Editor's note: Visit H&HN Daily all week for live coverage of the 19th annual AHA-Health Forum Leadership Summit in San Diego.
San Diego—I grabbed the Wall Street Journal outside my hotel room door early this morning and started thumbing through the sections. Although San Diego is hardly a remote desert island, I've been pretty oblivious to the news for the past day or two. That can happen sometimes when you are at a meeting like this; you get caught up in the incredible program and networking and tune other things out. And, sadly, I'm probably one of maybe three people among the 1,400 here who doesn't own a smart phone so I can't scroll through the headlines in between educational sessions. Nope, I'm an old-school flip phone kind of a guy.
Anyway, one headline in particular caught my attention: "Borders Forced to Liquidate, Close All Stores." Think about that. The granddaddy of all book retailers will start shuttering its remaining 399 stores as soon as Friday. It'll be completely out of business by September. Why? Well, most of the analysis I've read said it's pretty simple: the chain failed to adapt—change (more on this word in a bit)—to the new world and new economics. It couldn't move swiftly enough to contend with online retailers and the new ways that people were buying books and CDs. So now it will become a case study in failure for generations of M.B.A. students.
What does that have to do with you? Remember I said we'd get that word "change?" Well that's been a major theme developing at the Health Forum-AHA Leadership Summit. Whether it's Dr. Atul Gawande talking about how hospitals have to find ways of improving care all the while lowering costs, or best-selling author Chip Heath providing insights in how leaders can chart a new path for their organizations, change has been the focus of so many conversations here in San Diego. Gawande put it in pretty stark terms during his compelling keynote Monday morning, "We are in a battle for the soul of medicine," he said. Speaking to a packed ballroom, Gawande told hospital leaders that health care is moving away from a system that was built on independent practitioners and autonomy to one that is, well, more of a system. He calls it moving from cowboys to pit crews. He talks more about this in our exclusive videocast in this edition of H&HN Daily.
Heath, during his address, noted that change is hard, but not impossible. He said leaders have three critical tasks when it comes to setting a new course for their institutions: provide direction ("we want to get there"), provide motivation, and shape the path. He also called on leaders to "find the bright spots." Look for the things that are working right in your institutions and hold them up as examples. "Right now, in your hospitals, there are some shifts that are doing a better job of patient handoffs than others. Find those bright spots, analyze them and clone them," he said.
Most of the people I've spoken to at the Leadership Summit say that the amount of change going on is unparalleled. From the Affordable Care Act to meaningful use to budget cuts, change is coming at hospital leaders from every direction. Perhaps no issue will be more vexing though, than that of health care disparities. It's a problem that has plagued health providers for generations. And here too, hospital leaders are being called upon to change. The AHA and four other health care groups announced the formation of a collaborative to eliminate health care disparities. Through Equity in Care, the groups committed to developing and sharing best practices in three critical areas: the collection and use of race, ethnicity and language preference data; cultural competency of hospital staff; and diversity in governance in leadership.
In announcing the initiative, AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock said addressing disparities is not just the right thing to do, but it's becoming a strategic and business imperative. Disparities leads to higher rates of readmissions and higher rates of chronic disease among racial and ethnic minorities, he noted. And, by 2042, racial and ethnic minorities will become the majority population in the U.S.
"Organizations that can't improve care for these populations won't succeed in a pay-for-performance world," Umbdenstock said.
The Borders near my office in downtown Chicago may be closing, but I'll still be able to go to the library or independent shop in my neighborhood (or maybe I'll start lobbying my wife again for a tablet and just download everything). I'll miss making a quick trip at lunch to Borders, but in the end, it was just a book store. Your institutions save lives. Imagine what would happen to your community if you had to liquidate.
Be sure to check back with us tomorrow for concluding coverage of the 2011 Leadership Summit.