A 2021 Template for Healthcare Leaders

By Paul Bohne

It is easy to get distracted by the sheer volume of information and advice that healthcare leaders are inundated with these days. In this article, I would like to keep things simple. What follows is modest advice for healthcare CEOs and other leaders for 2021—a template for keeping priorities straight.

  1. Take care of your workers. Workforce-related issues – from staff fatigue to burnout to strained human resources all around – have been all-consuming for CEOs and other healthcare leaders. Besides being the right thing to do, which is what matters, demonstrating support for caregiver well-being builds trust with your teams which impacts organization culture, retention and performance. As 2021 progresses we expect to get more relief from the impacts of COVID-19, but the lingering, debilitating effects of the pandemic on healthcare workers will continue. Take steps to build a resilient organization.
  2. Stay focused on organizational performance. The financial hardships of 2020 for most organizations continue into 2021, whether due to the costs of COVID itself or lost revenues from reductions of elective procedures, the challenges with some opting to not get the care they need out of fear, and the overall inability to conduct business as usual. Continue to focus on all elements of performance, including cost structures, identifying efficiencies and unnecessary waste within your organization and advancing accessible, high-quality, cost-efficient models of care.
  3. Take care of patients phenomenally well. The past year has seen tremendous innovation in new care models due to the acceleration of digital health and telehealth. As a healthcare leader, continue to innovate where possible but without losing sight of the true North Star: creating systems that support reliable, accessible, high-quality patient care. “The innovations and the things that got us through this were expert clinicians using their best judgment and ability to network with others, to try to figure out how to navigate this,” Brian Gragnolati, CEO of Atlantic Health System, has said. New technologies are part of the answer, but taking great care of people is at the core.
  4. Take care of yourself. It has been said many times before, but you can’t take care of your organization without taking care of yourself. Keep your tank filled. Burnout is a real threat—you know this better than anyone. Fortunately, for a good number of healthcare leaders COVID-19 has rekindled a sense of purpose. Executives I speak with are in awe of the work their teams are doing and reconnecting with their missions. Take the steps to care for yourself and keep reminding yourself: “I am making a difference.”
  5. Build more bridges. One of the revelations of the past year has been the widespread cooperation and collegiality among healthcare providers as well as other health-related organizations. From being unified to serve the greater good, in many cases competitors became collaborators, especially at the state level. Continue this spirit of peer outreach and collaboration into 2021, remembering that you and your organization are not alone in the fight against the pandemic.
  6. Partner with physicians. In 2021 we’ll continue to see the proliferation of different alignment operational models with respect to health systems and employed vs. independent physician groups. COVID has accelerated new partnerships for many independent groups. Keep the lines of communication open and be open to new and creative partnerships. Look for ways to support provider groups as many have struggled to stay viable and effective in serving their constituents.
  7. Find inspiration. COVID-19 is an era-defining crisis. It’s a “unique opportunity to reimagine a future where every company acts with a deep sense of purpose.” Find your purpose and continue to look for ways that your organization can make a difference. Recognize and celebrate the collective purpose of your team. It matters to them. History will look favorably upon those who did their best, most important work during this crisis.

Keep your priorities simple in 2021. Here’s hoping it is a year of renewal and personal and professional growth. What I witnessed from seeing your sense of purpose, resiliency, and how you rose to meet the challenges of 2020 was truly inspirational to me. For that, I am grateful to the entire community of healthcare leaders.

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