Meet the Mother of Strategy: Hope

By Dr. Michael J. Zappa

A mentor of mine is often quoted: "Hope is not a strategy!"

Indeed, there is a world of difference between hoping things will improve and implementing a well thought out plan. However, nothing can ever change or improve unless we can imagine it as such. Once it is imagined, there must be some belief or "hope" that this vision can be realized. Now that's where strategy comes in, making the vision a reality.

As leaders, we must start by inspiring hope, not by asking for the action plan. When your team believes they can make a difference, they will. It is very obvious in healthcare: patients would never come to us without the hope that we can make them better. Hope is not just for our patients, it is for every member of our team.

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Working Naked

By Michael J. Zappa 

The human body is the most brilliant machine ever created and the quintessential work of art.  The headline above is not referring to your creativity and accomplishments in your clothing optional private abode; it is taking literary license from 19th century Danish author, Hans Christian Andersen.

Reflect on the fairy tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes.  The Emperor (leader) was a vain man, concerned more with appearances, accolades, and maintaining his current position than the harsh realities that others faced.  His subjects were afraid to express their honest opinions to him, fearing they might be deemed unfit for their position or even stupid.  The climax of this tale occurs when he is fooled by some weavers into wearing a “spectacular new suit” that, in fact, doesn’t exist at all.  The Emperor is allowed to parade through the town naked.  Finally, a mere child blurts out in honesty that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all.

Leaders at all levels of an organization run the risk of being caught naked at work, but this risk increases as one ascends the ranks.  People see pleasing their boss as important, essential to keeping their jobs.  Most leaders would proclaim they are wise enough to detect blatant deception, but it is often more subtle than that.  Very often what happens is filtering; direct reports present the info that makes them look good and their boss is expecting.  This filtering of information is equivalent to a slight degree of course variation which becomes obvious 100 miles or more into the journey.

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Can our Board be better? A few considerations

By Mike McBride

The best healthcare boards are dedicated to the success of the organizations and communities they serve, have a sincere hunger to stay up-to-date and informed about industry standards and stay curious about emerging trends. Board members have to be well educated on the issues, well prepared for generative discussions, and be mindful of the interests and concerns of stakeholders.  Being a contemporary healthcare board member demands a great deal and, in turn, can provide a rewarding experience.

Boards play a critical role in the long-term success of organizations. In addition to the expected fiduciary responsibilities, healthcare boards are tasked with promoting and embodying the mission and vision of the institution and advocating for its well being while setting aside self-interest.  Advocacy includes ongoing education of politicians and civic leaders, fundraising and networking with potential donors, and telling the organization’s “story.”  It is imperative that the board builds relationships in the community in order to expand services to meet community needs and partner with other aligned organizations.

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Are hospitals and provider health systems where innovation goes to die?

By Rodney D. Reider

Politicians, businessmen, and even housewives ask the questions: “Why is healthcare so complicated?” “Why can’t it be simpler?” 

They even demand: “I need care, tell me the price, and don’t make me wait so long.” 

Amazon knows me as a member of Prime and maintains my information securely in the cloud.  Amazon knows where I live with my saved data/information and then delivers to my house in three days or even less.  They know me.  “Why do I have to keep filling out the same paperwork at my hospital every time I arrive?  It is my regular appointment with my same doctor and the same office and hospital.  Why don’t they know me by now?” 

Apple has all those apps I can just download from the app store for service, education, entertainment or every day conveniences. 

“If physicians and hospitals are so sophisticated with all their expensive equipment, why can’t I just get an app to simply make an appointment, review my bill and pay utilizing PayPal?” 

“I’ll tell you what causes a real headache, trying to pay a bill after a stay at my hospital.” 

Finally, “Why can’t I just download my healthcare information and take it with me wherever I go?”

Industry-wide, we providers are internally focused on creating results; too often myopic in our approach.  Ongoing comparisons within the healthcare industry are continuous and judicial yet we restrict our world toward outmaneuvering only the local competitors; however, our patients are judging us by the expectations created outside of healthcare through their engagement in the broader world of technology and business.  As leaders of the Provider sector, we often carryout numerous discussions resulting in mediocre attempts, limited investment and a haphazard focus to lightly adjust our way into the next necessary realm of healthcare’s future.  Yes, some such as Banner, UPMC, Kaiser, and Providence are having an impressive innovative approach and positive impact, yet most, even if they have established Innovation Centers, provide limited capital and secondary support.

Customer expectations originate from numerous smaller entrepreneurs to the headline grabbing Amazon, Apple, Walmart, CVS-Aetna advancements.  Payers such as United continue multiple acquisitions generating a ground-breaking family of companies striving to buy, disrupt, create, and combine beyond the healthcare landscape’s meager approaches.  Forward thinking innovators and disruptors from biotech, pharma and technology are continuing to enhance their progressions.  Their actions will have renewing and lasting effects on every portion of our future healthcare business.

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The Pursuit of Balance

By Dr. Michael J. Zappa

Long term success in life is rarely achieved by perpetual crisis management and the ability to work around the clock to meet a deadline…not that great leaders and successful individuals don’t have that ability and need to deploy it from time to time! One of the keys to sustained success is balance. Balance should not be viewed as a goal that is attained; rather a dynamic state in need of frequent adjustment…like a see-saw.

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Turning your wiz bang digital solution into reality through effective implementation

By David Berger, MD

In this episode on helping digital startups sell their solutions, I want to focus on the issue of implementation. It is certainly important to have a wiz bang digital solution. Equally important is how to implement the solution and manage the changes it causes. All startups should understand the concerns the hospital C-suite has around the implementation process. Specifically, the startup must be prepared to answer the following:

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Clearing Healthcare Hurdles and Building a Client Base

By David Berger, MD

In my last blog post I discussed the challenges digital health startups face when trying to sell to hospitals and health systems.  In this post I suggest some ways to overcome the hurdles and succeed in building a client base. 

Startups need to be realistic about where they are in their product life cycle.  As I mentioned previously, hospitals are risk adverse with tight budgets.  …

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Selling to digital to a hospital? Think like the CEO.

By David Berger

The pathway to success for digital health startups is challenging. Hospitals are often looked at as the point of entry for digital startups. Trying to work with large hospitals can pose challenges for early stage start-ups for several reasons:

1) Hospitals often are a part of larger systems. As a result, there are multiple layers to the approval process with multiple decision makers prolonging the sales cycle. In my experience as COO of an academic medical center the time from initial interest to contract can exceed two years. Furthermore, complex deployment processes add to the timeline for pilot implementation.

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Lessons from Global Health Development: Insights from Four Change Models

by Rob Thames

This is Part 3B of this three-part series.

Part 3A briefly reviewed four change methods. This Part 3B compares them to elicit insights.

Motivational Interviewing, Kotter’s 8-Step Model, Baldrige Communities of Excellence, and SEED-SCALE, reviewed in Part 3A, were selected to reflect and reveal the wisdom of a range of disciplines, applications at different levels (individual, organizational, community and population) and purposes to aid change practitioners in the thinking and doing of their craft. How can comparing these models elicit deeper insights to affect sustainable change sooner and better?

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Good Operations is Good Strategy

Good operations is good strategy. Operational excellence. Blocking and tackling. Within health systems, the ongoing importance of good operations should be highlighted as a foundational element of every strategic plan. Good operations is a “no lose” strategy that positions a health system for success regardless of the many external forces providing new challenges. Value-based contracting, risk-sharing and Medicare break even strategies are all dependent on the fundamentals of sound operations. Operational Excellence requires strong and improving performance across a broad spectrum of metrics related to safety and quality, customer service and cost efficiency.

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Joy in Leaders = Joy in Work

By Dr. Michael J. Zappa

Focusing on joy, especially in work, is gaining momentum. It has my attention! It is clear to me that the mindset and habits are exactly what great leaders have and do and what developing leaders should concentrate on.

It is very tempting for any leader, especially those in healthcare, to focus on what’s wrong, what needs to be fixed. It’s time to view the situation through a different lens…we need to focus on the meaning and purpose of our work. This is a distinct advantage for those of us in healthcare, our mission is making peoples lives better.

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Lessons from Global Health Development: Harnessing Methods of Change

Lessons from Global Health Development: Harnessing Methods of Change

By Rob Thames

This is Part 3A of this three-part series.

Read part 2.

This Part 3A briefly reviews four change methods and Part 3B will compare them. 

“I have no idea how to change anyone. But I carry around a long list of people in case I ever figure out how.” - Anonymous

Eliminate four billion dollars of waste from a large healthcare system next year. Increase the CMS TPS (Total Performance Score) for a hospital from the national average of 38.1 to 60 in two years. Reduce maternal, child and infant mortality in Nigeria by 50% in three years. These are large-scale improvement goals – at healthcare system, hospital and population health levels, respectively.

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Hats off to the standalone hospital CEO

Why I find Rural/Small/Stand-Alone-Hospital CEOs so Impressive.

By Rodney Reider

“Stand alone” hospital presidents provide a great deal to admire.   

I was the lead in a recent strategic retreat and the CEO was incredibly impressive as I watched her interact with her board, her physician leadership and her administrative team.  Once again it rekindled my awareness of how small hospital CEOs have to do it all.  They are the engaged in the community, lead in the facility, influence the physicians, head Human Resources, know all the staff by name and can even be involved in the revenue cycle, IT and compliance departments.

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Influencing Your Team: 10 Leadership Traits that Drive the Ability to Influence Teams

By Dr. Michael J. Zappa

All leaders will openly admit that they could not do their job without their team. However, as humans, I’d bet that most of them, in a moment of frustration, have thought “it would be easier if I just did it myself.” Why? Because influencing people is a gradual process, not simply a decision with immediate results.

Accepting the reality that no matter how brilliant or hard-working you are, you will always need your team which means you need to learn how to influence them.

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Lessons from Global Health Development: Relief vs Development

When faced with failure, what does a responder do? As an expert/advisor, you have a choice: correct the specific failure or strengthen the system (Taylor, Just and Lasting Change). To make this decision, it is critical to discern: is this an event-induced “disaster” – Ebola, Tsunami, Hurricane – or is it a chronic, systematic, or lifestyle-induced failure? In medicine, the difference is how a physician treats a patient with emergency trauma vs a patient with a chronic disease. The global relief vs development challenge has a healthcare leadership parallel: rescue or strengthen.

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Developing leaders must navigate the hallway of hell

by Michael J. Zappa

Enhancing our own leadership development along with the novice and advanced leaders on our teams is mission critical in healthcare today. The environment that we are challenged to be successful in is very harsh — increasing the cost of technology and pharmaceuticals, the ever increasing cost of labor, on top of declining reimbursement.

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The healthcare leadership matrix, how to create a 'win-win' after the deal is done

By Rand O’Leary

The healthcare environment continues to undergo rapid and profound change with mergers, acquisitions and new business models forever changing the landscape of how we lead and deliver healthcare for the next millennium. In my previous article, I discussed the concepts of leading your team through complex problem solving. Today the focus is on you, the leader, how you successfully navigate yourself through new relationships, complex reporting structures and multi-entity healthcare business models.

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Leadership – What It Is and What It Isn’t

By Gay Nord

There are likely more articles, books, blogs and seminars pertaining to Leadership than any other subject. In addition to our formal education and training as a leader, we have learned leadership traits from mentors, bosses, and other leaders over the years; we’ve learned what aspects of leadership we admire, and consider motivating and successful, AND...WHAT ASPECTS WE DON’T.

As a leader, leadership is not about you. Leadership is about those you serve and support, those you impact around you. I’ve learned over my career that command and control may yield short term gains in performance, and in emergent situations may be needed. However, if the goal is to create and sustain a high performing, forward thinking and dynamic organization and one that attracts the best talent, managing through fear and intimidation will not cut it. Relationships, trust, loyalty and truly caring about people, will build a resilient, loyal, high performing organization. Read Full Article.

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Off Track – Now What?

It happens. The organization is off plan…by a lot; and it is not the first time. More than a modest correction or a “wait until next month.” Many factors were likely involved, but the relentless dynamics of the market have overwhelmed a longstanding management team. It is akin to a cyclist who has slipped back from the peloton due to chronic cadence deficit – and now the gap is widening.

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