Tap into the “greatest intellect in the health care industry”


When a health system surveyed its physicians, it asked a question some might find more suited to MBAs than MDs.

North Carolina-based Wilmington Health asked: Is the rate of change within Wilmington Health less than the rate of change in the industry?

It’s a question focused on competition and market dynamics — elements of health care traditionally separated from the work of clinicians.

Chief Executive Officer Jeff James said the question was aimed at engaging physicians in the transition to value-based care. To that end, the discussion didn’t stop with the survey.

Wilmington Health shared a quote from Jack Welch — the legendary, retired CEO of General Electric.

“When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight.” Jack Welch Inc. March 1995

Wilmington Health wanted to illustrate that health care is changing very rapidly and health systems need to keep up.

“We talked about why it needed to be changed, what was likely to happen if we didn’t change, and the absolute need to change our default future,” said James.

  • Optum infographic outlines four steps to help provider organizations align with market needs

James said the decision to be transparent about business concerns and loop doctors into the discussion is supported by one simple belief.

Value-based care providers can’t succeed without strong physician leadership.

“The physician core has collectively the greatest intellect in the health care industry, said James. “In order for us to be successful, physicians are going have to take their rightful place as the leaders of the industry.”

Putting physicians first
Hartford HealthCare, in Connecticut, is also putting physicians at the forefront of its value-based efforts. It is including doctors on steering committees and working to provide the same education and information to the entire group at the same time.

The Optum white paper Trailblazers in accountable care quotes Dr. James Cardon, Hartford’s executive vice president and chief clinical integration officer.

“It became clear that if you don’t build a culture from the ground up, if you don’t have the physicians engaged in the process and instead try to impose it, it is not going to work,” said Cardon.

Physician engagement
Involving physicians in every level of the care delivery transformation process is key, according to the Optum white paper, Mapping the journey to value-based care.

This includes creating a governance structure that both engages physicians in various leadership roles and educates the physician community about population-focused care delivery models.

Learn more
Watch Jeff James answer 5 questions in 5 minutes in a new #5in5 video: The basic building blocks of a value-based network.  You’ll hear his advice for starting or continuing the transformation and learn what — in addition to strong physician leadership — he considers crucial for success.

About the author

Karen Thomas-SmithKaren Thomas-Smith is vice president of Provider Marketing & Reference Management at Optum. She brings to the role more than 15 years of global experience in the software industry. Karen has shared her unique ideas on corporate culture and leadership in a number of television appearances on Oprah, 60 Minutes and Canada Public Television. Prior to her position at Optum, Karen spent time at Allscripts and SAS.

She holds a bachelor of science degree in business administration from North Carolina Wesleyan College, graduating Magna Cum Laude.

2 thoughts on “Tap into the “greatest intellect in the health care industry”

  1. Good information Karen. We in the healthcare industry need to also answer another related question, “What is driving the rapid change in the industry?”. There are numerous variables that signal needed changes, new treatment technology, higher costs of care, longer lifespans, etc. Industry leaders, definitely including Physicians, must clearly identify and prioritize which changes will make the greatest positive impact on patient care. Without focus, competing priorities can dilute the positive impact of any changes.

    • Great thoughts, Dennis. Costs are rising for various reasons, but it seems to me that the health care industry across the board is focused on the Triple Aim. That said, there are some natural tensions among the goals of lower costs, the highest quality and greater patient satisfaction. I hope that the industry can keep focus on those goals, and if it does, everyone involved–payers, providers, governments–will need to make hard choices in the coming years.
      –Karen Thomas-Smith

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