16 for 2016: Key strategic questions for healthcare CEOs

Healthcare CEOs have more to concern them than ever. Andrew Chastain, managing partner and chair of the Healthcare practice for the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer, has spent the better part of the last year speaking with healthcare CEOs (as well as board members and other executives) about their pain points, strategies, visions, and concerns about the future.

The following are 16 questions that, Chastain says, progressive CEOs will be asking themselves in 2016.

1. Where is my organization on the road to value-based care? Have we taken more than baby steps towards truly value-based care and optimized reimbursement models? Fee-for-service is still our main template and the road of change is long—2016 will be a chance for my organization to put some miles behind it and learn meaningful lessons about value. Is value-based care really going to happen, at least the way it's been envisioned?

A corresponding question: Where are we on the road to population health? Are we proactively providing services along the care continuum, either by ourselves or jointly with other providers and community organizations?

2. Do my strategies complement or contradict each other? Today's health systems are continuing to invest in things old school – bricks and mortar hospitals and clinics, for example – while also pursuing nontraditional strategies that seek to lessen dependence on volume of care. What happens if both of these efforts are successful? Are we hedging our bets on either volume or value? Will we make them complement or contradict each other?

3. Do we truly see the value and preciousness in our patients' lives? Are we fulfilling our mission of keeping the "covered lives" under our responsibility healthy and alive? Are we viewing individuals as unique while maintaining meaningful bonds with the communities we serve? As organizations' strategic focuses change, they must revisit their core mission and values and ensure strategy is aligned to them.

4. Do we also see patients as consumers? Healthcare providers need to see the members of their population base as consumers with diverse and unique health and wellness needs. Are we interfacing with our patients in a retail-oriented, consumer-friendly fashion? Where is my organization on this scale? What essential and innovative services can we pursue to improve the experience of patients and/or "health consumers"?

5. Do we provide quality care and can we prove it? Are our metrics improving and above industry standards? Does our care differentiate us in the marketplace? Can we document our quality and excellence and share it clearly and meaningfully with stakeholders?

6. Are we embracing risk and innovation? Risk is not just to be managed but welcomed as organizations need to stay creative and innovate. Have I increased my tolerance for risk and worked with my board and peers to establish a culture of risk throughout the organization?

7. Are we educating patients and families enough about change? One example: In many cases patients are being treated by clinical assistants and health professionals other than their physicians. Are we communicating the rationale behind this so that people understand why their care and caregivers are changing, and that it can be for the better?

8. Can information get to the right people though the right technology at the right time? Now that we have implemented Electronic Medical Records and other new business process systems, can they be leveraged to greater benefit? Can we recoup the costs of investments and see dramatic gains in quality and efficiency of care?

9. Can we share information and protect its security at the same time? Everyone wants data to be better integrated within and between organizations, but the risks are high. The information security question of today for healthcare organizations is not if breaches will occur, but when. Are we continuing to invest in data security and risk mitigation?

10. Which new health technologies will stick? Wearable devices and mobile health technologies are all the rage. Which of them are fads and which will truly help individuals (with family and friends) be proactive about health and wellness well into the future?

11. Should I worry about the election? How much will a presidential change (either Democrat or Republican, or other) impact our industry's transformation? What do I need to anticipate for different scenarios?

12. Is our board on board? Many organizations are changing so quickly that their boards can't keep up, or have changed membership and composition due to consolidation. Is my leadership team aligned with the board on strategy? If not, what can be done to improve the situation?

13. Do we have the right executive team and structure? Mergers and acquisitions and general industry disruption have caused the C-suite to shift. Is my team set up to execute on our strategic vision for the future?

14. Do we have the right leaders in place? Healthcare organizations may know where they're going, but do they have the right people to take them there? This includes, importantly, physician leadership. Are executives and staff burned out? This has been a rough several years for many people in healthcare. Burnout is a significant concern for CEOs themselves, the executives around them, physicians, and employees throughout their organizations.

15. Who will be the disruptive competitors in the future? These might not be those organizations that we've seen as our traditional competitors. There are new health services and healthcare-related technology companies that we must now consider – not just the hospital across town or the other regional health system – competing for dollars and market share.

16. Who can we partner with beyond the traditional? Creative collaborations and forms of "coopetition" are the focus of conversations all around today. Who can my organization join forces with to expand our market, create efficiencies, and cut costs. What technology companies or private equity firms will help us excel? Is there a health system with which we can create new services and ideas?

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.​


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