Becker's 11th Annual Meeting: 3 Questions with Nathan Merriman, Chair, ChristianaCare Physician Leadership Network; Director of Endoscopy, ChristianaCare

Nathan Merriman, MD, serves as Chair of ChristianaCare Physician Leadership Network; Director of Endoscopy at ChristianaCare.

On April 8th, Dr. Merriman will serve on the panel "Health System Leadership in 2020: Tools for Success" at Becker's Hospital Review 11th 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 on April 6-9, 2020 in Chicago.

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

Question: What's one lesson you learned early in your career that has helped you lead in healthcare?

Nathan Merriman: Several years ago, I participated in a leadership cafe round-robin style event with residents and different leaders from across the health system. It was outstanding. We had shared team-based learning facetime with each other and with residents learning about leadership early in their training. Two to three residents moved as a team from table to table and each resident asked the other leaders at the table a series of questions, one at a time, until our table time was up and the resident team moved to the next table. One of the residents asked our table about the most recent individual leadership lesson that helped us improve individually. I shared that about a year prior, I had heard from a senior physician leader at an outside development course that the most important thing he did as a leader was to write down his personal mission statement. After hearing this idea, when I left the course and went home, I immediately wrote down my personal mission statement. I also asked for feedback from several of my leadership learning mentors about the mission statement as I worked on it and finalized it at the time. The resident then asked a question I will never forget, "how many times have you updated it?" I paused. I let him know that his question was excellent. I shared with our table that I had not yet changed it since the initial process a year ago and that I would learn from his question and take a look at it that week to update and improve it. The top takeaway for me from this moment was that we can all learn from each other and improve ideas and approaches together as long as we pause to connect and listen. We can team to learn.

Q: Where do you go for inspiration and fresh ideas?

NM: I go to my family for inspiration. I learn from my wife and our four kids every day. My wife is also a physician, a high-risk obstetrician, and her experiences as a part-time employed physician in a high-risk obstetrics group practice have been very different than my experiences as a GI physician partner with an individual GI practice within a larger group. We have two teenage daughters and identical twin boys who are 8 years old. Our children have incredibly different perspectives and ask insightful questions from very different vantage points. To be honest, sometimes the questions come out faster than my wife and I can keep up with, especially from the twins, so we continue to work on taking turns and focusing on one question at a time with one speaker at a time. For fresh ideas, I love reading articles and posts on LinkedIn. I see LinkedIn as an incredibly valuable national and international learning platform across industries and professions.

Q: Healthcare has had calls for disruption, innovation and transformation for years now. Do you feel we are seeing that change? Why or why not?

NM: Yes, we are now seeing that change, finally. My belief is that we are seeing more informed and productive disruption, innovation, and transformation in healthcare now because of two main factors. The first factor is the increasingly unsustainable current status quo of healthcare in the U.S., with rising costs and continued variable quality, outcomes, and access to care. With the more broad recognition and open discussion about our healthcare system unsustainability, there appears to be more motivation than ever to change, update, and radically redesign healthcare delivery. The second factor is the pressure and demand for change from large innovative employers (such as Walmart, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JP Morgan) AND from patients. On the employer side, as the costs of care continue to increase with widely variable quality and accountability, the employers are testing and iteratively improving new models of care for their employees and learning from each other to figure out ways to reduce waste, improve quality and predictability, and contain total costs of care for their employees. From the patient consumer side, we are all patients and our expectations as patients and consumers have rapidly evolved over the last several years in particular. After all, how long does it take to order something on Amazon? How long does it take to get an answer on Google? How long does it take to share an experience and post a comment or picture? How fast and seamless are our smartphone experiences? How many times have all of these products and experiences been analyzed, updated, and improved over the last 5 years? Now how long does it take to get an appointment with a specific physician? How long do we sometimes wait to see the physician in the office or prior to a surgery or procedure? What are our expectations as the patient AND what are physicians' expectations of themselves? How many times have all of our experiences as patients and physicians been analyzed, updated, and improved over the last 5 years? Is our system designed to meet all those expectations and continually update and improve our approaches and experiences in healthcare over time? Unfortunately no. The related question is how does that expectation-system design mismatch feel for all of us as patients and more broadly for all clinicians and caregivers every day? What is the aggregate impact of this expectation-system design mismatch on individuals over time? So, I believe now is our time for impactful disruption, innovation, and transformation for all of us in healthcare and for all of us as patients.

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