It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” — W. Edwards Deming

In my 25 years as a rural hospital CEO, the impact and pace of change in our field has never been more profound. W. Edwards Deming, an expert in total quality management, revved up the process improvement engines in the United States in the 1980s. He maintained that survival was only possible through constant improvement.

If you are looking for the best ideas for your organization to succeed in this new era of health care delivery reform, you are not going to want to miss the Health Forum’s Rural Health Care Leadership Conference, Feb. 8–11 at the Arizona Grand Resort and Spa in Phoenix.

This conference has grown to be the premier rural health care educational event in America because of its unique ability to bring teams of administrators, trustees, clinicians, public health officials, association leaders and community activists together to learn, collaborate and chart a course for the future. Throw in the warmth of Arizona in February and a retreatlike setting and no wonder the event just keeps growing.

This year, the focus of the conference is to:

Strengthen the hospital’s position by exploring unique partnerships, networks and strategic affiliations to enhance care coordination and clinical integration.

Clarify the roles and responsibilities of trustees and gain tools for improving governance performance.

Create a true culture of quality and patient safety that is grounded in systems improvements.

Improve recruitment and retention of skilled personnel by building an organization that engages leadership, effectively partners with physicians and boasts a collaborative culture.

Explore emerging technologies for improving care delivery and information management.

Develop the leadership skills needed to enhance performance, efficiency and effectiveness for sustained success.

I make sure never to miss this event because the Health Forum team has created so many different ways to learn, interact and engage in a conference that keeps on delivering year after year. Given the multiday format, I find that the level of interaction with speakers, Health Forum staff and attendees is unparalleled. This conference has it all — from pre-conference workshops to excellent keynote speakers; breakout sessions for in-depth discussions to more informal hot topic roundtables; plus networking opportunities and an exhibit hall with vendors focused on the unique needs of rural health care.

I’m particularly excited we will have futurist Ian Morrison this year giving a keynote titled “Reinventing Rural Health Care” and then moderating a panel on the “Future of Rural Communities.” Insightful, challenging, funny and engaging, Ian has dazzled Health Forum/AHA Leadership Summit audiences for more than a decade. I know he will be a hit at this conference as well.

Four to five of the board members at my hospital typically attend this conference with me. We make it a mini-planning event for our organization. The conference offers an intentional governance flavor that allows board members to get the education they need and the opportunity to bring home strategies for success.

“You must welcome change as the rule but not as your ruler.”Denis Waitley

The Rural Health Care Leadership Conference will provide you with all the tools you need to embrace the changes necessary to keep rural health care strong and thriving in America. Come join us and add your voice to the discussion! 

Todd Linden is president and CEO of Grinnell (Iowa) Regional Medical Center and a member of the Health Forum board.



Umbdenstock to retire at end of 2015

American Hospital Association President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock announced in November that he will retire at the end of 2015. The AHA board of trustees has formed a search committee and engaged Korn Ferry, a national executive search firm, to conduct the search for his successor. AHA chair-elect designee Jim Skogsbergh, president and CEO of Advocate Health Care in Illinois, will chair the search committee.

“Being president of the AHA has been the highlight of my career,” Umbdenstock said in a message to aasociation members. “For the past eight years, it has been my privilege to learn from you and to represent you. Together, we have accomplished a great deal — building a better health system for all. … I’ve been honored to be part of a field where doing the extraordinary is the ordinary. Your dedication and commitment to your mission, patients and community continue to inspire me.”

Umbdenstock has led the AHA since Jan. 1, 2007. Previously, he was the elected AHA board chair in 2006. The AHA leads, represents and serves more than 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, and 43,000 individual members.

Umbdenstock’s career includes experience in hospital administration; health system governance, management and integration; association governance and management; HMO governance; and health care governance consulting. He has written several books and articles for the health care board audience and has authored national survey reports for the AHA, the Health Research & Educational Trust and the American College of Healthcare Executives.

He received a bachelor of arts degree in politics from Fairfield University in Connecticut, and a master’s in health services administration from SUNY–Stony Brook. He is a Fellow of ACHE.

Umbdenstock is vice chair of the National Quality Forum, serves on the board of Enroll America, and co-chairs the CAQH Provider Council. He also serves on the National Priorities Partnership and the Center for Transforming Advanced Care Steering Committee.