Hannah Ratcliffe, M.Sc., care model and quality lead at Waymark, a public benefit company using technology-enabled, community-based care to improve access and quality of care for people receiving Medicaid, is one of the 12 up-and-coming leaders in healthcare included in the annual Managed Healthcare Executive feature.
We are thrilled to present this year’s list of 12 emerging leaders in healthcare. Managed Healthcare Executive editors picked the emerging leaders from a list of almost 40 nominees. They come from the full gamut of U.S. healthcare, including companies harnessing the ever-increasing amount of healthcare data, community health worker organizations addressing social determinants of health, and enterprises devoted to improving Medicaid program access and quality. These leaders are tackling the challenges of the 21st century with creativity, dedication and insight. They give us confidence in the future of healthcare.
I earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Williams College and a master’s in science degree in global health and population and maternal and child health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
I began my career focused on measuring and promoting respectful maternity care in East Africa, an experience that continues to inspire my work to broaden traditional understandings of quality to include patient and provider perspectives and promote a holistic understanding of systemic drivers of quality. I then joined Ariadne Labs where, among other roles, I served as a technical leader of the Primary Health Care Performance Initiative, designing and applying system-level measurement and care model interventions. I have worked with governments in more than 30 countries to assess and improve their primary care systems, and I directly led improvement efforts in the United States, Estonia, Ukraine, Costa Rica and Ghana.
Career turning point: Some of the best professional advice I received was the importance of always trying to see both the forest and the trees. Every aspect of healthcare is complex. Every context and situation is different from the next. And although that nuance (all the trees) is important, it can also be paralyzing to try to make sense of it all. You also have to be ableto see the forest, to articulate what success looks like and the functions that are necessary to get there. Once you’re really clear on what that big picture looks like and why, the “how” you achieve it becomes a really big fun puzzle to solve rather than reinventing the wheel over and over.
Biggest challenge of the job: As a startup organization, Waymark is constantly looking for ways to improve so that we can maximize our efficiency and our impact for the populations we serve. My biggest challenge is to stay on top of these iterations to ensure that they always come together into a cohesive whole and that our internal teams are aligned so that we continue to create a delightful, coherent, empowering experience for our care teams and patients alike.
Long-lasting COVID-19 effect: On a personal level, when the COVID-19 pandemic began, I was working in global health and routinely traveling to a dozen or so countries each year to support measurement and improvement of national primary care systems. The pandemic shut down all travel and really consumed all the time and attention of my partners in various ministries of health.
Grounded at home with my work largely stalled, I had the chance to reflect on how and where my work could make the biggest positive impact moving forward. This reflection prompted me to shift my focus to primary care improvement here in the United States and led to my move to Waymark.
What I would change about U.S. healthcare: I’ve spent a lot of my career thinking about the issue of trust in healthcare — what it means, how to measure it, how to strengthen it. One thing the COVID-19 pandemic really exposed is just how extreme the lack of trust in health care and the health system is all over the world, and here in the U.S. in particular. Our system has become so disconnected from the people and communities it’s meant to serve.
So when I think about what I’d like to change in the U.S. healthcare system, it all centers on how we repair and build back trust, and the place I think we need to start is refocusing on strengthening primary care, which is truly rooted in and shaped by communities. No country in the world has gotten this perfectly right, but one thing I love about my current work is being able to think creatively about what I’ve seen work in Costa Rica or Estonia or Ghana and think about how we can integrate that here at home.
Book everyone in healthcare should read: One article I always recommend is one of Atul Gawande’s pieces in The New Yorker titled “The Heroism of Incremental Care.” Atul has such a gift for humanizing topics that could be overly complex and technocratic, and I think this article does such a great job of illustrating the value of primary care and its place in the health system in an approachable, relatable way.
Guilty pleasure: I have a newborn and a toddler, so right now my guilty pleasure is sneaking in a nap whenever I can!