Becker's 10th Annual Meeting Speaker Series: 3 Questions with Maria Ryan, Chief Executive Officer for Cottage Hospital

Maria Ryan, PhD, serves as Chief Executive Officer for Cottage Hospital.

On April 2nd, Dr. Ryan 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 Dr. Ryan's session, click here.

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

Maria Ryan:

The healthcare industry was slow to move on creating a value proposition for the consumer.   Personally, I was an early disrupter in the industry and my peers struggled to understand what I was trying to accomplish. Currently, there are many healthcare leaders who are trying to decrease workload for providers, decrease unwanted steps for the staff, increase the ‘compassion’ factor, standardize processes and create a reasonable cost structure.

Innovators outside of healthcare need to understand the inherent complexities of healthcare because it is not linear nor is it predictable.

The electronic medical record has added to provider burnout and frustration. Innovators continue to struggle with creating a system that is fast and intuitive for the end user. The use of templates has added to inaccurate medical records because providers may be too busy to edit and customize the template to the patient in front of them. There needs to be more voice recognition devices and we will see a more complete picture of the patient and more accuracies. Built in relevant decision points would be helpful.  The vision of an electronic medical record that would alert you that a patient’s temperature is elevated or a lab result is abnormal without you looking for it would really help the provider. Innovators need to work more on artificial intelligence in the office and hospital setting. An integrated electronic medical record functions as a clinical documentation tool and a billing system. The billing side of healthcare is one of the most complex in any industry. Insurance companies may have hundreds of different plans where you bill differently and your reimbursement may be different. Once the plan information is inputted into the system, the system needs to process the claim the way the payor/plan requires but also alerts the finance department if the reimbursement is different than the contract.

I predict in the next five years we will see advances in artificial intelligence in healthcare.  Healthcare leaders need to be at the table to identify what is needed.

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

MR: The biggest payor in healthcare is the federal government. The taxpayers carry the burden of the rising costs of healthcare.  I have a vision that would change healthcare and decrease long term federal healthcare dollars. Healthcare has been reactive. You break a bone and it gets fixed. We now know that most healthcare dollars are spent at the beginning and the end of life and for chronic diseases. We need to define what does healthy mean? The increase in mental illness diagnoses is a sign that we need to change. I want to work with a group of professionals on a multistage reform idea.  Starting in grade school, children would be taught about nutrition and the school would provide fresh non-GMO foods. At appropriate stages, the children would learn how to save money, balance a checkbook and pay bills leading to self-reliance at a later stage. Mindfulness and meditation would be taught and practiced daily. American children should be taught about the history of their country which creates a sense of belonging and pride. The school day would be extended for physical activity for those who are not in a sports program. For more details please attend the session where I will be discussing healthcare reform, and gathering your thoughts, at Becker’s Hospital Review November 2019 meeting.

Q: Can you share some praise with us about people you work with? What does greatness look like to you when it comes to your team?


The senior members I work with all share some common traits. They always strive for excellence, look for ways to communicate more effectively, work towards common goals and they are passionate about the mission and values of Cottage Hospital.

Cottage Hospital’s senior team is high functioning because we check our egos at the door. They are always willing to listen to another point of view and learn from one another.  I am so honored to work with them. In a rural hospital, you have the same regulations as larger hospitals and the same complexities, yet you don’t have any resources. They impress me every day with their dedication to the patients, employees, community and to each other.  The greatness comes from the diverse makeup of the team. The members have different backgrounds and they look at issues with their unique perspective. This leads to a great end product no matter what we are trying to tackle. The greatness comes from their ability to lead, to create and articulate a story that others will follow.

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