A Transformational Experience: The AHA Leadership Summit

By Luke Morris

This year’s AHA Leadership Summit in San Diego was themed “Lead. Connect. Transform. The Future of Healthcare.” As an attendee, I agree that it was a rare opportunity to connect with leaders who are, truly, transforming the industry and shaping its future. The Summit – which annually “convenes the field’s leading thinkers and doers,” according to the event’s website – provided plenty of thought-provoking sessions aimed at moving the industry forward.

I enjoyed learning what today’s leaders have been thinking about, and doing. On the plane ride home, I took a few minutes to write down the key takeaways from my viewpoint:

  • The innovation imperative: Without question, innovation is the key to success in the new landscape of healthcare. The general consensus among those executives I heard and spoke with is that competition is so fierce in the marketplace that the status quo will not be good enough for any but the most highly regarded health providers. “Healthcare leaders need to scale “empathy’ for our patients to use as inspiration for innovation and stop making decisions for change outside the context of its user,” said speaker Chris Waugh, Chief Design and Innovation Officer at Sutter Health. Most systems will need to innovate around several key areas—the following were cited most often:
    • Remote healthcare technologies
    • An experience centered on the patient and their families
    • Making the delivery of healthcare more safe
    • Improving quality as a means of reducing the heavy healthcare cost structure
  • Paddling upstream: There is a strong need for health systems to continue to move upstream, toward population health and full risk-based models, to be successful and add value to the communities and individuals which they serve. This may seem obvious, but recent research regarding the social determinants of health indicates that, in order for patients to get to optimal health, healthcare must extend beyond the walls of health systems and into homes and communities.
  • Safe and sound: Quality and Safety continue to be critical pillars of successful systems. Those healthcare providers that will succeed will excel in these areas, and just as importantly have the ability to recognize, correct and laterally deploy fixes around safety and quality as a key to keeping patients safe and providing the best care. As NASA Captain Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 said, speaking to the AHA audience, “It’s the small, little things that go wrong that can add up to major disasters.” He also reminded us to use data to improve safety and quality, just as the famous W. Edwards Deming said, “In God we trust, all others must bring data.”
  • Power of moments: While it’s certainly not a new phrase, patient experience continued to be a hot topic of discussion. One idea I heard that resonated is for care providers to focus on the transitions and peaks of patient stays, as these experiences are remembered most. For example, healthcare organizations should focus on the admissions and discharges as key transition points for patients. Making the admit process as seamless and easy as possible while reducing the time to wait and unnecessary paperwork will dramatically improve the patient experience. In order to provide best-in-class experience, emphasize the moments that stick in patients’ minds.

What left an impression on me from the Summit was the near complete emphasis on innovation and figuring out ways of doing things differently than in the past. Healthcare has not been known as an innovative industry, but it’s safe to say that reputation is changing.

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