Business Acumen: The Cure For The ‘Uncommon’ Healthcare Organization

Posted by Paradigm Learning on April 28, 2016

Little about the current state of the healthcare system in the United States is reassuring. The challenges of repealing or merely amending the affordable care act are epic in nature, but the solutions—at least from a political viewpoint—are fractured at best. Despite strongly divergent opinion on the causes, there is some consensus on several things that must happen for faith to be restored across the board. 

The first is delivering on the promise of improving the healthcare experience for patients; the second revolves around advancing the median wellness of large groups in population. However, it’s the third point that may be the biggest sticking point: reducing the per capita costs care. 

Problem is most C-level leaders understand that only one or two of those objectives is strategic, which leaves many pondering the dilemma out-in-the-cold for answers. That’s far from an encouraging diagnosis for traditional thinking loaded with inherent conflicts and narrow, silo-focused mentalities. 

Talk about a Tylenol 3 headache!

Yet, if you accept the premise that the ongoing financial health of hospitals will increasingly depend on the thoughts and actions of frontline employees, the need for greater business acumenis perhaps the best short- and long-term remedy of all. Here are three things to think about from three of today’s leading voices in the industry:

  1. Individual alignment with system-wide goals. Louis Shapiro, president and CEO for Special Surgery in New York, cited involvement, communication and environment as the most important criteria in what makes hospitals tick. He stressed, “Everyone needs to have the tools to do their job, feel the organization is investing in their development, and know what’s expected of them.”
  2. Creating a culture of accountability. Ted Townshend, president and CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, gave a great description of how the best leadership teams do it, suggesting that the basic idea is about establishing a culture of mutual respect—listening and learning—as well as being able to translate the larger vision of the organization in a way that resonates on the ‘What does it mean to me?’ level.
  3. The importance of understanding healthcare assets and patient metrics. Ashley Thompson, vice president and deputy director of policy for the American Hospital Associates, underscored the problems associated with new metrics for operational costs and other mandates in place or under consideration. Putting the larger picture into perspective, she asserted that “the first step of moving from paying for volume to paying for value is good,” but added one critical caveat: “We haven’t determined what the most effective payment system [will be] to result in a paradigm shift.”

On that score, it’s likely that it will take quite some time for anything definitive to take shape as competing interests and ideologies continue to battle for legislative position and public acceptance. Still, that’s no justification for taking a “wait and see” approach. Rather, senior leaders are mandated to look at “what was” and realize that’s not the way it is anymore.

Most CFOs understand that puts nearly all healthcare organizations on common ground. It might not come as any consolation, but it does imply an ‘uncommon’ infusion of business acumen is in order.


The doctor is in. 

Topics: Healthcare, Business Acumen