Where 17 CEOs are focused for the rest of 2023

Becker's asked C-suite executives from hospitals and health systems across the U.S. to share their organization's areas of growth for the next few years. 

The 17 executives featured in this article are all speaking at the Becker's Healthcare 14th Annual Meeting on April 8-11, 2024, at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

To learn more about this event, click here.

If you would like to join as a speaker or a reviewer, contact agendateam@beckershealthcare.com. For more information on sponsorship opportunities, contact Jessica Cole at jcole@beckershealthcare.com

As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who will speak at our conference. The following are answers from our speakers at the event.

Question: What are your top 2-3 priorities headed into the second half of 2023?

Cliff A. Megerian, MD. CEO and Jane and Henry Meyer CEO Distinguished Chair at University Hospitals (Cleveland): Last year, our industry faced an economic tsunami, and while I don't think we are currently facing a giant wave, the healthcare industry continues to navigate rough waters -- dominated by increasing costs, shrinking margins, staffing issues, and an ever-increasing need to re-imagine how we deliver care.

At University Hospitals, we developed a robust strategic plan prior to the pandemic and accelerated that plan during 2022 to address the myriad challenges our industry is facing. In 2023, we brought many aspects of our plan to fruition, such as completing the $236 million expansion of our UH Ahuja Medical Center; forming a joint venture to expand our urgent care offering; and accelerating our movement to value with the launch of our new Veale Initiative for Health Care Innovation. As we commence the second half of the year, we will execute additional aspects of our plan: volume enhancement through care re-imagination, optimizing our cost structure, and implementation of a new electronic health record for our system.

Our Systems of Care operating model will create volume centers throughout our system. Importantly, this model will help us increase volume and market share in services that are growing and more evenly distribute our volume. At the same time, it will enable the best and highest use of resources while taking into account reimbursement and cost structures. As a result, we will elevate the service we deliver to our patients and improve outcomes, as we know quality is enhanced with concentrated volumes – our Centers of Excellence model has already proven this. 

We have also invested heavily in a new central nervous system – Epic. We successfully deployed the new EHR in our primary care offices earlier this year, and will deploy systemwide at the end of September. Epic will improve the point-of-care experience for our patients and caregivers, better enable patients to access their personal health information, and advance our population health analytics. ​The Epic implementation is the largest single project endeavor in the 157-year history of University Hospitals. It reflects the best of UH since it relies on all of us, working together as a system, and supporting each other to achieve our goals. We are thrilled to be able to deliver this transformational platform for our patients, our caregivers and our community.

Bill Gassen. President and CEO of Sanford Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.): First and foremost, we are focused on investing in our workforce and building a strong culture. At Sanford Health, the largest rural health system in the U.S., our people are our greatest strength. Our more than 2,800 physicians and advanced practice providers allow us to deliver on our promise of providing world-class care across the upper Midwest. One of our top priorities is making sure our people are supported and have the resources they need to be successful. This includes looking at how we work differently by leveraging technology, automation and predictive analytics to allow our teams to focus on patient care and drive improvements in quality. We are also building a pipeline of the next generation of physicians and nurses through strong partnerships with medical and nursing schools in our region to strengthen the rural healthcare workforce of the future. 

Expanding access for the underserved and reducing health disparities also continues to drive our work. As part of Sanford Health's transformative $350 million virtual care initiative, we recently opened our first in a series of rural satellite clinics, which will offer primary care services through virtual visits including follow-up care appointments, nurse visits, immunizations, urgent care visits and behavioral health care. In addition, we've launched a self-scheduling option for our patients to make a virtual behavioral health appointment. We are also using telehealth and innovative remote patient monitoring to expand access to maternal health care and reduce disparate outcomes for women in rural communities across our footprint and look forward to continuing to build on these efforts. 

I am proud of all of the ways we are leaning into solving the challenges of rural care delivery while also prioritizing operational discipline to maximize the impact of our fully integrated system. As we head into the last part of 2023, we will continue to be open to strategic growth and innovation opportunities that advance the needs of our patients and employees and ensure sustainability. 

Holly A. McCormack, DNP, RN. President and CEO of Cottage Hospital (Woodsville, N.H.): The top priorities for the second half of 2023 are many and varied. Cottage Hospital is an independent critical access hospital. As we emerge from the pandemic, one of our focus areas continues to be our fiscal health. Our expenses related to contract labor and locum providers are still greater than pre-pandemic levels. The focus must remain on innovative solutions to staffing needs and continuing to grow and support a culture that makes our facility stand out. In addition to the work on recruitment and retention, we are focusing on the vital work of health equity and aligning our mission, vision, and values. 

Michael Stapleton. President and CEO of Thompson Health (Canandaigua, N.Y.): Recruitment and retention and elimination of traveler positions continues to be our number one priority. We have a weekly Recruitment and Retention Operations Committee which has been establishing targets and improving our hiring process. We are collecting a great deal of meaningful data regarding attrition so we can put process improvements in place to retain our associates longer. We have established a Healthcare Education Fund to assist our CNAs with becoming LPNs, our LPNs becoming RNs and our RNs becoming NPs. This fund covers tuition as well as stipends so our associates can work part-time while they attend school part-time but can still bring home a full-time wage and pay their bills. We have also completed a 10-year master facility plan so we are working diligently to create a timeline and operationalize to meet our strategic goals.

Nancy Howell Agee. CEO of Carilion Clinic (Roanoke, Va.): The workforce continues to be a priority, particularly the recruitment and retention of nurses. We knew there was going to be a nursing shortage prior to the pandemic as the result of Baby Boomer retirements and broadening career choices for women. For many reasons, the shortage escalated during COVID and seems more concerning as we look to supply vs. need going forward.

We've sharpened our focus on workforce development, expanding rewards for staff referrals, incentivizing former and retired nurses to return, and establishing new scholarships and research opportunities. Importantly, we're partnering with colleges and universities to create a broader and sustainable pipeline. 

We'll never have enough people, so the question becomes: "How do we redesign care using technology to reduce work burden so the incredible nurses and clinicians are doing the things they do best?"

Equally important is financial recovery. The operational and financial consequences of COVID-19 continue to severely affect us. While the number of patients seeking care is rebounding, ongoing COVID-related issues limit capacity through elevated employee absenteeism, workforce availability and accommodation of COVID patients. We're also seeing a shift in the payer mix from commercial to government payers, reducing revenue from admissions.

It's going to get harder to achieve a significant margin just as we need to invest in technology and care for our aging community. At least in the short run, these investments will be cost-intensive. That's why we're pushing hard on both talent and care redesign. 

For all its challenges, it's an incredibly exciting time in healthcare. New devices, more precise medicines, new products, moving care outside the hospital walls, short-acting anesthetics, minimally invasive surgery, co-bots, chatbots and more, all present great opportunities for improving care.

Harold Paz, MD, MS. Executive Vice President of Health Sciences at Stony Brook University; CEO at Stony Brook University Medicine (N.Y.): At Stony Brook Medicine, we are transforming our health system into an innovative health platform that addresses critical access needs to advance the health and wellbeing of all those that we serve. We know that consumers need and want healthcare that is easy to access and affordable. Moving from hospitals to health systems was an essential step in the process of healthcare evolution. The next step is the creation of health platforms that achieve the highest quality care possible for everyone beginning in their home and local community. In doing so, we can best address, not just healthcare, but also the social, behavioral and environmental determinants of health. 

An innovative health platform serves as a foundation for transforming our health sciences training programs to prepare a workforce for the future. Education must incorporate AI, robotics, virtual and digital technologies to prepare graduates for their professional future. Moving to interprofessional health science education early in the training of physicians, nurses and other health professions students offers them the opportunity to learn to work in teams and gain skill sets that advance quality and value. 

Creating diverse pathways for students to enter the health professions offers them opportunities for professional success in an array of occupations that require a human touch and cannot easily be replaced by AI or robotics. A well-prepared, diverse, healthcare workforce, working in the home and local community, all the way through to the most acute inpatient settings, will be best positioned to improve the overall health and well-being of diverse patient populations. 

Patients want ease of access, and they want healthcare that is affordable. We must leverage biomedical research to identify innovative ways to deliver value-driven healthcare and improved outcomes. We want to build a model that reflects the future instead of relying on past successes. Personalized healthcare will be critical for patients trying to stay out of the hospital through preventative care and education. High-quality hospitals that are value-driven and care for the critically ill are not going away, but it is essential for us to develop innovative, seamless, approaches to deliver the right care, at the right time and in the right place.

Robert Calway, MHA, BS, MT(ASCP). President and CEO of New England Life Care (South Portland, Maine): New England Life Care is a cooperative hospital services organization providing home infusion services to almost 70 not-for-profit acute care hospitals in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Like our member hospitals, NELC is facing rising labor, supply and drug costs that are eroding our margins. 

Labor markets are incredibly tight in New England and throughout the U.S., and will not rebound quickly. More care is being delivered outside of acute care environments care in the community and home. These market forces create a significant growth challenge to NELC and inform our strategy in the second half of 2023. NELC is focused on increasing staff engagement, connectedness, and sense of purpose to the company's mission to increase staff retention. NELC is also focused on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the work process to improve the productivity of our existing workforce. We are accomplishing this by applying new technologies like robotic process automation and automated intelligence to eliminate mundane and routine tasks allowing staff to work at the upper end of their experience and capabilities. 

We are driving interoperability to increase our ability to transfer data electronically and to avoid the time and errors associated with manual data entry. Interestingly, engaging your staff throughout the organization in the conceptualization, development and implementation of these solutions is a very effective way of having staff feel important, valued and embracing of the changes it brings and improves overall staff retention.

Stephen DelRossi. Interim CEO and CFO of Northern Inyo Healthcare District (Bishop, Calif.): I am working to move the culture of the hospital to one that supports change, champions improvements, and accepts responsibility. With that in mind, my first priority is the right size of the organization; right-sizing means putting the right people in the right position and not being overstaffed. 

My second priority is to continue the improvement of the revenue cycle by holding staff and third-party vendors accountable for metric improvements. 

My third priority is to improve throughput in the clinics and RHC by providing the training and resources needed; this requires a change in culture for all involved, including the providers and support staff.

Kenneth Rose. President and CEO of Texas Health Hospital Mansfield: Going into the second half of the year I am focusing our team on two simple concepts:

  1. Continue stabilizing our team - this is to say reduce turnover and recruit talent. 
  2. Grow strategic (smart) services - we are a hospital in rapid growth mode in a dynamic market, so this means we must be focused on smart growth.

Danielle McCamey, DNP. Founder and CEO, DNPs of Color; Assistant Professor and Assistant Dean, Clinical Practice and Relationships at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (Baltimore): From a leadership perspective, my priority is focusing on the development of a few initiatives that we have planned to launch. From a human perspective, my priority is centering self-care and continuing to uplift my team to be their best selves personally and professionally.

Seth Ciabotti. CEO of MSU Health Care at Michigan State University (East Lansing, Mich.): 1. Finding new partners both public and private to increase our covered lives. 

2. Launching our digital health capabilities further to both patients and large employers. 

3. Optimizing employee engagement.

Achintya Moulick, MD. CEO of CarePoint Health (Bayonne, N.J.): Going into the second half of 2023 here are my top priorities:

1. System integration using lean processes to prevent duplication and optimize the use of resources. 

2. Create ease of access between patients and care providers using mobile applications and homegrown innovation.

3. Add services for care providers for their well-being inside and outside the campuses as we grow our programs. We have set up hotlines like Mindline for frontline workers and lounges for doctors and nurses as we create a working environment that is efficient and friendly at the same time. We keep in mind at all times physician and nursing burnout.

Patrick Frias, MD. President and CEO of Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego: At Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego, we're focused on several key priorities, including an extensive construction project that will reimagine our main campus over the next decade. The centerpiece of the initiative is a billion-dollar, 500,000-square-foot, seven-story Intensive Care Unit and Emergency Services Pavilion. This year, we're officially breaking ground, beginning demolition and continuing the detailed "make ready" work necessary to ensure our operations run smoothly during construction.

Another priority is the expansion of our efforts to address the youth mental health crisis. We're opening a regional behavioral health hub in Hemet (in the neighboring county of Riverside, California) this year that will combine primary pediatric care with embedded behavioral health care providers. This is the fourth hub in our transforming mental health initiative that focuses on early detection, intervention and recovery for children and young people with behavioral health needs.

Finally, we're rolling out our plan to support staff health and wellness by focusing on eight elements of well-being: physical, emotional, financial, occupational, environmental, spiritual, social, and intellectual. The plan is part of our recruitment and retention strategy to encourage a happy, healthy and resilient workforce.

David Verinder. President and CEO of Sarasota Memorial Health Care System (Fla.): Sarasota Memorial Health Care System has cared for the Suncoast community for nearly a century, guided by a deeply rooted public mission. The only nonprofit, community-owned health system in Sarasota County, Sarasota Memorial has evolved over the decades to meet our growing community's healthcare needs.

Heading into the second half of 2023, our top priorities include:

1. New facilities: We are on track to open our new Cornell Behavioral Health Pavilion in December. The new facility will expand and enhance behavioral and mental healthcare throughout the region. We also recently began clearing land on our Sarasota campus for a new Cancer Pavilion, part of our expanding Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute. The Pavilion will offer an array of outpatient services to complement the care provided in a new inpatient and surgical oncology tower we opened in 2021.

2. Expanding capacity and access to care in Venice and surrounding south Sarasota County. Our 110-bed SMH-Venice campus has operated at full capacity since it opened in November 2021. Our team continues to manage extremely high patient volumes, especially since the privately owned ShorePoint Health-Venice hospital abruptly closed last fall. We are building a new tower that will add more than 100 new patient care suites and also expanding our Emergency Care Center and Surgical Center. These projects, which will double our capacity to treat patients at our Venice hospital, are slated to be completed next year.

3. Recruiting and retaining highly skilled clinicians to care for our growing population. Sarasota Memorial commits significant resources each year toward staff development and creating an environment that allows our team to grow and thrive. We recently broke ground on a new Research & Education Institute, which will attract highly skilled, research-focused physicians, nurses and clinicians to the region and expand access to advanced treatments and care in our community.

Bill Morice, MD, PhD. President and CEO of Mayo Clinic Laboratories (Rochester, Minn.): Our top priority remains to provide patients and providers with the diagnostic tests, services, and knowledge needed to improve health and well-being across the globe. As we focus on the second half of 2023, our two primary objectives are ensuring that our staff have the tools needed to provide the best support and services to our clients, and a relentless pursuit of innovation so we can continue to expand those tools and make our tests and knowledge more accessible and scalable. And these objectives are very much interdependent, innovations such as large-language models, machine learning, and automation will liberate our staff to focus on the work they find most valuable and rewarding while also optimizing the diagnostic services we provide to the healthcare organizations and patients that rely on us.

Kenneth Waller. CEO of Norwalk Community Health Center (Conn.): 

1. Strengthening and diversifying revenue streams to optimize organizational sustainability, mission, and service delivery capacity.

2. Implementing digital health strategies to expand medical access capacity, establish alternative pathways to gain medical care services, and to ensure Norwalk Community Health is well positioned to effectively respond in a public health emergency.

3. Establish workforce development strategies to ensure our organization has competent adequate medical professionals to meet the increasing healthcare demands in our community.

Amit Rastogi, MD, President and CEO of Jupiter Medical Center (Fla.): As we enter into the second half of 2023, Jupiter Medical Center continues to focus on growing our depth and breadth of services, developing new strategic partnerships and expanding our geographic footprint while maintaining a focus on quality, safety and patient experience.

As the area’s only independent, not-for-profit health system that has been anchored in the community for nearly 45 years, Jupiter Medical Center is keenly aware of the current and future needs of our community, and we are launching innovative strategies that expand access to the highest level of care for our region and beyond.

In early December, we will open our highly anticipated 90,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art Johnny and Terry Gray Surgical Institute. With 16 "smart" operating rooms to accommodate complex surgeries and two state-of-the-art hybrid suites, we will provide patients and their families with the best options for their health.

This fall, we will break ground on a new five-story, 92-bed patient care tower. The $110 million project will add to our existing 248-bed capacity for inpatient care, expanding access to our award-winning oncology, cardiovascular and orthopedics services. In addition to the tower, we are building a five-deck, 800-space parking pavilion. Both projects are on track to be completed in 2025.

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