Gubernare — the Latin word for steering of a ship. It’s the root of our English word "governance." It’s what we ask our community leaders, care providers, industry professionals and the countless others who serve on the boards of our nation’s health care organizations to do: steer. Steer us in the right direction in these uncharted waters, in service of all those who come to us for health and healing.

In this era of unprecedented change in the health care system, the work of our boards to bring about and support this monumental transformation is critical. Leading strategically, supporting disruptive innovation and driving boldness in our efforts to improve the health of individuals and communities are what make governance effective in transformed health systems. We have set sail in a new direction and need the captains of our ships to help us navigate, to see that which we may not and help us to find the courage to forge ahead.

Our board members see the storms and rough waters ahead and yet, they stay the course, steady at the helm. New payment models and dwindling reimbursement, finding our way on the path from volume to value, innovation in care delivery, leveraging data and analytics to drive health improvements in populations, and responding to reform requirements — all while helping us toe the line with new compliance and regulation mandates — make their jobs daunting. But somehow these challenges only intensify their dedication to the mission. Their tenacity is something to celebrate.

The context of today’s decision-making in the boardroom is often complex and chaotic. Market pressures and dynamics hit hard and fast, and agility becomes the name of the game. We can support our boards by shifting our agendas — fewer “check-the-box” reports and slide presentations and more time dedicated to discussion, sharing, disagreeing, debating, advocating, imagining, reinventing, collaborating. We need to tap into what we asked our board members to bring to the table, their rich and varied competencies and experiences, and leveraging this immeasurable intellectual asset for our greater good.

Just like every aspect of our organizations’ operations, what has worked well for us in the past likely will not be sufficient for tomorrow’s success. The same is true for our governance. We are placing heavier demands on our boards and need them to stay engaged on changing conditions and emerging trends.

The demands of consumers and our industry innovators are pushing us to think differently — quickly. No longer do we simply address the needs of our organizations. Rather, as we redefine the “H,” we must consider the needs of a much broader constituency. The American Hospital Association’s Committee on Research published a report, “Your Hospital’s Path to the Second Curve: Integration and Transformation.” In it, we outline the top 10 strategic questions that hospitals and health systems need to address. It is no coincidence that the first question asks the organization to identify the primary health needs of the community. More and more, our work is beyond the walls of our facilities. Engaged board members add so much to this conversation.

We need the great minds of today’s health care governance members to engage as the forces of health care erupt and we continue our transformation journey. While it can feel, at times, that we’ve lost sight of the steady light beaming from the lighthouse secured on the shore, we can be emboldened knowing that we have the right people on board helping us to steer just where we need to go. 

James H. Hinton is president and CEO of Presbyterian Healthcare Services in Albuquerque, N.M., and chairman of the AHA Board of Trustees.

News from the AHA

Rural Health Care Leadership Conference Feb. 8–11 in Phoenix

Rural health care leaders are actively transforming their organizations for a new world of accountable care marked by changing payment models, heightened expectations for physician alignment and a greater need for collaboration. The 2015 Rural Health Care Leadership Conference will bring together top practitioners and thinkers to share strategies and resources for accelerating the shift to a more integrated, high-performing and sustainable rural health care system. The conference will explore the most significant operational, financial and environmental challenges, and present innovative approaches to transforming an organization’s care delivery model and business practices. Visit

Get the Inside Scoop on the AHA SmartMarket

Want to know how you and your organization can benefit from the AHA SmartMarket? In a video, AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock explains how this first social collaboration network brings together caregivers, administrative staff and vendors to share insights about the health care field and the products and services that can help providers to innovate and adapt to new challenges. It’s free to all health care professionals in the provider setting. Visit

Swick named AONE’s president-elect for 2015

The American Organization of Nurse Executives has chosen as its next president-elect Maureen Swick, senior vice president and chief nurse executive at Inova Health System in Falls Church, Va. As 2015 president-elect, Swick will serve as AONE president in 2016. She currently serves on the AHA Board of Trustees and AHA Behavioral and Substance Abuse Council, and is past president of the Organization of Nurse Executives, New Jersey and former chair of the Northern Virginia Hospital Alliance. Visit