Becker's 11th Annual Meeting: 4 Questions with David Conejo, President of New Mexico Rural Hospital Network; Board Member at New Mexico Hospital Association; Chief Executive Officer at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services

David Conejo serves as President of New Mexico Rural Hospital Network; Board Member at New Mexico Hospital Association; and Chief Executive Officer at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Health Care Services.

On April 6th, David will give a presentation on "Fixing The Rural Behavioral Healthcare Fix: Treating 22,000 Addicts" 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 David's session, click here.

Question: What, from your perspective, is the biggest challenge about the future of work for hospitals, and what can they do about it? (i.e. automation, desire for more flexibility, clinician shortages, etc.)

David Canejo: As we know, there are disparities between the level of healthcare people receive from larger systems and those delivered by rural hospitals. This is a challenge for rural non-profits like RMCH and presents itself in two specific ways: clinic mobility and staff shortages. The staff shortages are often supplemented by the use of agency personnel but at a cost three times that of a staff nurse. So what do we do?

Look into technologies such as telemedicine to reach those who perhaps can't travel to your clinic which is the case in areas of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. The funds you receive from these new patients will help cover the costs of the telemedicine equipment. Also, embrace resident training to build for the future as we have done at RMCH where we accept physician resident training in family medicine.

Q: How can hospitals reconcile the need to maintain inpatient volumes with the mission to keep people healthier and out of the hospital?

DC: We can't stop admissions, but we can handle volumes, keep people healthier and out of the hospital. As medical technology advances, there is less need for people to stay in hospitals for long periods of time which might have been the case in the past. Now with the emphasis on preventative care, many people use Annual Wellness Visits to manage their health before an acute situation arises. A lung transplant used to be high risk, but now you can see the lungs with a scan. There are also more respiratory advances. Hip replacements used to take 14 days, now your out the next day. The same with knee replacements.

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

DC: I like going to secluded places like campgrounds and secluded resorts. Places like the Grand Canyon and Sedona. Insightful books that offer opportunities to reflect.

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?

DC: It is axiomatic that every solution has its own disruption. Look at the initial benefit of antibiotics, yet antibiotics have become so widespread they have resistances. Look at the focus on preventative care which actually began with EHRs and is now pervasive and backed by CMS and private insurers. These were and continue to be disruptive.

"What's one lesson you learned early in your career that has helped you lead in healthcare?
The greatest lessons I learned in healthcare were three things on my first day of medical school: “listen to your patients they will tell you what is wrong, don’t be over-enamored with technology, and give every patient something for their time of need”. More true today!

What do you see as the most exciting opportunity in healthcare right now?
With society’s obsession with technology, now is the time to harness cutting edge technology to facilitate the human interaction, not replace it.

Healthcare has had calls for disruption, innovation and transformation for years now. Do you feel we are seeing that change? Why or why not?
As the saying goes, “One person’s innovation is another person’s disruption”. Transformation may be the most over-used word in healthcare today. True transformation (dramatic change) will come from a grass roots movement (outside the corporate walls) and led by synthetical thinkers who by doing what is best for patients will find it is best for business."

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