Ascension's plan to transform healthcare through innovation: Q&A with President and CEO Joseph Impicciche

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President and CEO of Ascension Joseph Impicciche is leading the 150-hospital health system through a strategic transformation to better serve its communities and improve healthcare delivery.

 

Here, Mr. Impicciche outlines his top priorities and key opportunities in ambulatory healthcare and digital transformation.

Question: Can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about Ascension?

Joe Impicciche: I serve as president and chief executive officer for Ascension. We are one of the leading nonprofit and Catholic health systems in the country. In my role, I lead the Ascension Leadership Team as we work collaboratively with our 150,000 associates and 40,000 aligned providers to advance our mission of providing compassionate, personalized care to all, especially those who are most in need.

Ascension has operations across 2,600 sites of care, including 150 hospitals and more than 50 senior living facilities. We care for patients and families in communities across 20 states and the District of Columbia. Our national ministry also includes Ascension’s numerous subsidiaries which cover a wide range of services including physician practice management, facilities management and group purchasing. Prior to my current role, I served as president and chief operating officer of Ascension and earlier as executive vice president and general counsel.

Q: What are your top priorities as you lead Ascension?

JI: My first priority is advancing Ascension’s mission to deliver compassionate, personalized care to all with special attention to persons living in poverty and those most vulnerable. As part of a national Catholic health ministry, we are extending the healing ministry of Jesus, and that influences everything that we do.

Our mission is foundational to our work to transform healthcare. Since taking this role eight months ago, one of my top priorities has also been to advance Ascension’s efforts to transform healthcare through innovation across the continuum of care. To accomplish this, I have worked closely with our senior leadership team to guide all elements of our health ministry’s operations through our advanced strategic direction and Mission-inspired Transformation.

Our mission also calls us to be "advocates for a compassionate and just society through our actions and our words." Just as our courageous sponsors forged a path to provide Catholic healthcare in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, we, too, are called to forge a path for the future of Catholic healthcare that is both sustainable and relevant. No matter the challenge, we commit to maintaining the Catholic identity that has been central to our past, present and future.

That is why I also consider it our responsibility to prioritize and advocate on a number of public health issues, underscoring the importance of providing greater access to care, especially for those who are underserved; addressing healthcare disparities; bringing attention to the public health issue of gun violence; and calling for the need to reduce drug costs.

Q: What are you most excited about at Ascension?

JI: I'm most excited about our associates and their commitment to our mission. They are making a difference in the lives of millions of people we have the privilege of serving. I am also excited about all of the innovative things going on at Ascension. These efforts are transforming healthcare so we can better serve all persons, especially the vulnerable.

Last year, we announced our Mission-inspired Transformation model as a way to guide our efforts to reimagine new ways of working to support our mission and focus to deliver compassionate, personalized care where, when and how it is needed, to all individuals and communities served, with special attention to those who are most in need. The initiative is three-fold: evolve Ascension's operating model to create more integrated, empowered teams that foster greater alignment and accountability; advance an organizational culture defined by a participatory community of high-functioning teams, compassionate caregivers and servant leaders; and adopt collaborative, multidisciplinary teams to implement innovative solutions using design thinking and agile ways of working.

With this restructured operating model and flattened organizational approach, we've been able to tap into the unique skills and contributions of both longtime and next-generation leaders with varied backgrounds and talents. Since launching this model, our teams have been able to make important decisions faster and find a renewed sense of connection to our mission. Despite the challenges and rapid pace of change, one thing that continues to stand the test of time is our mission.

Our collaborative teams bring together multidisciplinary groups of associates and leaders to envision and implement transformational solutions using design thinking and new ways of working. Thus far, Ascension has formed the following nine teams to help bring the Mission-inspired Transformation to life:

• Building socially integrated systems of human flourishing
• Delivering the 2025 consumer experience
• Bringing health and healing to the home
• Redesigning the front door to Ascension’s health system
• Designing the caregiver experience of the future
• Redefining excellence in surgical care
• Sustaining a community-driven ministry presence
• Growing covered individuals through strategic purchaser contracting
• Re-envisioning access, care and health for the vulnerable

I'm also excited about the progress of our unified brand and our One Ascension journey. In 2015, Ascension launched our One Ascension journey, which continues to bring people, standardized processes and our Ascension brand across 2,600 sites of care together in more intentional ways. Having a consistent name for our facilities and services across the country has made it clearer and easier for patients to access the care they need and to sense our connectedness.

Functioning as an integrated health ministry with a unified brand also gives us a greater ability to speak with one voice on national policies impacting the poor and vulnerable.

Q: Can you share with us thoughts regarding ambulatory and digital transformation?

JI: When it comes to digital transformation, we know the healthcare environment is changing rapidly, largely based on the evolving needs and expectations of our patients and caregivers. In addition to the safe, high-quality care they've come to expect, our patients want easy access, availability, convenience and choice at an affordable cost of care.

At the same time, artificial intelligence and big data are ushering in new ways to integrate care delivery models and manage costs. Virtual care and telemedicine allow patients to skip a trip to the doctor, manage chronic disease, support preventative care and mental health. Numerous providers and health systems are now storing medical records in the cloud to enable patients to access test results online and better connect care.

Today's electronic health record systems don't talk to each other — a major problem that can have consequences for patient care and cause caregiver frustration and burnout. Too often, clinical information is also buried in siloed electronic and paper records. When the information is finally retrieved, often it is poorly organized and fragmented. In short, most clinicians work in an environment where data is incomplete, inaccessible and delivered in siloed, disjointed bursts of information without context.

Ascension and Google are collaborating to solve this problem. To empower our caregivers to provide safer, more effective and efficient care 24/7, we are testing point-of-care tools for our clinicians to quickly have access to more complete and specifically tailored patient data.

In the delivery of these capabilities, our patients' records will continue to be securely protected in this enhanced ecosystem just as they are today and will be used only as necessary by a limited number of experts in the development of these tools so that we can provide better healthcare to those we serve. Under no circumstances is Google allowed to use this data for other purposes or combined with any other Google consumer data.

In addition to our work with Google, we have rolled out several other programs and products in an effort to address technological advances and consumer needs. Ascension Online Care is our direct-to-consumer virtual care offering, now available in all 50 states. This new platform provides remote access for minor medical issues as well as for patients who need help addressing mental and behavioral health conditions. Virtual care expands our portfolio of access points and empowers consumers to choose the best option for their needs.

We believe this bold and innovative work will improve clinician experience and patient care in order to save lives.

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