The fastest-growing C-suite job: Why it matters for healthcare

The chief growth officer's presence has been, well, growing

In January, LinkedIn's Economic Graph team identified the CGO as the fastest-growing job in America. The role is particularly prevalent in IT, technology and advertising — but it can add value to health system C-suites too, Jose Lozano, Hackensack Meridian Health's first chief growth officer, told Becker's

Mr. Lozano became the Edison, N.J.-based system's inaugural CGO in October after previously serving as its senior vice president of strategic business partnerships. The positions share some overlap, Mr. Lozano said; partnerships are one aspect of his new, multifaceted role. 

But the CGO title has much more breadth. Mr. Lozano isn't just focused on growing relationships with other organizations. He's interested in growing pretty much anything that can be grown, from Hackensack Meridian's ambulatory map, to its digital footprint, to its workforce capabilities. 

The healthcare industry becomes increasingly complex with each passing year, and it can help to appoint a specific leader to keep an eye on the times. At Hackensack Meridian, that's the CGO. 

"Many organizations have been siloed in a couple of different strategies, and I think having one individual with an umbrella sort of visibility to a couple of those verticals allows [improved] coordination, and the most efficiency and optimization," Mr. Lozano said. "If you look at healthcare where it was 10 years ago, five years ago, and you look at where it's at today, it's dramatically different. And it's only going to change for the next five years." 

Many questions of growth and change — "How will we try to acquire more patients? How are we optimizing our footprint? What is staying in the hospital and what's going outside the hospital? Who's keeping up with the latest trends in technology and disruptors?" — now fall, at least in part, to Mr. Lozano. 

He approaches his priorities with a blend of operations and strategy, considering not just how a system will function today, but how it might add value down the road. And, like many health system leaders, he's paying special attention to ambulatory. 

"My No. 1, biggest priority is figuring out where our footprint is, balancing out the services in a comprehensive way and creating that one-stop-shop model that allows patients and consumers to seek health services without necessarily going into a hospital," Mr. Lozano said.

"The optimization of our footprint is definitely a goal as we are really taking advantage of the real estate market right now when commercial real estate is a little up in the air," he continued. "It's what I would consider a buyer's market when it comes to commercial. And so if we want to optimize our footprint, this is the time to do it, as companies are shedding space and we can probably convert those into medical needs." 

His secondary mission is to strengthen the digital connection between Hackensack Meridian and its patients, noting: "You can move money from one bank account to another, you can pay your mortgage, you can check your Social Security balance, you can do anything and everything by the phone. We really need to make sure that healthcare is keeping up with that. Scheduling appointments, seeing your test results, communicating with your physician, all of those need a better digital experience."

In addition, Mr. Lozano is zeroed in on finding nontraditional partners, which can indirectly maximize revenue growth. For example, partnerships with Uber and Lyft can reduce the number of missed appointments — meaning fewer lost hours and dollars per workday. 

And, Mr. Lozano emphasized, there can be no growth where there is no team. Recruitment is another big focus in his role as chief growth officer, which has led to a valuable partnership with the human resources department. 

It's too soon to determine if the CGO is having a particularly meteoric year, or if the role might embed itself in C-suites for decades to come. But at Hackensack Meridian, the position is poised for longevity. 

"It's a dynamic role fulfilling the needs of the organization," Mr. Lozano said, "wherever we think the future is."

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