20 healthcare CEOs name the event that fascinated them most

Becker's Hospital Review asked 20 healthcare CEOs to name the event that fascinated them most in 2015.

Their responses are below.

David Bailey, MD, President and CEO of Nemours Children's Health System (Jacksonville, Fla.)
The thing that's fascinated, horrified and worried me every day are the data breaches we've seen this year. It just goes on and on. The data breaches strike at the heart of privacy. We owe our families confidentiality. At the same time, they expect from us cooperation and data exchange to better coordinate their care. The balance between security, privacy and usability is a very difficult one. Healthcare is rapidly learning some lessons that the financial industry learned long ago.

Patrick Board, President and CEO of Union Health System (Terre Haute, Ind.)
I wouldn't label it a single event, but I'd say the fact that providers are having more and more dialogue around population health. I don't think I can pick up a newsletter or read an email without some mention of population health. That change in dialogue has been very stimulating, and it's what I call the event of the year.

Ruth Brinkley, President and CEO of KentuckyOne Health (Louisville)
I found four events fascinating. The announced mergers between Anthem and Cigna and Aetna and Humana (both yet to be finalized) are likely to have a major impact on the insurance landscape for years to come. It remains to be seen exactly how patients and providers will truly be impacted, though the hope is that it will create greater opportunity and value for patients and the providers who treat them.

Second, like all providers, we at KentuckyOne Health held our breath as ICD-10 was introduced. Like Y2K 15 years earlier, some predicted the sky would fall, however, through extensive training and preparation, the transition, so far, has been relatively smooth. We are confident that the new system will help make us more effective and efficient in care delivery.

Third is passage of the 21st Century Cures Act by the House of Representatives. The legislation has the potential to shape the future of healthcare, allowing for greater innovation and research into a wide range of disease and conditions. Work in Congress continues to develop and potentially pass legislation to provide the greatest opportunity to patients, with appropriate levels of oversight, however, passage in the House of Representatives was an important first step.

And last, heightened discussion over drug and device pricing. Questions around appropriate levels of drug and device pricing shot into the spotlight in late 2015. While not a new debate, the recent elevation of the conversation, which has touched mainstream media and even the 2016 presidential debate, puts an increased spotlight on a very sensitive topic within the healthcare industry, and one that impacts all elements, including providers, payers, producers and, of course, patients.

Kenneth Davis, MD, President and CEO of Mount Sinai Health System (New York City)
The discovery of water on Mars fascinated me.

Howard Drenth, President and CEO of Presence Medical Group (Chicago)
The budget battle in Illinois is the most fascinating, disappointing and frustrating event of the year. Seeing the legislative wheels turn, grind to a stop and have the resulting impasse that we have today is disappointing at best.

Larry Kaiser, MD, President and CEO of Temple Health University Health System (Philadelphia)
The whole issue of consolidation in healthcare — including the proposed consolidation — has interested me. I think what we're seeing is significant consolidation on the provider side; hospitals are forming larger systems and acquiring larger physicians practices, and the same is happening on the part of the insurers as well as in the pharmaceutical industry. Consolidation and its ramifications among various players has been most fascinating.

Margo Karsten, PhD, CEO of Cheyenne (Wyo.) Regional Medical Center and Cheyenne Regional Medical Group
I think for me, [as a leader of] an independent, county-owned hospital, [it] is stepping back and watching the mergers [and] acquisitions that are happening and the consolidation of independent hospitals into multisystems and staying very curious on, "Is that the right approach to healthcare?" And I think it's too early to tell right now, but that's been fascinating to watch.

Mike Kasper, CEO of DuPage Medical Group (Downers Grove, Ill.)
It's actually the pending mergers of Cigna and Anthem and Humana and Aetna. It's very unique to see companies of that size coming together. It's going to be fascinating to see how it plays out and what impact it has on local markets and the national landscape of healthcare finance. They'll either become two bigger insurance companies or they'll find ways to work with partners and communities to be a part of helping healthcare. No one knows which side of the coin these relationships will fall into. It'll certainly be one of the most interesting stories in the coming years.

John J. (Jack) Lynch III, President and CEO of Main Line Health (Bryn Mawr, Pa.)
The whole healthcare system's reaction to Ebola fascinated me, and I think it brought out some of the best and some of the worst in healthcare. The finger pointing, accusations and the assault on the healthcare industry as "not being prepared" were unjustified. When you look at the American hospitals' response, the preparation was intensive, especially for the major centers that were identified to care for patients. Or you look at the communities like ours that are near major airports where potential travelers at risk could have landed ... the risk to caregivers in these communities was every bit as great as the risk of caregivers that were working at one of the major centers that could get a patient transferred. And, as an industry, we talk primarily about patient safety, and I think we all assume employees know we care just as much about their safety.

However, we used the Ebola crisis as an opportunity to underscore for our employees and our medical staff that their safety was of equal concern. In many cases, we exceeded the CDC's recommendations to protect our patients and our employees. So the level of preparation I witnessed — not just within my system but systems across the country — almost without respect for financial impact in training their staff, was remarkable. I was fascinated at how rapidly the country came together.

I was also inspired by the bravery and commitment of the many clinicians and volunteers from the United States and around the world that made such great sacrifices by traveling to Africa to help care for patients and stop the spread of Ebola at its source. With that said, while Ebola had the potential to kill lots of people in the United States, the likelihood was remote. On the other hand, there are other medical risks in this country, such as the risk of flu, for example, that we do not spend as much time and attention on, but for which the mortality is far greater and is a reality for thousands of patients every year.

Mary Lou Mastro, President and CEO of Elmhurst (Ill.) Memorial Healthcare
The recent Papal visit to the United States was fascinating. Millions of people followed Pope Francis as he toured the United States in September. He addressed the United Nations, U.S. Congress, U.S. Bishops, the POTUS, interfaith leaders, families of 9/11 victims, low-income students and many others along the way of his visit. He spoke openly on poverty, war, climate change, sexual abuse, arms trade, immigration and other politically and religiously charged topics. Although he could have been polarizing, he was able to appeal to the hearts and minds of so many. Pope Francis speaks of justice, forgiveness, peace and mercy, and he exudes humility. At the end of the day, it's his love for humanity that attracts people to him, and I find a message there for all of us.

Joseph Mullany, CEO of Detroit Medical Center
The extreme weather disasters that occurred in 2015 — particularly the record-breaking wildfires in the Northwest, which cost the U.S Forest Service around $200 million a week to battle across the country during the summer. As healthcare providers, we have great compassion for those whose lives will be forever affected by those events and great admiration for the firefighters and all those who support families and emergency responders during natural disasters.

Lynn Nicholas, President and CEO of Massachusetts Hospital Association (Burlington)
The King v. Burwell debate before the Supreme Court, which was resolved in June. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts we believe strongly in the obligation to provide healthcare coverage for all citizens, having done so since 2006. It was fascinating to watch the arguments unfold, hoping that reasoned law would trump politics in this watershed decision. The fact that naysayers are still tilting at the same windmill with different lances deflects from the task at hand of improving access to care for millions of deserving citizens.

Mike Robertson, CEO of Piedmont Newnan (Ga.) Hospital
The [revised] guidelines set forth by the American Cancer Society in October illustrates a larger trend in healthcare where patients are encouraged to do less preventive screening. As healthcare professionals, we know early detection is the key to beating many diseases and want to arm our patients with tools like education, resources and screening mechanisms that give them the chance to stop the spread of the disease before it starts.

Richard Roodman, CEO of Valley Medical Center (Renton, Wash.)
The impact of the Affordable Care Act resulted in two ripple events having a tsunami effect, at least here in the Northwest, if not nationally. The first is Obamacare which has facilitated access to a huge number of people who heretofore did not have access to healthcare. The second effect of the ACA — probably more indirectly — is a tidal wave of interest among employers such as Boeing and the state of Washington, as well as insurance companies, to drive healthcare reform in the form of ACOs. 

Tomi Ryba, President and CEO of El Camino Hospital (Mountain View, Calif.)
The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act reinforced the premise that all Americans have a right to healthcare coverage. We need to remain constant in our endeavors to ensure access to primary care and hospital services and support providers in caring for the newly insured.

Cherie Sibley, CEO of Clark Regional Medical Center (Winchester, Ky.)
The 2015 event I would highlight is the success in the state of Kentucky with the healthcare exchanges enrollment. Kynect is a state system that has provided more than 500,000 Kentuckians with affordable health insurance.

Earl Steinberg, MD, CEO of xG Health Solutions (Columbia, Mo.)
I would say the HIMSS meeting in Chicago last spring. It fascinated me the most for two reasons. One was the level of interest and the progress being made in EHR interoperability and openness, which I think is hugely important. This is something that's been discussed for years. As a result of SMART on FHIR, which integrates apps with EHRs and other health IT systems, substantial progress has been made. The other is the progress being made in data analytics and leveraging it in clinical workflow.

Susan Turney, MD, CEO of Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic Health System
The continued transformation of health IT has fascinated me in a big-time way. How we interact with patients is bigger than ever before. Technologies are allowing us to chip away at some of the big research around access, the distribution of providers, shortages that exist as well as collaboration. Telehealth and mobile imaging have been around for 20 years, but the rate of change that's occurring now is really nothing like before.

Chris Van Gorder, President and CEO of Scripps Health (San Diego)
There are events that take place in healthcare every day that fascinate me, along with advances in medicine and science that certainly deserve to be listed. But I've always been fascinated watching the worldwide response to national and international disasters. It's amazing to see the world's healthcare resources come together to help. This year we deployed our medical response team to Nepal, partnering with the International Medical Corps and our colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital. 

Our responders were flown in by helicopter to small mountaintop villages and cared for more than 2,000 patients. While very few of those patients will know which organizations sent those doctors, nurses and support people to care for people on the other side of the world, I was proud of each and every volunteer and staff member — from our organization and many others. In a world that seems to be in a constant state of conflict, we still have organizations and people who put caring and mission before self.

Kate Walsh, President and CEO of Boston Medical Center
2015 was the year the disease of addiction came to the forefront as a serious public health issue. It has been amazing to me how an issue that has been in the shadows for too long quickly evolved to be front and center. In my home state of Massachusetts, we've seen leaders in healthcare, public safety and government come together to tackle this complex problem. That gives us an opportunity to try bold new approaches and novel techniques like the primary care-based addiction treatment model our caregivers pioneered at BMC that has now expanded across the state and to sites across the country. We won't solve this problem overnight, but I'm proud of the way our community has come together to address what has really become a crisis.

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