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Humana CEO Bruce Broussard Forecasts the Future of Healthcare

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   April 08, 2021

The leader of the Louisville-based insurer discusses how healthcare will develop in the coming years.

This article appears in the March/April 2021 edition of HealthLeaders magazine.

Bruce Broussard, president and CEO of Humana Inc., the Louisville, Kentucky–based insurer, says he got into healthcare "by accident."

He graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in finance and accounting, then earned his MBA at the University of Houston before setting out as a consultant, building his expertise around financial management, technology, and healthcare.

Broussard says his career has had three phases: obtaining a technical background in financial management, gaining leadership experience in the workforce, and leading in a "much more balanced way."

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He worked on the provider side of the business during the 1990s, serving in financial leadership capacities at several healthcare companies. Broussard says that he started to better understand the dynamics of healthcare during that time, namely the various clinical subspecialties and the importance of reimbursement rates.

Broussard adds that there wasn't a book to teach him how to be a healthcare finance executive and that it was during his time as a CFO that he was able to enhance his leadership skills and improve his external relationships with the provider community. He says that being a "broader leader" required shifting from a finance-oriented mindset to one that considered various constituencies like providers, patients, and employers.

"As I began to move out of the financial role, I began to appreciate what it means to be a broader leader, what it means to bring out the best of people from a diversity of thought, what it means to influence," Broussard says. "The best tool that a leader has is asking open-ended questions and learning from others as opposed to being the smartest person in the room, so to speak."

Prior to taking Humana's helm in 2011, Broussard served in several leadership roles at The US Oncology Network before a merger with McKesson, where he then served as CEO of McKesson Specialty Health/US Oncology, Inc.

Following are highlights from Broussard's conversation with HealthLeaders about leading one of the nation's major payer organizations and how he expects healthcare to change in the coming years.

"There are a few areas that will change [in healthcare]. First, I think just providing healthcare will be one. We see this in all industries, but how healthcare is delivered will be much different, through multiple delivery mechanisms as opposed to the traditional office setting. I think we've proven that in an omnichannel approach, whether it's digital health, in the home, in a physician's office, in a specialty office, or a hospital. I believe that there will be multiple ways people can get care, and the more convenient care models will continue to grow."

"Our ability to be resilient and adaptable is going to continue to be a [key] part of an organization. I know for [Humana], we didn't plan for an epidemic, but we did plan for a crisis."

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"[Another] thing about resilience is being able to mentally handle the circumstances. How do we manage stress? How do we deal with [stress] as an organization to be much more thoughtful around scenario planning and the impact that different scenarios can have? I think resilience for organizations and people [during the pandemic] is such an important part of where we're at."

"As a business, [it is] our requirement to be leading at helping society with these kinds of crises, whether it's the social unrest, the pandemic, the vaccine and getting it [distributed], or another particular event in a community. Our responsibility as business leaders to our communities outside the organization is a must and, especially with the political environment out there and the lack of agility of the federal government and state governments, the ability of our organization to be agile to the needs outside our organization is such an important part."

"I think [healthcare] is so fragmented, as a result of the way fee-for-service has [made] everyone be on their own footing. One thing that other industries like financial services and automotive have created [is] the interoperability of information to flow through the industry. I think [healthcare] is in utmost need for that. If you think about it, the customers themselves are the people who connect the dots, and that shouldn't be the case. Our ability to share information, to give whoever is the appropriate person serving that individual the proper information to make decisions … is a key part. I think how we make it simpler for information to flow inside and outside organizations is a critical part."

"[Another] area where I think we can make [healthcare] simpler is much more personalization. … Because of the power of technology, mobile apps, and the ability to gain more information about individuals, analytics can be driven through healthcare and then personalized. What ways do people want to be engaged, and what are important elements of the conditions that they have to ensure that we're proactive?"

"Interoperability, payment [models], the ability for us as an organization and an industry to leverage analytics to personalize [healthcare] will make it much more simple."

"I think there will be a continued march to more value-based payment models. I just don't see us going back; I see us going forward. That is going to continue to drive towards more cost-effective and convenient settings. So, you'll continue to see value-based models evolve and consumers make choices. They're going to want it to be more convenient and cost-effective. You're going to continue to see things pushed to the more effective [settings] for convenience and cost, in the channels that continue to evolve like home care, telehealth, inpatient, and outpatient. There will continue to be a push down to the lower-cost settings."

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

Photo credit: Bruce Broussard is the president and CEO of Humana Inc., in Louisville, Kentucky (Photo courtesy of Humana Inc.).

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