Sanjeeb Khatua, M.D., MBA, M.P.H., chief physician executive at Northshore Edward-Elmhurst Health, a health system based in Evanston, Illinois, is one of the 10 up-and-coming healthcare leaders featured in the annual Managed Healthcare Executive feature.
Sanjeeb Khatua, M.D., MBA, M.P.H.
I grew up in San Jose, California, and dreamed of being a physician from an early age. I am a board-certified family medicine physician and have also earned an M.P.H. from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, and an MBA in healthcare management from Loyola University Chicago.
Among the many high points in my career are leading COVID-19 response efforts for Edward-Elmhurst Health as incident commander at the onset of the pandemic and assisting in creating and developing its opioid initiative. I’m also a passionate physician champion and recently initiated a Physician Vitality Program to help address physician stress and burnout.
Why did you decide to pursue a career in healthcare?
I am motivated to help people live their best lives. Being a physician is both intellectually challenging and deeply meaningful in helping families and individuals when they need us most.
Which career accomplishment are you proudest of and why?
Helping lead the COVID-19 response at Edward-Elmhurst Health was one of the most gratifying experiences of my career — although it didn’t always feel gratifying as we were going through it. It taught me a great deal about leading with values, staying even keeled and using a practical approach to manage challenges. Leading during (COVID-19) was a pressure test for me and my leadership style. I believe we led with integrity and humility, which allowed us to be thoughtful and empathetic.
What is the most challenging part of your current position?
Trying to define a new normal (post-COVID-19) for all our teams, patients and communities is our biggest challenge. Not knowing or being able to predict what healthcare will look like over the next few years leads to increasing amounts of angst for everyone. How we manage this and get to more clarity will be important for our future.
What is your organization doing to address healthcare equity?
A prominent feature of the NorthShore-Edward-Elmhurst Health merger is our mutual commitment to our communities and creating new community investment funds. Each organization has committed $100 million to our respective communities. These funds will generate millions of dollars annually to enhance health and well-being, advance health equity and support local economic growth.
Earlier this year NorthShore announced its first seven recipients, with awards totaling $2.6 million to help address priority needs including mental health services for the underserved, help for survivors of domestic violence, economic and career development, support for those with food insecurity and mobile services outreach.
If you could change one thing in U.S. healthcare, what would it be?
I would alter payment mechanisms with policy changes and alignment that would make it easier for patients to receive care by reducing barriers and minimizing confusion. In order for this to happen, there needs to be a more concerted effort to shift from fee-for-service to value-based care.
Although CMS/CMMI (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Innovation Center) have made some progress in creating new payment mechanisms, there has yet to be a broad-based shift. If we can shift the focus to value, it will allow caregivers to feel more in control of care delivery, which will translate to better outcomes at a lower cost.
How do you avoid burnout?
By spending time with my family; exercising — for example, playing basketball, soccer, high intensity interval training; and maintaining friendships and industry relationships outside of my day-to-day work.
I also regularly focus on managing the things that I can control. It’s easy to get complacent about all the challenges we face, but I believe we have to make the best of what our current system is while doing the best we can to impact future policy.
I would like to add that it is difficult to burn out when your job does not feel like a job. I love what I do and feel very fortunate to be in a position to make things better for our teams and patients.