11 hospital, health system leaders describe 2023 in 1 word

Becker's asked healthcare presidents and CEOs to describe 2023 in the context of their respective organizations using one word. None of them used the same word, but all their responses carried the theme of adeptly navigating the post-pandemic era. 

From across the U.S., here is how 11 healthcare leaders defined the past year: 

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

"Recovery, cost reduction and growth" Stephen DelRossi. CEO and CFO of Northern Inyo Healthcare District (Bishop, Calif.)

With respect to recovery, the system invested heavily in methods and technology to maximize the revenue cycle, and while there is still work to be done in this area, we have seen a decrease in timely filing and denials of nearly 75%. With respect to cost reduction, the district formed a committee that analyzed all expenses and created innovative ways to decrease costs; year over year costs are down 8% while volume is up 14% and revenues are up 19%. Finally, with respect to growth, we have expanded offerings in existing service lines, brought in providers for new service lines and challenged providers to be more productive. We will continue on this course into the foreseeable future.

"Grateful" Armand Dorian, MD. CEO of USC Verdugo Hills Hospital (Glendale, Calif.)

I am grateful for the talented team I work with at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. We are passionately focused on caring for our patients, which brings us joy, fulfillment and satisfaction. Our amazing staff helped with many accomplishments this year, such as earning an "A" hospital safety grade from The Leapfrog Group, which makes us one of the safest hospitals in the nation. I am honored to be part of the team. 

"Momentum" Patty Donley, DNP. Vice President of WellSpan Health and President of WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital (Lebanon, Pa.) 

As I reflect on this year — the accomplishments achieved, opportunities identified, and new goals established for the year ahead, one collective theme comes to mind: momentum. At WellSpan, our evolving growth is proving prosperous for our team members, patients and communities we serve. We are leveraging innovative partnerships, adding new team members, incorporating new technology and expanding access to care and resources. With this momentum, we are advancing key health initiatives and transforming healthcare delivery for our patients and communities.

"Steadfast" Jill Duplechan, RN. Chief Executive of Providence Orange County-High Desert (Anaheim, Calif.)

Healthcare systems faced a world of change in 2023 — everything from finances to staffing and burnout. But it was with great pride that I watched our teams take on these challenges with incredible grace and resilience, never losing sight of what’s most important: serving our patients and communities. Our physicians and caregivers leaned into these tough times, embraced change guided by our mission and values, and I was reminded of why we were all called to work in the difficult but incredibly rewarding field of healthcare. I couldn't be prouder or more grateful for their phenomenal work.

"People" Brian Erling. President and CEO of Renown Health (Reno, Nev.) 

Healthcare is impressively complex, but the inputs that drive revenue and expense are not complicated. The levers to pull for financial improvement are well known across the industry, but execution requires a focus on our most precious resource. At Renown Health, 2023 was a people first year with a focus on belonging, purpose, collegiality, development and psychological safety. Through these efforts, we saw improvements in employee recruitment, retention, productivity and engagement, and it was because of our dedicated workforce that we experienced a $130 million year-over-year operating margin improvement. Results because of labor, not despite labor.

"Visionary" Stephanie Everett. Mountrail Bethel Home Administrator and CEO of Mountrail County Health Center (Stanley, N.D.)

We as a team at Mountrail County Medical Center chose to go with a startup ACO that would allow us very dedicated access to their leadership team. We joined forces with other independent CAH's in North Dakota to create a high-value Network. We participated in programs through the University of North Dakota Center for Rural Health, allowing us to focus on issues at hand, such as value-based care. These programs have and are enabling us to be proactive on possible challenges for our rural health clinic and our critical access hospital. And we will be the first hospital in North Dakota to partner with our ambulance service to bring Avel eCare on the back of an ambulance, which will allow better patient outcomes. 

"Unwavering" Ngozi Ezike, MD. President and CEO of Sinai Chicago

In 2023, despite all the challenges we face as a safety-net health system, we remain unwavering at Sinai Chicago in our resolve to close the health disparities gap. I am unwavering in my commitment to stand with like-minded partners to achieve this ambitious goal and unwavering in my belief that teamwork and collaboration form the path to the finish line.

"Resilience" — Greg Feirn. CEO of LCMC Health (New Orleans)

In a year marked by uncertainties, and the highs and lows of healthcare, the term "resilience" reflects our organization's commitment to sustaining and enhancing healthcare services for our patients, as well as the collective strength of our community in navigating extraordinary circumstances. As industry leaders, we must all recognize the steadfast ability to overcome and adapt in the face of ongoing challenges, particularly those posed by the dynamic healthcare landscape and external factors such as public health crises or natural disasters.

"Evolution" — Lynne Fiscus, MD. President and CEO of UNC Physicians Network (Chapel Hill, N.C.)

As we continue to look ahead, we know that we need to think and act differently to meet the needs of our patients in an increasingly complicated and crowded healthcare environment. This year was all about taking a hard look at our system, mapping a course for our future, and beginning to make the changes necessary for success in the years ahead.

"Gratitude" — Pradeep Kadambi, MD. President and CEO of University of Florida Jacksonville Physicians

We faced many challenges in 2023, including sustained labor shortage and physical and mental exhaustion. In addition, we also faced financial challenges mainly due to increased costs. Despite those, our physicians and staff stepped up to continue our mission to heal, to comfort, to educate and to discover. I have nothing but gratitude for this group of professionals who are poised, selfless and dedicated to a greater cause.

"Purpose" — Peter Pisters, MD. President of University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston)

In a year of significant transformation and adaptation in healthcare, one word that has driven me is "purpose." At MD Anderson, we know cancer patients and their families around the globe are depending on our institution to continue groundbreaking work to help save more lives — our purpose can be found in humanity. Purpose also comes through our efforts to enhance wellness — which is an antidote to burnout — for our faculty and employees with a focus on how work gets done, where and when we work, and how we support ourselves and each other. We also find purpose and meaning in our efforts to extend our expertise and clinical trials through our MD Anderson Cancer Network and through our work with the World Health Organization. We are driven by purpose defined with brevity and clarity as Making Cancer History.

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