It is Time to Act

Daniel J. Sinnott, for HealthLeaders Media, June 18, 2010

With the signing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, along with the Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act, major change will be coming to the way healthcare is organized, delivered, and managed in the United States. While some information about the impact of the law is known, and some of the regulations are still being written, all healthcare leaders know one thing for certain: there will be less money to take care of more people. Healthcare leaders have been dealing with constant change for the past 30 years, but now the rate of change will need to accelerate in order to achieve success in a reformed healthcare environment.

In talking with healthcare leaders throughout the country I've come to the conclusion that organizations that move quickly and decisively to implement the changes needed will be best positioned to succeed.

The following are a baker's dozen ideas to be considered in order to position your healthcare organization for the future:

1. Strengthen your boards: Nonprofit organizations have a history of recruiting people for their boards for a variety of reasons—philanthropic, religious, community leadership—but often those reasons do not include healthcare industry expertise or business acumen from relevant industries. As a result, many healthcare organizations have missed an opportunity for these valuable business perspectives especially during a time of major change and challenge.
Recommendation: Enhance the skill set of the board to include individuals with experience in innovation, venture capital/merger and acquisition, and healthcare to strengthen the overall knowledge capital of the board. Also, consider recruiting board members from outside of your geographic area to bring new ideas and experiences into your organization. Major change may be needed for your organization and having a strong, innovative and provocative board will be an asset.

2. Change your leadership style: Leading in a stable business environment is very different than leading in a situation which requires transformational change. No matter how stable your organization is, you will need to lead it as if it were in a situation where your business and service delivery model needs to change.
Recommendation: Laser focus will be needed on three or less strategic priorities (not the 10 or so we normally try to accomplish); decisions will need to be made quicker and with less information; and an innovative/entrepreneurial leadership style will be needed to change the fundamental way business is done. Healthcare leaders at all levels should invest in such skill development—drawing from both inside and outside of the industry.

3. Make the necessary leadership changes now: Healthcare has become too insular and needs individuals from other industries to help question the status quo and move organizations forward.
Recommendation: If there are individuals on your executive and management team that are not A or strong B players, now is the time to make changes in order to recruit the necessary skills needed to move the organization forward. This creates an opportunity to recruit individuals with entrepreneurial and innovative experience, and from outside of the healthcare industry.




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