Healthcare is changing more and more rapidly. To thrive in this unpredictable environment, leaders need to excel in many areas. Here’s a look at the top six attributes we’ve identified as crucial to your success.
Today’s senior executives must possess unprecedented flexibility to quickly respond to the changing environment and new government mandates that can greatly impact their bottom line and long-term sustainability, says Dennis Eder, MBA, MA, cofounder and managing partner of Strategic Health Group, a healthcare consultancy. “Rigid adherence to any strategic or operating plan will significantly impair a plan’s options for success,” Eder says.
Mary Herrmann, MS, managing director of executive coaching at BPI group, a leadership, talent, and career transition consultancy, agrees. “Agile leaders can easily adjust in ambiguous and deadline-driven situations,” she says. “They should be able to manage frequent changes, delays, and heavy workloads, and motivate and inspire their teams. In fact, they should excel under pressure.” Leaders should also be inquisitive and open to alternative approaches, she says. “They should seek and thrive in new learning environments and experiences and be able to apply new learning quickly.”
Leaders should also cultivate flexibility throughout their organizations, as healthcare companies also need to adjust to changes quickly and fluidly, says Bill Fox, JD, MA, chief strategist of global healthcare, life sciences, and insurance at MarkLogic, an enterprise database company.
2. Policy savvy
Successful healthcare executives need to be open to hiring new individuals who can provide additional expertise in key areas. For example, some payers are growing their in-house policy experts so they can quickly shift directions depending on legislation. Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina hired a former Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation deputy administrator. “By employing these types of leaders, payers can better predict and get ahead of legislative changes,” says Ken Botsford, MD, chief medical officer at naviHealth, a care transitions and post-acute care management company.
Healthcare leaders should also build personal relationships with regulators at the state level, in particular with the Department of Insurance and the State Medicaid Agency, and appropriate personnel at CMS, says Eder. “We have seen clients, with the support and collaboration of other health plans, change significant proposed laws that would have affected their risk-based capital requirements.”
Healthcare leaders should also cultivate personal relationships with federal and state legislators who represent the districts in which their organization operates. “In short, it is not enough for the plan to be known; the plan’s face and voice needs to be known as well,” Eder says.
Managed care executives also need to be able to speak to policymakers about the challenges facing their plan, and the industry in general, and verbalize what would make for good public policy relative to achieving the Quadruple Aim, lowering pharmaceutical costs, and solving challenges inherent in serving an aging population, says Eder. “The more that leaders can do this, the more that policymakers will start to rely on health plan executives as a trusted source of unbiased information when health-related issues arise.”
3. Social media awareness
Social media presence can affect how customers and the competition perceive, relate to, and interact with a healthcare organization. Healthcare executives must monitor the social media landscape and ensure their companies are fully utilizing it.
For example, patient engagement and wellness initiatives on social media pose an opportunity to reach consumers on an entirely different level and in a fashion that makes a health plan more than a medical claims processing organization, says Ashraf Shehata, MHA, principal at KPMG and a member of the tax, audit, and advisory firm’s Global Healthcare Center of Excellence. “They can educate patients without needing a big budget. Even if a few hundred people view a two-minute video pertaining to diabetes education, it can recoup the investment if it prevents a few hospitalizations.”
Fox says social media also helps companies show customers that their needs are prioritized. They should engage in ongoing conversations with customers by monitoring customer posts and responding in a timely and meaningful manner to questions, concerns, or even compliments, he says.
Healthcare executives should also use social media to build their own knowledge base. For example, use it as a place to listen and gather information from customers and potential customers. “Learning about challenges from the patient’s perspective is often the best way to understand what healthcare consumers want and need to reorient priorities,” Botsford says.
Finally, healthcare executives should understand how their companies can monitor social media posts to sense health epidemics faster, Fox says. For instance, people often use social media to share when they are not feeling well before they go to the doctor. An abnormal spike in such posts could indicate the start of the flu season in a particular area sooner.