It’s time for health care professionals to lead change, not watch it happen. We cannot be the Blockbuster of the entertainment industry, waiting for people in our spacious buildings while consumers get what they want from Netflix. For us, this is an exciting time for health care and for the people who depend on health care. So, here’s the field manual to pave the way toward their brighter future.
Health care systems face unprecedented complexity under the Affordable Care Act. Rising costs, economic inefficiencies and increased regulation, combined with changing technologies and the widespread availability of data, are forcing a change in the future of the current model of health care delivery.
Now more than ever, we need leaders who can address these urgent challenges and skillfully navigate this highly ambiguous and quickly evolving landscape.
Historically, physicians have pursued MBA programs to learn leadership, management and other critical business skills not gained in medical school. But shaping individuals who can make a difference in the changing health care field requires even more specialized training that will foster critical, game-changing thinking.
After both spending many decades in consumer-driven, service industries, we believe there is one concept that will best guide health care professionals today as they prepare to ensure the survival of health systems tomorrow: transformation.
Traditional MBA programs don’t focus on transformation. Without question, we live in an era of the most dramatic changes in the delivery of health care that we’ll see in our lifetimes. From the genomics of precision medicine and the shift of primary care to neighborhood centers to bringing health home through telemedicine — these changes, which will greatly benefit patients, are also revolutionizing the business of delivery.
Your new role
As you guide an organization through change, you must assume the role of "chief meaning officer." Maintaining this position, especially in any industry experiencing rapid change, is never easy. But being a leader requires you to paint a vivid picture to your team, your colleagues and your employees to help everyone understand the values and future that you envision. To do that, you have to paint that picture for yourself.
This demand goes beyond the need for "Excel for Dummies." Yes, you should know your budget and how it works. Yes, you should know how your information technology works. But most important, you need to communicate the meaning of your work for your enterprise. And, by meaning, we aren’t referring simply to a mission. Certainly, the aim of health care professionals is to help people get better when they're sick (and to prevent them from getting sick in the first place). Many have become so specialized that their mission is to aid recovery from one specific illness or injury. This is no longer enough.
Similarly, the game board for physician leaders has changed and has moved from the equivalent of one-dimensional to three-dimensional chess. You must be able to navigate the operational, strategic and visionary boards. You will not only have to move your pieces around but bring in new ones for your organization.
Paint the picture
Try this thought experiment. Imagine it's 2030, and the delivery of health care is ideal, combined with the kinds of prevention and wellness programs and good health practices that keep people from getting sick.
In your field, describe what that would look like. Write it on a piece of paper.
Now, take another piece of paper and list all the reasons you can't realize that ideal health system right now, today. Go ahead and get mad. Write them all down.
Next, take a third piece of paper. Write on this last paper the things you could start doing in 2016 that would begin to build the ideal vision you wrote on the first piece of paper. Can you add enough of them to paint a vivid picture of where you want to go?
When you’ve formed that picture in your head, you’re ready for a second piece of advice: When you look at companies that change successfully, they are filled with people who are both speaking — and seeking — the truth.
An environment of trust allows everyone around you to join in building the future of your rapidly changing business.
Add speed and flexibility to this mind map, and you’ve imagined the kinds of skills needed to create a new generation of physicians prepared to lead in the new age of health care. Nothing could create more meaning than that.
Stephen K. Klasko, M.D., MBA, is president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health in Philadelphia. Jack Welch is executive chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute and former CEO of General Electric.