Becker's 10th Annual Meeting Speaker Series: 3 Questions with Rajan Gurunathan, Chief, Division of General Medicine for SBH Health System

Rajan Gurunathan, MD, FACP, serves as Chief, Division of General Medicine for SBH Health System.

On April 3rd, Dr. Gurunathan 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. Gurunathan's session, click here.

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

Rajan Gurunathan: Clearly we are in the midst of a dynamic period in health care delivery, and hospitals and health systems are continually being pressed to re-engineer the way we provide care. With the changing landscape in terms of government policies related to proposed healthcare reform, the ever-growing number of partnerships and mergers, both in the private and not-for-profit sectors, and the ongoing focus on quality and value-based care, with particular emphasis on the patient / customer experience, it is critical for leaders to further develop relationships with payers in their markets, engage with community-based organizations to bring care out of the hospital-setting and address social determinants of health, and to identify analytic tools which can help focus on both drivers of cost and measurement of quality metrics.

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?

RG: When I was considering whether or not to move to my current position in the SBH Health System several years ago, I was struck by conversations I had with my Chairman, Dr. Edward Telzak, and our current CMO and CEO, Drs. Eric Appelbaum and David Perlstein, in which 2 key themes came across very clearly – namely, that I would have the opportunity to work with a diverse and dedicated group of individuals, committed to better health for the South-Central Bronx community, and that I would go home every day feeling like I have served as part of a greater cause. While at the time it was a leap of faith of sorts, I can honestly say that those words continue to resonate and ring true – while the Bronx has been ranked as the worst county in NY state by the RWJ Foundation in terms of health outcomes, and the number of challenges faced by our patients and providers is immense, there is an unyielding work ethic amongst the nurses, doctors, and support staff, a spirit of camaraderie that comes from fighting towards a common goal, and a sense of innovation that guides always trying to do more with less. It is not uncommon to run across someone with over 15 years of service here, and to me, that is a true testament to the institutional culture which has been established over the years.

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

RG: Improving both access to care and the overall patient experience are critical strategic initiatives for the upcoming year (and beyond). In an underserved area such as ours, with a roughly 90% government payer mix, there are a number of cultural, socio-economic, and logistical barriers to patients receiving the care and services needed. Finding ways to reach and engage specific at-risk populations, such as seniors, patients with high-risk chronic disease such as asthma, HIV and Hepatitis C, and patients suffering from substance abuse addiction, are of particular significance, as is making sure our call center access and office workflows are customer-focused and patient-centered in their approach at all times. Establishing a platform which allows for easy access, promotes health and wellness, and is pro-active with outreach and engagement into the community, is something we are continually striving towards for the future.

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