by Carol Dorn Sanders
I had the fortunate opportunity to be among the 4,600 attendees at the recent American College of Healthcare Executives’ Congress in Chicago.
There are many invaluable networking and educational opportunities afforded to attendees at Congress, which make it difficult to decide among sessions—from Hot Topics to Luncheons and Lectures. This year was no exception, but I made some outstanding choices, and here are some of my top takeaways.
1. Change Fatigue/”Reptile Brain”
With the transformation upon us in our industry, it is obvious that the legislated, mandated and necessary changes are daunting and not for the faint of heart. Every attendee I spoke with referenced the shifts in how we do business, and every speaker or panelist drew attention to the same.
On my last day of the conference, I attended a session entitled, “Leadership, Health and Happiness.” It was a brilliant session conducted by Rick Foster of Foster Hicks training and consulting firm.
Rick spoke about how difficult it is to be a good leader when you are consumed with crises and dramatic change. He called it “reptile brain,” also known as “fight, flight, freeze.” Rick believes, and I certainly concur, that it is virtually impossible to be innovative or creative when in this state. I certainly recognize that it’s easier said than done, but somehow, healthcare leaders at all levels must try to cut through the barriers of the unknown, create a plan of action, align the organization around that plan and move forward even if the steps are slow, painful and imperfect.
2. Same Story—Other Industries
Healthcare is not unique. A number of other industries—including aviation, financial services and retail—have been through dramatic evolutions or revolutions over the past few decades.
One of my favorite presenters during Congress was John Nance who spoke about “Hospital Survival.” John is an aviation expert and is often an analyst for ABC News. John also is a partner at The Orca Institute—an organization committed to improving safety, quality and outcomes in healthcare. He writes and speaks nationally about the subject and believes that healthcare needs to go through the same safety cultural evolution that the airlines industry suffered through roughly 30 years ago.
I purchased his book, “Why Hospitals Should Fly,” during a book signing at Congress, and I look forward to reading more about the insights he shared about the culture in healthcare and how we need to evolve for the good of our patients.
3. Patient-Centered Care, Population Health—Top of Mind
And patients were top billing at this year’s Congress—certainly a topic that presenters were eager to discuss and Congress attendees were interested in hearing. Transforming the system to create value for patients may seem like a natural progression for an industry, but it is not an easy proposition. Creating a positive patient experience, engaging with patients and managing them collectively in populations are all critical imperatives. And it takes different ways of thinking, operating and evaluating the information and data we have to bring those imperatives to fruition.
4. Data—Making the Stage
And while on the topic of data, I was pleasantly surprised that almost every session I attended included the words “data” and “measurement.” There is growing evidence that healthcare leaders understand that they cannot transition their organizations, assume more risk or achieve Triple Aim without using data and analytics. With the proliferation of EHR’s in our industry, many of us are finding that we have more data than we actually know what to do with. Data tell stories; however, asking the right questions, gleaning the insights and taking action on that data can be overwhelming. Let me assure you that there are many case studies illustrating the power of data and health analytics, and I feel certain that future Congress attendees will hear more and more on this subject.
5. The Perfect Diversion—Keynote Address
The demands on healthcare leaders are tremendous, and the presentations and conversations at Congress certainly reflected those stresses. And just as I was becoming numb to the commotion, I attended a luncheon featuring Tim King, President and Co-Founder of Urban Prep Academies. Tim—a prolific speaker and storyteller—shared with us his journey to establish the country’s first all-boys charter school in Chicago, where 60 percent of African-American males drop out of high school. He talked about the four-year struggle just to get clearance to start the school, the opening of the first facility in 2006 and the recent opening of two subsequent schools.
More importantly, Tim shared the stories of his 1,400 students—many of whom are at-risk young men, surrounded by street shootings and violence and are the latest of several generations living in poverty. Tim told of how the school—with its “We Believe” motto—is helping to lift those students by providing structure in their school lives, encouragement, hope and a vision and path to a brighter future.
And it’s working! Urban Prep is graduating 100 percent of its students to four-year colleges, truly making a difference for the individual students, their families, community and society.
I was grateful to hear Tim’s compelling message, which reminded me of the power of individual commitment to a noble cause—a message we can all use to guide us during this time of uncertainty.