It’s not often that you see a hospital — or any other type of organization, for that matter — with an all-female leadership team. But that’s just the case at an Arizona medical center following one recent key hiring.
Just last month, Banner Desert Medical Center in Mesa brought aboard Cristal Mackay as its new chief operating officer. She joins a hospital whose chief executive, medical, nursing and financial officers are all women.
CEO Laura Robertson tells me that she, of course, didn’t set out to make sure that she’s only working with women at the top of the hospital. “Obviously, you hire the right people for the job. So, that was not on my agenda to only hire women, no question. It just kind of fell into place like that.”
But given that things did happen that way, Robertson said the arrangement certainly has its benefits. For one, the nearly 50,000-person workforce of Phoenix-based Banner Health, the health system that operates Desert Medical Center, is 76 percent female, and it makes sense for an organization to have a leadership team that is representative its employees. Plus, women are often the ones who make health care decisions for their families, and Robertson believes it makes sense to have a team that’s tuned in to those decision-makers.
“Women have huge influences on their families’ health care,” Robertson says. “Most women make the health care decisions, not just for themselves, but for their whole families, right? And so that's another advantage. You can't just hire females over the qualified [males], of course, but certainly I think it's always given me another approach to understanding what the consumer needs or wants, from a health care perspective.”
Having insight into the consumer’s perspective is all the more important as Banner Health embarks on a new mission to “make health care easier, so that life can be better.” That new motto comes by way of the system’s leadership team, which also heavily relies on women at the top. (Its chief operating, marketing and human resources officers are all female.) Overall, more than half of Banner Health’s 348 senior managers are women, according to a press release. And 57 percent of its 21 facility CEOs are female.
Robertson has seen the challenges patients face when they seek health care services on their own terms and find themselves unable to do so — for instance, receiving five different bills from one surgical procedure, or being unable to schedule a doctor’s appointment at night or over the weekend. Making the process easier for consumers should be a driving force for all hospitals, she believes, and not just Desert Medical Center.
“I don't know that there's another environment that is as complex for something that's so critical. Nothing is more precious than your health. I mean truly without your health nothing else will matter,” she says. “And so, just the many components of health care put more stress on people during some of the most challenging times in their life,” she adds later. “So, we want to be consumer-focused. We want to engage technology and we want to make it easier.”
Banner’s old mission, “making a difference in people’s lives through excellent patient care,” was too singularly focused on that hospital-based encounter and the duties of doctors and nurses, Robert says. This new mission, however, reaches all aspects of life, and it resonates with the staff working on any moment of the patient’s encounter with the health system.
“We want to not just focus on when you're a patient. We want to keep you out of the hospital. We want to keep you healthy. We want to keep you well, and so our new mission isn't so patient-focused,” she says. “Our new mission really represents the entire continuum of health care. It's applicable to every site, whether you're the nurse at the bedside or whether you're in patient financial services. If your mission is to make it ‘easier so it’s better,’ then if you’re a financial representative you can connect to that mission as well as any nurse at the bedside.”