CEOs play the long game when it comes to future planning

From expanding healthcare access to innovation, health system CEOs have a lot on their minds as they think about the next year, as well as the next five or 10 years.  

Financial sustainability, retention and recruitment strategies, thoughtful adoption of technology, and meeting the demand for outpatient services were all common themes that emerged when CEOs discussed their near and long-term plans. 

Here is what five CEOs have told Becker's this year about their priorities both now and in the future: 

Pete November. CEO of Ochsner Health (New Orleans): Trying to be that place where our physicians and our caregivers want to practice because it's the right environment and they have all the resources they need. And they're excited about the mission of the organization. That's a big focus of where we need to go strategically. Certainly the digital evolution that's happened in healthcare and being very focused on that both from the perspective of finding new ways to provide care to our patients, better in different ways of providing care, using digital technology and using the technology to make it easier to practice medicine and provide care. Technology, too, can allow us to do things that we can't even imagine today in healthcare that will become possible. We're very focused on that, very focused on access. And I think we all know that healthcare is moving more to the outpatient setting. When that happens, your access is so important, and we've got to give our patients the ability to easily navigate the healthcare system. 

Then I'm always very focused on making sure you have the right culture and organization. So people get up and know this is where they want to work because it's the right environment and they know they're appreciated and cared for and cared about and have opportunities and that they want to stay here. And that people want to come here because we have that culture. 

I also certainly want to continue our efforts around innovation. We definitely will continue to focus on our risk areas and ability to take financial risk within value-based care. Then continued focus on programmatic building. We've seen this through our partnership with Houston-based MD Anderson Cancer Center, for example.

Joon Sup Lee, MD. CEO of Emory Healthcare (Atlanta): The advantage we have is a bustling, diverse and growing metropolitan area. But ultimately, for us to sustain and continue with our mission, we're going have to grow our primary care, and we have to do that as rapidly as possible. We don't have enough primary care physicians as a whole, much less within the healthcare system. We also have to aggressively increase our capacity to perform outpatient care, whether that's in a formal ambulatory surgery center or a multispecialty center. And third, we are still pretty heavily concentrated in the greater metropolitan Atlanta area, and we need an ability to spread geographically. I don't think that it is practical for us to continuously build hospitals. Those imperatives for us to grow the outpatient component of primary care, as well as the geographical spread, are definitely going to require some different types of partnerships that will allow us to grow with the speed that's needed and the complexity in terms of coordinating that care.

Michael Charlton. President and CEO of AtlantiCare (Atlantic City, N.J.): Goal No. 1 is what we're calling Vision 2030 to set the vision in the strategic direction for the organization. And not that finite time frame of typical strategic plans, two or three years, but really what is the next six years going to bring toward the beginning of the new decade for AtlantiCare? What's our vision of this organization? How to best serve our patients and our community given the framework of where healthcare is headed. 

The second key priority is how we support the well-being and the holistic well-being of our workforce. What is the workforce of the future going to look like? We deliver exceptional care to our patients, but we also make sure that our workforce is taken care of.

Joyce Markiewicz, RN. President and CEO of Catholic Health (Buffalo, N.Y.): We're following our strategic plan very closely right now because, like every other health system, we've experienced financial losses. We've dealt with post-pandemic and pandemic. And it's extremely important as an organization that we continue to take care of the work that is foundational to stabilize the organization. That that piece is critical to us. But I also know that we have to do that simultaneously with looking for new opportunities and making sure that we're continuing to grow, especially outside the hospital in that ambulatory space. So we'll continue to remain focused in those areas as well. It's like conducting an orchestra. We've got to make sure that people are focused on their roles. Some of those roles are making sure that we're stabilizing our foundation, and we have other individuals that are focused on growth.

Warner Thomas. President and CEO of Sutter Health (Sacramento, Calif.): We've set up five pillars for our strategy. One is to be the best place to work and to practice medicine. At the end of the day, we're in a war for talent in healthcare, and you've got to be the best place for physicians, for clinicians, for leaders, for nurses. And that's so important if you're going to win moving forward. You must work hard on diversity and inclusion, and build those programs. 

The second pillar is around how we coordinate and serve more patients. That's where access is the key. We're relentlessly focused on how we improve access for our patients, and that's through a large ambulatory expansion. We've been building new ambulatory locations throughout Northern California. But it's also building more digital access capability. It's working hard on service and, and how we continue to make navigation easier for the organization. Also as part of serving more patients and access is training the next generation. We need to expand our hiring of positions. We need to expand our training of physicians. 

The third pillar is to develop a connected, convenient patient experience. And our operating thesis is that successful systems in the future are going to have a large regional ambulatory platform. You must have a hospital platform as well, but the platform is critical, and you have to integrate it with a large digital platform with online appointment scheduling, analytics, to provide an integrated experience across your entire system. And this whole concept of connection means being connected to your patients all the time, not only when they're in your facilities, but when they're home, when they're traveling. Are you thinking about them? Are you being proactive in how you educate them about testing and annual physicals and annual screening? This idea of having a connected experience, a digital platform connected to a large inventory platform, is critically important.

Our fourth pillar is focused around whole-person health and moving the payment system and value-based care. Continuing to transition our thinking from fee-for-service to more global payment orientation. 

And then finally, we must be a great community asset, improving our patient community and societal health. We're nonprofit. We're here to serve our communities, and we want to do everything we can to be part of the solution to improve health in the communities that we serve. 

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