7 CEOs name the one healthcare issue they wish they could eliminate overnight

The healthcare industry faces a fair share of challenges. Between the ever-changing policies and regulations, evolving laws and new reimbursement models, healthcare providers and administrators are constantly seeking ways to stay ahead. If we could give healthcare CEOs a magic wand, which issue would they choose to do away with?

Here, hospital and health system CEOs featured in the monthly "Corner Office" series reveal the top industry challenge they would choose to eliminate overnight.

1. David T. Feinberg, MD, President and CEO of Geisinger (Danville, Pa.): I would like to eliminate the waiting room and everything it represents. A waiting room means we're provider-centered — it means the doctor is the most important person and everyone is on [his or her] time. We build up inventory for that doctor — that is, the patients in the waiting room.

To be truly patient-centered, we need to get rid of the waiting room. When your child is suicidal or your wife has breast cancer or your parent fell down in the bathroom and they're bleeding, the last thing you want to do is sit and wait. We need to increase access and availability so we can show people we see it is a privilege to take care of them — to tell patients, "We are waiting for you."

2. Ramanathan "Ram" Raju, MD, President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals: That would be the disparities in healthcare. When I practiced surgery, I was under the impression that we have the best healthcare delivery system in the world because I saw healthcare through my practice lens. I took care of everyone irrespective of their ability to pay, regardless of if they had insurance.

But I soon came to witness unequal treatment. It was clear to me that there are parts of the country and certain groups of people who do not get adequate healthcare, die early due to lack of access to healthcare, and even if they do obtain it, they don't have as good of outcomes as other folks.

This disparity exists in different parts of the country. It's something we need to eliminate. I don't know if I can eliminate it, but that's my desire. We need a healthcare delivery system that eliminates these disparities.

3. William P. Thompson, President and CEO of SSM Health (St. Louis): It would be to reduce the administrative burden on the healthcare system. By some estimates, up to 30 percent of healthcare costs are spent to comply with regulatory and other requirements that are imposed upon the healthcare system. The sheer magnitude and complexity of the rules and regulations are mind-boggling and have reached a point where we find rules that contradict each other or that can actually impair our ability to provide high-quality care. Of course, I recognize that a reasonable level of administrative oversight is necessary to help prevent fraud and abuse of the system, but the sheer size of the governmental bureaucracy and the duplication of reviews and audits have led to significant waste. By reducing this waste, we could provide more resources to the actual delivery of care.

4. Michael J. Dowling, President and CEO of Northwell Health (New Hyde Park, N.Y.):I would say to reduce the conflicting and over-burdensome array of regulatory demands on healthcare organizations. We are inundated with a plethora of micro-regulations, and that, I think, just makes the business much more complicated than it needs to be. It consumes excess resources and doesn't do enough to improve outcomes for patients. This is not to suggest that I'm against compliance, but the constant development of dozens of regulations on an ongoing basis makes the machinery of progress move much more slowly than it could.

5. Charles W. Sorenson, MD, President and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare (Salt Lake City): I'd align incentives for everyone participating in healthcare — the physicians and other caregivers; our patients and people before they become patients; the insurers and other payers; and the hospitals and other facilities — so all would benefit when our population gets healthier. Our current fee-for-service system, while it does have some advantages, provides such powerful financial rewards for simply doing more things — especially expensive things — that we end up with very high cost healthcare that doesn't always deliver the outcomes people really want or need.

6. John Bishop, CEO Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children's & Women's Hospital Long Beach and Community Hospital Long Beach: Just one? I can provide a whole list. What comes to mind is the lack of financial alignment around population health where physicians, health plans and hospitals are incentivized differently. If we could have the ability to align our interests, it would greatly improve the quality of care that we collectively deliver. The sooner everyone in healthcare can be moving in the same direction, the better off we will be as a society. MemorialCare has been preparing for healthcare's transformation for the past decade. Our growth and diversification from a hospital system to an integrated and diversified healthcare delivery network gives MemorialCare a substantial competitive advantage that will serve us well in 2016 and beyond. 

7. Darlene Stromstad, President and CEO of Waterbury (Conn.) Hospital and the Greater Waterbury Health Network: There is still a lack of access to healthcare for many people, even if it is only because they perceive they don't have access. There are members of this community that do not know how to use the healthcare system. There are many reasons for that, including socioeconomic and language barriers. Some may be intimidated by the size of hospitals and intimidated to go to the doctor's office. We need to find better ways to bring healthcare to where people live, delivered in a way that is meaningful to them. The causes are complicated, but every day we are taking care of patients whose illnesses are preventable. They are not accessing healthcare in a way that works for them.

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