that align with our values of healing and service.

Answering the Challenge

Some of the most impactful innovations to arise from the pandemic were advances in digital health. Solutions like hospital at home2 and virtual front door3 allow us to reach patients who have historically faced systemic barriers to care. In particular, solutions born from the pandemic can help bridge the gap and serve previously marginalized communities. 

Vituity’s Health in Place4 initiative underscores our commitment to this patient-first revolution. Health in Place extends care to patients where and when they need it with a goal of improving quality of life. Rolling out Health in Place has been the challenge of my career, leading me to consider possibilities and technologies that don’t yet exist. In other words, it has shown me both the triumphs and challenges of intergenerational leadership.

I’m also proud of the work of the Vituity Cares Foundation, which we launched last year to reduce healthcare disparities by bringing volunteer physicians, advanced providers, and nurses directly to underserved communities, where care is urgently needed but often undersourced. An example is the pop-up clinics for unsheltered communities we’ve organized and sponsored across the country, in addition to other grassroots solutions that bring quality care to those most in need of our help.

Vituity Cares also helps guide the next generation of diverse healthcare leaders. In 2021 we mentored over 100 disadvantaged high school and college students interested in the health sciences and are expanding this program in 2022 to reach even more students. 

A Personal Commitment

Often, it feels like our industry is geared toward short-term outcomes and suffers from a lack of long-term vision, but I believe the door to change will never be open wider. Lloyd Dean’s retirement is an invitation for the rest of us to rise up, take the baton, and create legacies for the benefit of future generations. 

To truly make a change, I, as a healthcare leader, strive to cultivate an environment that empowers everyone to bring their unique and diverse strengths to work for the overall benefit of the team and the patients we serve. I refer to this as a culture of brilliance within a team and organization, in which we continually seek to challenge ourselves and improve upon today’s innovations for the benefit of tomorrow’s generations. 

A brilliant culture starts with our leadership. As leaders, we have the expertise and network to be the exemplar, showing how together we can increase the effectiveness of our healthcare systems by delivering innovative, patient-centric care to all.

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