UnityPoint CEO Kevin Vermeer on creating a culture that feels like family

In this special Speaker Series, Becker's Healthcare caught up with Kevin Vermeer, president and CEO of West Des Moines, Iowa-based UnityPoint Health.  

Mr. Vermeer will speak on a keynote panel at Becker's Hospital Review 7th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable titled, "The Most Pressing Issues Facing Health Systems," at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Learn more about the event and register to attend in Chicago.

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

Kevin Vermeer: I'm incredibly grateful to work with a team that sincerely cares for others. At UnityPoint Health, I'm surrounded by people who are genuinely empathetic, hopeful, smart, personable and compassionate. Learning from and just being around that type of energy is what I love about going to work.

We put a lot of heart into creating a culture that feels like family. We listen to each other and stay open to new perspectives, but we also love, support and respect one another. We're all rallied around the same mission, and it's really amazing to have an atmosphere where the people we serve know they'll be treated like family, too.

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

KV: It all comes down to trust. At UnityPoint Health, we hold an unwavering belief that physicians and executives are on the same team. Both groups need to feel like the other has their back in order to make the best recommendations possible. No member of our team has a larger influence on value-based care than physicians. It's very important to me that we create space at the table for their input to be integrated into the governance, management and decisions about care.

We've made a couple of investments that have paid dividends to create trust and alignment. The first is bringing together our physician governing council — practicing physicians in our ambulatory division — and our CEO forum — regional CEOs and senior executives — twice a year for strategic planning and engagement discussions. We use the time in between to update both groups on the work happening in our strategies and spaces. The second is our investment in developing our physicians through a physician leadership academy, which focuses on a variety of topics like communication, financial and quality management, managing teams and driving results. We've learned the collective insights of physicians and leaders make us a much more consumer-focused organization.

Q: What's one conviction in health care that needs to be challenged?

KV: Healthcare has to evolve, and it's no secret the landscape is changing. Traditional healthcare business models are vulnerable to competitors focused on creating value and meeting consumer needs. If you want to stay relevant in this industry, you have to adapt and stay one step ahead — and that's exactly what we're doing at UnityPoint Health.

In my mind, healthcare organizations have two choices: to be one of the disrupted or be a disrupter. I prefer the latter. We are pushing ourselves to think about what we can do differently, whether it involves redefining access within communities, lowering costs or finding new ways to grow and deliver easier, more personal care. At the same time, we are devoted to maintaining an exceptional patient experience, and showing people how much they matter.

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