Health System CEO: You Can't Lead from Behind the Curtain

Philip Betbeze, October 24, 2014

Regional Health's CEO discovered he couldn't just pull levers and push buttons to get clinicians to change practice patterns aimed at reducing sepsis mortality. Instead, he had to get out and lead that change.

This article first appeared in the December 2014 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Trotter

Charles Hart, MD

As president and CEO of Regional Health for the past 10 years, Charles Hart, MD, thought he had a good relationship with physicians at the rural South Dakota health system, which has five adult hospitals, two specialty hospitals, and 24 clinics. He's one of them, after all, and that is a good thing when you're trying to get them to change practice patterns. You speak their language. Hart is something of an institution himself, having led the system for the first decade of its existence after having been associated with the system and its flagship, 329-bed Rapid City Regional Hospital, for the past 31 years. But all that goodwill and familiarity still wasn't enough.

But when the leadership set about trying to address the organization's greatest cause of mortality—sepsis—Hart found that meetings, evidence, and cajoling didn't work very well. After all, sepsis wasn't a problem that could be traced to one person or even one department.

"It doesn't live in one place within the organization like coronary artery disease or orthopedics or total joints," Hart says. "It's just everywhere." Sepsis is a problem in most inpatient organizations where patients must remain attached to IVs, catheters, ventilators, or other places deadly germs can lurk.

Philip Betbeze

Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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