Becker's Speaker Series: 4 questions with the University of Chicago Medicine COO Jason Keeler

Jason Keeler has served as executive vice president and COO of the University of Chicago Medicine since 2014.

He previously served as vice president of clinical and procedural services at the University of Chicago Medical Center since 2011. Before that, he held roles at Maywood, Ill.-based Loyola University Medical Center and St. Louis-based Barnes-Jewish Hospital.Keeler Jason Headshot (1)

On Thursday, April 20, 2017, Mr. Keeler will speak at the Becker's Hospital Review 8th 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 from April 17 through April 20 in Chicago.

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

Question: What sparked your interest in healthcare?

Jason Keeler: I experienced healthcare firsthand as my grandmother battled cancer during my undergraduate years. As a business major, I found hospital administration as a way to impact the care provided to patients and their families by ensuring caregivers had the necessary resources and support to do their jobs.

Q: The session you're speaking in at the April conference is called "Transformational Leadership in Value-Based Care at the University of Chicago Medicine." With the push to value-based care, how is the University of Chicago Medicine changing its leadership outlook?

JK: UCM has been engaged in a LEAN transformation for nearly six years. Driving value for the customer is at the core of LEAN philosophy. At UCM, we continually look for ways to drive greater value for our patients and their families. The transition to payment for value only adds to our burning platform for change and increases the incentive to do what is right for our patients.

Q: What do you enjoy most about Chicago?

JK: Professionally, I enjoy the competitive healthcare market in the Chicagoland area. Competition for healthcare providers, staff and most importantly, patients, helps keep the organization focused on continuous improvement. I have worked in other more consolidated markets where the need for that drive is not as apparent.

Personally, I enjoy Chicago as a sports town and I love being outside in the summer. My favorite days are spent boating on Lake Michigan.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges facing healthcare COOs today?

JK: One of the biggest challenges I see is how to be cost competitive as an academic medical center. The cost structure of an academic medical center with its three-part mission is inherently higher than non-teaching and research institutions. Our patients, referring physicians and hospitals expect us to offer a higher level of care with the latest cutting-edge technologies and treatment options, all of which come at a premium price.

The challenge is to balance each part of the mission while still remaining a viable option for private insurers. Declining reimbursement rates have put a great deal of pressure on academic medical centers for cost control. Thus far, we have been up to the challenge, but there is no foreseeable end to the downward pressure on hospital revenues.

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