6 questions with PinnacleHealth System CEO Michael Young

Michael Young has served as president and CEO of PinnacleHealth System in Harrisburg, Pa., since June 2011.

Mr. Young, who has more than 30 years of healthcare leadership experience, most recently served as CEO of Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where he led a financial turnaround. Prior to that, he served as president and CEO of Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo, N.Y.

Mr. Young recently answered questions from Becker's Hospital Review about the biggest challenge he's facing as CEO, his goals for PinnacleHealth and more.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What's the biggest challenge you're facing as CEO?

MY: We have many pressing challenges, so it's difficult to narrow down to one. But the lack of providers in the country and state is extremely problematic.

The U.S. is facing the largest physician shortage in its history while the population is both growing and aging. Many believe it will be difficult to close the gap between the number of physicians and healthcare providers who will provide care to the population. As the physician shortages continue to grow, more physicians will retire and fewer will enter practice.

To focus on prevention and effective chronic disease management — which lower costs for everyone — we must have an adequate number of primary care providers. If we can't provide wellness services and make it easy for patients to prevent illness, we'll never be able to drive down costs and improve population health.

Q: How do you approach the CEO role?

MY: A leader is only as good as the people he leads. I'm proud of our management team, their development and their willingness as leaders to grow and learn what is needed to move things to the next level. If you help your team stay focused on clear goals, they will meet them.

I believe positive results can be achieved by the team when managers and supervisors adopt a mindset of personal accountability and ownership. Of course, being personally accountable for the success of the team doesn't just rest with the team leader. We believe our associates must also have personal ownership and accountability.

The best outcome any leader produces is to create an environment that encourages employees to choose to take ownership and be accountable themselves.
Q: What was the last memorable thing you read?

MY: I like to read about other leaders' strengths and weaknesses. One of the last things I read was Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II's Most Audacious General. It has interesting biographical vignettes of the major players from the end of the war, and it's a good general overview of the greater-than-life [George S.] Patton.

Q: How do you begin your daily routine?

MY: I'm up at 5:30 a.m. to begin my morning routine. I like to stay on top of current events, so I read The Wall Street Journal, the local daily paper, and the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia papers while I eat fruit — usually red raspberries —  and check email.

Q: What are your goals for PinnacleHealth?

MY: We'll continue to focus on the overall health of the community and illness prevention. And we'll continue looking for collaborations that facilitate access, high-quality care, prevention and cost reduction.

To improve population health, for example, PinnacleHealth has made significant investments to integrate care delivery and develop the infrastructure to enable accountability for population health outcomes.

For instance, PinnacleHealth has invested $200 million to optimize existing inpatient space (e.g., private rooms), create more geographically distributed inpatient capacity with our new West Shore Hospital, and develop outpatient facilities including our East and West Shore cancer centers and the Annville multispecialty center. We also implemented Epic's EHR across the enterprise.

We believe that securing the appropriate number of covered lives and "share of care" provided in local markets requires a sophisticated value-based contracting and accountable care strategy. PinnacleHealth has made the difficult shift in perspective from episodic fee-for-service volume to value-based population coverage, and has focused substantial efforts and resources to further our position as a preferred and recognized manager of population health.  

We currently collaborate with several insurers through accountable-care arrangements, demonstrating our desire to deliver true patient-centered, integrated and quality care at a lower cost. We're very proud of our track record with lowering costs for employers and patients through our narrow-network arrangements.
Q: What phrases do you think we should use more in healthcare?

MY: "Ownership" and "yes I can."

Providers and staff within the healthcare delivery system need to be responsible and accountable for improving quality and lowering costs. We need to develop the mindset that patients are family members and that we are obligated to provide them with a positive experience and the best care.

Patients also need to take ownership. Solving our healthcare problems requires a multi-prong solution, and patient accountability for their own health is a big part of that. A healthcare provider can only do so much to improve someone's health. We need to do a better job helping people make better choices and take care of their own health. As a society, we need to implement ways to encourage people to take ownership of their health and prevent chronic illness. If we don't start tackling root causes and solving preventable chronic illness, we'll never break the cycle.


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