5 healthcare chief strategy officers on their most pressing issues

Hospital and health system chief strategy officers must balance their focus on topics ranging from workforce challenges to evolving consumer behaviors.

To gain insight into their priorities, Becker's asked five leaders to discuss the most pressing issues they are facing. Their responses are below, in alphabetical order. 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Tom Clark. Chief Strategy and Growth Officer of Avera Health (Sioux Falls, S.D.): One of the major issues we are currently facing is looking at areas of strategic growth while also balancing the realities a global pandemic has presented. As we look at these strategic opportunities, we must also consider many factors like financial performance, limited capital availability for both current internal needs and growth projects, ongoing workforce challenges and the ability to staff new ventures.

Chris Cornue. Chief Strategy Officer of Cone Health (Greensboro, N.C.): One of the most important issues chief strategy officers face is the ability to align the longer-term (more than five years out) strategy to the most effective way to execute on that strategy. Any thoughtful strategic direction, with multiple priorities, plans, tactics and measures, needs to be implemented for immediate near-term success that builds the right foundation for longer term relevance and sustainability. This is one reason I like to think of chief strategy officers as also "chief influence officers." They need to be adept at driving needed change throughout the organization, and influence is often the best way to do that successfully.

Jennifer Dauer. Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer of The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center (Columbus): The most pressing issue is the real-time collision of several unprecedented factors — the great resignation and its impact on talent, significant shifts in consumer and patient behaviors toward healthcare, issues related to health equity, explosion in technology solutions, evolution of payers and participants across the healthcare ecosystem, supply chain disruptions, shifts in work and how work will be done in the future, and so many more. 

While CSOs rarely operate with complete information, the pressing issue is the magnitude of all of these at the same time. The concurrence puts intensified pressure on our ability to predict and plan as we have in the past. At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, we're working to challenge ourselves to build new capabilities and think and behave differently. Doing this will allow us to continue to deliver exceptional care, identify and translate breakthrough discoveries, and develop healthcare talent for the future.

Dr. Sunita Vadakath. Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of MyMichigan Health (Midland): Managing healthcare consumer expectations in the face of innovative technology and nontraditional entrants into the medical or office setting will be the biggest challenge for CSOs. Resource strapped healthcare providers will also struggle to keep up with the transformation that will be needed to be competitive in the new digital landscape. Creative strategies to address workforce shortages will be another area most of us work on.

The pandemic induced decline in mergers and acquisitions seems to be rebounding with a lot of activity from retail giants and technology companies. Health systems, though, would focus on creating care networks that would address patient access and health inequities.

David Whitehead. Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer of Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare: The top three issues for chief strategy officers reflect the shifting healthcare environment and talent strategy needs: Accelerating the adoption of value-based payments to create more accessible, affordable care options; developing more comprehensive care-at-home programs; and building a sustainable workforce that supports goals of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

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