Skip to main content

How CEOs Approach Their Critical Choices: 3 Insights

Analysis  |  By Steven Porter  
   September 26, 2019

From consolidation and competition to consumerism and clinical excellence, leaders outlined their approaches to the biggest threats and opportunities facing their enterprises today.

PARK CITY, Utah — Three dozen senior healthcare strategy leaders gathered here this week, as part of the HealthLeaders CEO Exchange program, to discuss some of the critical choices they and their peers must make in an industry that's constantly changing.

During a series of roundtable discussions that began Thursday and will continue Friday, the executives outlined their approaches to the biggest threats and opportunities facing their enterprises today, from consolidation and competition to consumerism and clinical excellence.

Here are three highlights from Thursday's discussions:

1. Meet Patient Expectations or Your Competitors Will

Health systems use a wide variety of tactics to improve patient access, such as extending their hours of operation, opening clinics in more convenient locations, and offering telehealth options to meet low-acuity care needs without requiring an in-person visit.

But health systems shouldn't unilaterally define access for their local markets. That's because access means meeting patients where they are, and you can't fully know where patient populations stand without asking them, says Joe Hodges, MHA, regional president of SSM Health Oklahoma.  

"Whether it's on your phone, whether it's in your laptop, whether it's in an office, whether it's Sunday at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, it's really how the patient defines what that access is, and we should be there to achieve that goal for those patients," Hodges says. "If we're not, I feel like someone else is going to fill that gap for us."

2. Vetting Virtual Care Tools? Test Them Internally First

Just about every major health system has adopted a virtual care solution in one form or another, but not all of those solutions have lived up to their potential. Several participants in this week's CEO Exchange event say their virtual care options have gone woefully underutilized.

One great way to prepare your organization for a successful virtual care rollout is to begin with your own team, says Chris Woleske, JD, president and CEO of Bellin Health, based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. That's why her organization put an initiative in place to adopt tech tools internally before offering them to the public, Woleske says.

"When we rolled out e-visits and video visits, we did it first within our own employee base and tested it with them because, if they like it, they're going to tell their patients about it, and they're going to encourage their family members to use it," she says. "Creating that internal set of ambassadors has been successful."

3. Don't Let Innovation Disrupt Your Relationships

While the latest bits of technology might promise to alleviate your biggest headaches, they cannot eliminate your primary leadership responsibilities.

"You need to get back to the core basics instead of always looking for the next bell or whistle," says Charlotte Ipsan, DNP, RNC, NNP-BC, FACHE, chief administrative officer for Norton Women's & Children's Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky.

"Physicians, nurses, therapists, and support all want to know: can they trust their leader? You need to speak to the mission, vision and values, and where you're going and be sure that they have a voice at the table," Ipsan says.

The HealthLeaders CEO Exchange annually gathers leading hospital and health system CEOs for a custom dialogue on only the critical issues facing the future of their organizations. For more information, please email

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.

Photo credit: HealthLeaders/David Hartig

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.