The Healthcare Industry Leverages Interim Executives To Navigate Disruption

The Healthcare Industry Leverages Interim Executives To Navigate Disruption

Modern healthcare is as complex as physiology inside our own bodies. The healthcare industry is now waist deep in an era of extreme disruption. The breakneck pace of technological innovation coupled with the increasing aging population and chronic diseases is a recipe for historic changes in healthcare.

In the healthcare ecosystem, some organizations will sink, and some swim as disruption occurs. From hospitals to clinics, to patients to pharmaceutical companies, to insurers to medical technology businesses no entity will be unaffected.

Leaders in healthcare say legacy providers must respond swiftly to the changes. The abrupt exit of critical leadership, gaps in capacity and expertise, or old systems that no longer work can quickly become problems. Because these factors are interwoven, health care organizations can find themselves unraveling if they don’t act fast.

In these unfortunate circumstances, more healthcare interims are now commonly used in the industry. They can onboard fast (sometimes in a matter of days), and bring the acumen and wisdom to cut to the chase and help healthcare organizations stabilize. Healthcare interims come from a variety of backgrounds including interim CEOs, interim CFOs, and interim CIOs.

Healthcare Organizations Must Change Their Internal Culture

Many healthcare providers will need to completely rethink their culture to stay relevant and fiscally stable. A healthcare provider must ask themselves a difficult question: Does their current culture have the internal capacity or leadership to drive transformative cultural change? More times than not, the honest answer is “No.”

When organizations realize the old cultural models of healthcare management are no longer working, many of them leverage the expertise of an interim executive. An interim leader can help healthcare providers take calculated risks – embracing innovation, technology, continuous improvement, and patient outcome-based models.

“I am going to look at how we improve. How we get more efficient. More profitable. How we improve quality,” says Interim CEO Richard Larison, who has led and turned around healthcare organizations ranging from hospitals to clinics and physician networks.

Many healthcare providers are aggressively revitalizing their internal cultures by shifting to a more patient engagement and outcome-based philosophy. A culture where performance and feedback are valued at all levels are key ingredients for stability and forward momentum.

“Hospitals as entities are starting to change,” says Larison who explains that in many ways hospitals are no longer at the top of the food chain. They are now exploring how to work in and through physicians with a focus on how to proactively keep you well, and not just treating you when you get sick.

Yet, in the midst of these changes, it’s of critical importance that everyone is aligned and moving in the same direction. Larison saw this first hand as CEO of a multi-site healthcare provider with services across adult primary care, pediatrics, dentistry, and behavioral health, where he parachuted in to address unmet needs within the community in addition to culture problems within the organization and the board.

Historically, the healthcare system is a slow one to adopt a culture of technology, digital transformation, and innovation. But the healthcare industry from hospitals to large insurers is starting to see a shift. Forward-thinking healthcare organizations are looking to other industries for transformative models that can be morphed into their own.   

But to get from point A  to point B, there’s a lot of moving parts that intertwine from politics, governance, privacy, and regulations. The shift in the hierarchy of priorities to focusing on population health, leveraging actionable health care data, AI, and precision medicine only adds to the complexity. Each of those factors is a moving target that is also evolving in their own right. An experienced interim executive in healthcare can quickly strategize and execute a plan that prioritizes and synthesizes all these factors.

Michael Krietzer, an Interim CIO who has created and implemented actions plans in hospitals and healthcare organizations ranging from 350 beds up to multi-hospital academic medical systems, says that often there is anecdotal evidence that an organization can benefit from an interim. Maybe there is no project management, projects are behind on implementation or over budget, the staff is complaining or leaving, or systems go down unexpectedly.

“In many cases, the primary job of an interim executive is to do an assessment to find the gaps that must be filled,” Krietzer explains adding that at the end of the day it’s about results and a better future for the organization. “An interim must then revive, redo, firm up, and re-establish best practices to create a strong foundation for the next permanent executive.”