The problems that keep 6 hospital leaders up at night

The Corner Office series asks healthcare leaders to answer questions about their life in and outside the office.

In each interview, leaders share the healthcare problems they would eliminate overnight. Here are answers collected by Becker's Hospital Review since April.

Keith Churchwell, MD. President of Yale New Haven (Conn.) Hospital: Addressing and finding solutions for healthcare disparities definitely rises to the top of the list. Nationally, we could have predicted — because of the social determinants of health that fuel our nation’s healthcare inequities — that COVID-19 would disproportionately affect minority communities. The fact that we failed to address it sooner — and how unprepared we have been in this crisis — underscores just how much work needs to be done to address those inequities. COVID-19 laid bare an intrinsic problem, but it also created the opportunity to address that problem. We have the opportunity to develop partnerships to solve these inequities, to come together and invest in the educational, nutritional, transportation and economic needs that support health within our communities. If we are to prevent even greater suffering with the next pandemic, we have to take this opportunity to develop pathways of care and processes that will create greater and broader distribution of healthcare resources.  

Bill Gassen. President and CEO of Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.): Many of those we serve live in rural areas. Continuing to increase access to high-quality care in rural areas is what keeps me up at night. 

The farmer in Ellendale, N.D., battling cancer deserves access to expert oncologists just as much as someone living in a densely populated urban city. For too many people living in some of rural America, healthcare may be out of reach — too far away for families and their children. We are committed to transforming the healthcare experience for those living in rural areas, bringing world-class, affordable and seamless care to people whenever and wherever they need it. 

My promise to those we have the privilege to serve is that their care won't be limited by their ZIP code. We're committed to providing world-class care everywhere.

Vedner Guerrier. CEO of Memorial Hospital Miramar (Fla.): I'd eliminate the stereotyping, bias and prejudice that creates healthcare disparities and keeps underserved and underrepresented communities from having better healthcare outcomes.

Rich Liekweg. President and CEO of BJC HealthCare (St. Louis): I would eliminate the inequities and disparities within the American healthcare system. We see it here in St. Louis as we do in every urban center and rural community across the nation. There's much we're doing in St. Louis to address this. We're proud to be part of Greater St. Louis Inc., a new collaborative that brings together business and civic leaders in the region to create jobs, expand inclusive job growth, improve St. Louis' global competitiveness and improve the overall health of the region. We are also part of the St. Louis Anchor Action Network, a newly announced regional partnership designed to eliminate inequities. This commitment goes beyond the four walls of our hospitals and the clinical care we provide. It means being a partner with other businesses and institutions in the community that are providing housing, educational opportunities and jobs. As the largest employer in the region, we have a responsibility to create jobs for those most underserved and to use our spending and purchasing power to support local minority and diverse communities and begin to bridge the gap that has divided us for so long.

Michael Mayo. President and CEO of Baptist Health (Jacksonville, Fla.): Access — closing the gaps of care and social determinants that limit access. I liken this to the quote by Desmond Tutu, "There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in." We, as healthcare providers, must go upstream to assist people in their health before they reach a critical state.

Mike Slubowski. President and CEO of Trinity Health (Livonia, Mich.): Removing inequities and barriers to quality healthcare and social services. There are so many barriers — especially for those who are poor and underserved. The link between healthcare services and social influencers of health requires drastic transformation. Addressing structural racism and inequities is critical. The ability to afford and obtain health insurance, cost of care just to name a few. In addition, we need to shift from a provider-centric mindset to a patient/member focus. Our Trinity Health brand promise is to listen, partner and make it easy for those we serve. We are making progress but have a long way to go to fulfill that promise. If there was something I could fix overnight, it would have to be making sure that I could help every person in our country receive the quality, culturally sensitive care and social services they need in a way that's affordable and easy to navigate.

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