Methodist Le Bonheur President/CEO Michael Ugwueke's 3 tips to align physicians, hospital executives around the same goal

In this special Speaker Series, Becker's Healthcare caught up with Michael Ugwueke, president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tenn.

Mr. Ugwueke will speak on a keynote panel at Becker's Hospital Review 7th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable titled "How Outside Disruptive Forces are Impacting Healthcare" at 3:15 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 12. Learn more about the event and register to attend in Chicago.

Question: What keeps you excited and motivated to come to work each day?

Michael Ugwueke: In spite of massive regulations, reimbursement and market disruption and challenges faced by health systems today, I think healthcare is still a very noble and rewarding profession. What keeps me excited and motivated to come to work each day is being a part of a healthcare system whose vision is to be nationally recognized for excellence in clinical quality, patient safety and compassionate care to improve every life that we touch. When you witness the commitment of our 13,000 associates and our 2,500 physician partners working hard every day to separate conjoined twins, help stroke patients live normal lives afterward; return cancer patients back to their normal lives and other miracles, you quickly realize how lucky you are to have the privilege to be part of something bigger than yourself.

Q: If you could pass along one piece of advice to another hospital executive, what would it be?

MU: My one piece of advice to another hospital executive would be to keep "the main thing the main thing," or focus on moving from sick care to healthcare.  It's very easy to get distracted today with all the challenges happening in our industry. Yes, it is a business, but I believe that it's not just a regular business. The decisions that we make or don't make for whatever reason have the potential to change the course of someone's life.  Despite the increasing industrialization of our once cottage business by nontraditional players like Amazon, J.P. Morgan, etc., all healthcare is still local and let's not forget that many of our patients are our neighbors, friends and church members.  

Q: How can hospital executives and physicians ensure they're aligned around the same strategic goal?

MU: One of the ways to ensure physicians and hospital executives are aligned around the same strategic goal is to ensure full inclusion of physicians in the development of the organization's strategic goals. It's much easier said than done, unless the executives are intentional and deliberate in creating the environment that supports collaboration. First, it starts by ensuring that physicians are active members of the health system leadership and feels their participation and input matters.

Second is to be extremely transparent with sharing information with the entire organization, including all physicians to ensure that everyone is reading, seeing and hearing the same thing which is essential for developing and maintaining trust.

Third, do not make promises you can't keep. When unsure, be truthful and direct and avoid what I call "slow no," which is when an administrator does not want to respond negatively to a request by a physician to avoid conflict or purposely delays the decision while hoping that the request would go away.

Q: What do you see as the most vulnerable part of a hospital's business?

MU: The most vulnerable part of a hospital business are those services that can easily be provided in outpatient areas, including services that can easily be disrupted by technology. With the proliferation of technology and nontraditional providers vying for the outpatient market and targeting consumers that are attracted by access, value and choice, similar to how they purchase other services now. We know that more than 50 percent of patient care is now provided on outpatients and the projection is that up to 70 percent of services currently provided in the hospital will be done on outpatients over the next several years. What that means is that hospitals will be for critical patients including those that require high-risk procedures that cannot be done on outpatients due to co-morbidities, etc.

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