Becker's 10th Annual Meeting Speaker Series: 3 Questions with Howard Kern, President and Chief Executive Officer for Sentara Healthcare

Howard Kern serves as President and Chief Executive Officer for Sentara Healthcare.

 On April 3rd, Howard will speak at Becker's Hospital Review 10th Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place April 1-4, 2019 in Chicago.

To learn more about the conference and Howard's session, click here.

Question: What do innovators/entrepreneurs from outside healthcare need to better understand about hospital and health system leaders?

Howard Kern: It’s all about the customer and relevance to institutional strategy. Innovations must have a clear tie to improving the patient, member, or provider experience. Innovations should be developed within the context of the healthcare system, not a technological vacuum, or there is a high risk for unintended consequences and lack of relevance. As healthcare system leaders, we work every day to foster a trusted relationship with our customers, so innovations must enhance that overall experience and trust. A truly innovative idea will add value by improving the system care health plan experience, lowering cost, and increasing quality.

Q: What one strategic initiative will demand the most of your time and energy in 2019?

HK: Sentara is currently developing our leadership model for the future. We are identifying and developing the core competencies our already high performing leadership team will need to thrive and achieve results in the our dynamic healthcare ecosystem—now and in the future. This will initially require identifying critical competencies and effect team/management models. Secondly, this will require tools for selection of highly qualified leaders, both internally and externally, and finally we are building organizational development tools to enable support that allows these teams and high performance leaders to excel. My focus will be on supporting and preparing Sentara’s leadership teams so that they can lead the way towards continued high performance in clinical quality, operations, and strategic growth.

Q: Healthcare takes a lot of heat for not innovating quickly. What's your take on this?

HK: Healthcare delivery organizations often innovate under the guise of incremental problem-solving. We solve small-scale problems quickly, and often in very creative ways. At Sentara, our High Performance Design teams are constantly implementing new best practices across our system. We are so focused on providing the best care and experience for our patients, that we are often slow to identify solutions for commercialization. The most innovative ideas often originate from our physicians, care providers, and frontline staff—in both clinical and operational settings. Healthcare is now developing the competencies to identify these small-scale solutions and transform them into the broader solutions. This will naturally lead to more innovation, faster. We are learning to gather, test, and implement the ideas from within our teams in more systematic ways.

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