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HealthLeaders CEO Exchange Roundtable: Lasting Impact

Analysis  |  By Jim Molpus  
   May 18, 2021

Did healthcare really learn from 2020?       

Editor's note: This article is based on a roundtable discussion report sponsored by Vizient Inc. The full report, Lasting Impact, is available as a free download.

Hospitals and health systems reinvented themselves in 2020. Changes in clinical operations that once took months of meetings were done in days or even hours. Digital health rocketed high, creating new customer expectations for access. New leaders who were once buried under layers of bureaucracy emerged as innovators. The question for health system leaders now is how to capture that temporary momentum and translate it into lasting impact that improves the industry for the better.

HealthLeaders Exchange Director Jim Molpus recently convened CEOs of three of the nation’s largest health systems to discuss what they feel were the lasting impacts of 2020, and how they plan to integrate those changes going forward: Lloyd Dean, Chief Executive Officer, CommonSpirit Health; Michael Dowling, President and Chief Executive Officer, Northwell Health, and Barry Ostrowsky, President and Chief Executive Officer, RWJBarnabas Health. Adding a national perspective was Byron Jobe, Chief Executive Officer of Vizient Inc.

Overall, the challenge for leaders remains in capturing organizational momentum quickly and intentionally. 

“Nothing is automatically going to change unless we make a change,” says Dowling. “There will be a tendency for an awful lot of organizations to go back to the old ways, to kind of slip back a little bit.”

The cruelty of the pandemic also exposed societal inequities in healthcare that can’t be allowed to continue, says Dean.

“As painful as the past year has been, the inequities and the strains placed on our healthcare systems are now uncovered and more visible than ever,” Dean says. “And when we talk about inequities, it is now impossible for us to open the door without having an honest conversation about this systemic inequity that has been laid at our footsteps unaddressed.”

Digital health rose exponentially at the onset of the pandemic, as health systems scrambled to create any safe access points that they could. Now that the rocket has landed, however, health systems are optimistic but measured in what role digital health will play going forward.

“We found the growth for telehealth was spectacular in 2020. In some cases, the only way to see someone was to use telehealth,” Ostrowsky says. “But I think below the surface, there are clearly groups and constituencies that react differently and their embrace of this is uneven.”

In an industry that likes to talk about the need for change, 2020 only accelerated calls for transformation. Jobe is optimistic that momentum will stick.

“I do think this past year will act as a catalyst of change,” Jobe says. “There are a lot of opportunities to accelerate that transformation. My hope is that this past year not only drives some of that healthcare transformation from within, but also creates an elevated level of social awareness in the minds of all citizens that healthcare is extremely important.’’

To download the full transcript of this special HealthLeaders Exchange CEO Roundtable, please go to:

Participants of the CEO Exchange Roundtable:

Lloyd Dean
Chief Executive Officer
CommonSpirit Health

Michael Dowling
President and Chief Executive Officer
Northwell Health

Barry Ostrowsky
President and Chief Executive Officer
RWJBarnabas Health

Byron Jobe (Sponsor)
President and Chief Executive Officer
Vizient Inc.

The HealthLeaders Exchange is an executive community for sharing ideas, solutions, and insights. Please join the community at our LinkedIn page.

To inquire about attending a HealthLeaders Exchange event, email us at or learn more here.

Jim Molpus is the director of the HealthLeaders Exchange.

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