'An opportunity to enhance our model': Geisinger CEO Dr. Jaewon Ryu on Risant Health

As Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health awaits the closure of a deal that will make it the first health system to join Kaiser Permanente's new nonprofit organization, Risant Health, President and CEO Jaewon Ryu, MD, said the system must remain focused on driving its strategy forward with "the same rigor to address the challenging headwinds our industry and our communities continue to face."

Oakland-based Kaiser said in a May 15 financial report that it expects its deal to acquire Geisinger to close in 2024, pending regulatory approval. 

The newly created Risant Health, which will be headquartered in Washington, D.C., aims to "expand and accelerate the adoption of value-based care in "diverse, multipayer, multiprovider, community-based health system environments." 

Dr. Ryu will transition to the role of Risant Health CEO as the deal approaches closure. He recently connected with Becker's about why Geisinger joined Risant and how the new organization will measure success.  

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Geisinger is the first health system to join Risant Health. How did Geisinger get involved and why did it decide to be the first to join? 

Dr. Jaewon Ryu: This came on the heels of strategic planning work that we had started over four years ago, when we were looking at ways that we might accelerate our goal — to make better health easier for the communities we serve. This path with Kaiser Permanente through Risant Health presented a great way to join with a fellow nonprofit, mission-aligned organization that is like minded and focused on improving health outcomes, affordability and access. Kaiser Permanente has been a best-in-class organization of this approach for quite some time, often viewed as the gold standard in value-based care, with operations across eight states and the District of Columbia, 39 hospitals, and top-notch physician groups. And Geisinger has been similarly committed to advancing innovation and value-based care models, partnering with other payers and other physician groups and health systems to do so.

Being part of Risant Health will allow Geisinger to access tools, capabilities and investments required to accelerate our charitable mission and strategy and continue to expand our impact to our communities.

Q: What is the most exciting aspect of joining Risant? 

JR: In addition to accelerating our ability to deliver on our mission and carrying forth the vision of our founder Abigail Geisinger, we're excited to have a broader impact in healthcare. 

We've always believed Geisinger’s model in Pennsylvania — with a focus on value-based care leveraging multipayer and multiprovider capabilities — could be scaled to other places and benefit more people and communities. This "pluralistic" approach to value-based care, across communities less dense than more urban areas, is a capability that complements Kaiser Permanente's other capabilities. Through Risant Health, we see an opportunity to further enhance our model and add to the suite of Risant Health capabilities so that more communities can benefit. As the first health system to become part of Risant Health, Geisinger will participate in building out the organization's strategy and operational model. Working with Kaiser Permanente and connecting with like-minded health systems through Risant Health will allow us to be a part of the solution for the industry's challenges in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.

Q: The deal is now awaiting regulatory approval. As that process unfolds, what is Geisinger doing to prepare for the transition? 

JR: Geisinger remains focused on delivering on our mission of making better health easier for the communities that we serve. In other words, our good work continues. Should the acquisition be approved, Risant Health's model will be designed to support local ownership over operations and regional strategy while also preserving strong community engagement. This local ownership means that while we await a regulatory decision, but even beyond, we must remain focused on driving our strategy forward with the same rigor to address the challenging headwinds our industry and our communities continue to face. 

Q: You will be transitioning into the role of Risant CEO. Will that be in addition to your role at Geisinger, or will the system be getting a new CEO? If the latter, is there a succession plan in place? 

JR: I'm focused on my role as the president and CEO of Geisinger, ensuring our organization is delivering on our stated mission. Should we receive the necessary state and federal regulatory approvals, I will transition from my current role to serve as CEO of Risant Health as the transaction nears completion. While no definitive plans have been made, there will be a formal process to select a new CEO at the appropriate time, just as we have with prior leadership transitions.

Q: How will joining Risant benefit or enhance Geisinger's health plan? 

JR: Geisinger will deliver the same quality care programs, benefits coverage and prevention support. We will enhance our capabilities over time in areas such as digital tools that make things easier for our members, or using augmented data and analytic tools that help target care programs at the right time so that we can address clinical needs before disease worsens. So while Geisinger's approach to care will remain one anchored around outcomes and caring, how we go about this work will be bolstered with these and other capabilities.

Q: How will the success of Risant Health be measured?  

JR: Through Risant Health, Kaiser Permanente has shared its desire to seek out like-minded entities that are committed to quality care and improving access and affordability by promoting value-based care models through a "pluralistic" chassis, as mentioned earlier. In a very simple sense, success will be evaluated through better measures of health across more populations. For example, success could be lower blood sugars in diabetic patients, fewer ER or hospital visits for those with congestive heart failure or earlier detection of cancers through more effective preventive screening rates.

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