The imperative for leadership in American healthcare


Bill Crounse 2007 05 Last week I was invited to provide the luncheon keynote to a group of hospital and health system executives in San Francisco.  They had gathered under the auspices of The Leadership Institute to share best practices and hear from a select group of outside speakers.  Institute meetings are closed to non-members.  This provides an opportunity for individuals attending the meetings to share information with each other in complete candor.  Even as an invited speaker, I wasn't able to attend other sessions on the agenda although I did receive an invitation to join the group for dinner the evening after my presentation.  This not only made way for some great business discussions, but also gave me a chance to get to know some of the members I hadn't met before.  I'd like to share their names and titles with you, but even that would be breaking protocol with Leadership Institute rules.  Let's just say this group represented some of America's finest and best known healthcare organizations.  Many of the names would be familiar.

Leadership Institute San Francisco May 15, 2008 007 The next morning, as I sat in my room at the Huntington Hotel on Nob Hill pondering the terrific view and the many conversations I had had with LI members the day before, I was feeling pretty good about leadership in American healthcare.  These are not the men and women who legislate, capitate, and squeeze the system for all it's worth.  These are the people charged with meeting ever increasing demand for care in their communities in the face of labor shortages, budget shortfalls, cranky providers and increased scrutiny at every turn.  They are also grappling with a pressing need to modernize care delivery and the tools they must use to survive in a healthcare world that is increasingly global and competitive.

It was most reassuring to learn that many of these executives are well-traveled.  I speak and write a lot about the growing competitive threat to American healthcare coming from Mexico and overseas.  My concern wasn't lost on this crowd.  Many of them had personally visited the sites I reference in my lectures and have seen firsthand the digital infrastructure and modern IT investments being made by their foreign competitors; investments that are driving cost and quality transparency breakthroughs and enabling global outreach. Leadership Institute San Francisco May 15, 2008 009

As you might expect, there weren't too many Gen Xr's and Y's in the crowd with the exception of my daughter who lives in San Francisco and works for Google/YouTube.  The Leadership Institute was kind enough to include her as my guest at their dinner.  Actually, I think everyone at our table enjoyed the conversation as it turned to what our kids are doing and how they all work and play a bit differently than their parents.

Hospitals and health systems would be well served to harness the energy and wisdom of our youth.  These are, after all, their future customers.  And, I'll bet they see the world a bit differently than the digital immigrants found in most hospital board rooms today.  Tapping into the thoughts of a new generation of physicians and patients might very well help set the course for a new era in American medicine that is more high-touch and certainly more high-tech from an IT perspective.  Who knows, doctors might even learn how to "text" their patients and one another instead of playing phone tag all day.

Bill Crounse, MD   Senior Director, Worldwide Health   Microsoft Corporation

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