Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Million Deadheads Can’t Be Wrong

While I am an avid reader and try to keep up with the latest writing in my field, there are books I return to time and time again for inspiration and ideas, whether it be on how to increase my own performance or that of my organization. As I have recently taken on the leadership of Tampa General Hospital, I was inspired to return to one of my favorites, Everything IKnow About Business I Learned from the Grateful Dead: The Ten Most InnovativeLessons from a Long, Strange Trip by Barry Barnes.

You might think it strange for a health care guy like me to be inspired by the philosophy of the Grateful Dead. But, what you may not realize is that the band were innovators when it came to engaging their fans (aka consumers). In fact - they were true pioneers of consumerism.

Much of the band’s success came from doing things in unconventional ways and always putting their fans first and at the center of everything. For example, they capped ticket prices so their fans had greater access to their music and rejected corporate sponsorships that had become all too common in live concert tours. In addition, the Dead distributed their content through multiple channels—again to increase access—and for a reasonable price, if not for free. They also let their fans record their shows—creating a network (in a pre-social media era) of fans sharing and trading music. Their philosophy was that their product was not the music, or the band, it was the audience. The Dead was about building a community of audience and band.

But again, what can the Dead’s relationship to their fans teach us about health care and business? As I said, the Dead were at the forefront of consumerism. Their approach to access and putting their fans first is at the heart of everything we do in the health care arena.  For me, the tactics deployed by the Dead and discussed in the book are directly applicable to our approach to consumerism. Specifically, here’s how the Dead’s approach can be leveraged:

  • Consumer Insights: Get to know your customers—who are they, what speaks to them, what do they want and need? Knowing who your customers are will help you make the right business decisions later on.
  • Access: Provide multiple access points and platforms for them (brick and mortar as well as online) to obtain services. We should be available no matter where they are in their consumer journey.
  • Convenience: Make services easy and accessible. This has become the norm in other
  • Transparency: Be transparent about prices, quality, outcomes, etc. This will allow for consumers to not only shop services, but to feel more comfortable entrusting their care in your organization’s hands.
  • Patient Satisfaction/Experience: Focus on providing a positive experience not just at the time of the service but before, during and after.
  • Loyalty: Build followers and create a “tribe” of consumers. Remember, it is more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain a current one.

While these tactics, when deployed properly, can result in deeper engagement and consumer loyalty, there is one more tactic of the Dead’s that is critical in achieving success—strategic improvisation. Strategic improvisation is the ability to adapt to changing times or forces affecting your business. The Dead were constantly changing and adapting as their work and brand evolved. As health care leaders, our true ability to succeed will be a result of our willingness to embrace change and not only adjust, but to capitalize on the new realities of our business.

To some, the Dead were simply musicians and to others, they were a way of life. Regardless of where you fall, you cannot deny the Dead’s ability to build a brand and cultivate a massive legion of followers. If we could achieve half that level of loyalty and engagement, we would be well on our way. A million dead heads are proof of that.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

It Takes a Village

If, as the saying goes, “all politics are local,” the same can be said of health care. As health care consumers continue to have greater agency in their health care decision-making and as the ACA requires nonprofit hospitals to focus on the long-term wellness and health of patients, the medical services available should now - more than ever - reflect the specific needs of the community in which they are offered.

In order to meet the needs of the community it serves, health care providers such as Tampa General Hospital (TGH) are looking to strategically collaborate with community partners like never before. For example, at TGH we work closely with a handful of partners throughout the community on programs that focus on preventative care and a wellness mentality that keeps people living healthier lives.  As such a high percentage of chronic diseases are linked to behavior, the more we can partner on community health initiatives, the less intensive and expensive health care costs will be down the road.

Collaborating and developing community partnerships should not be done in vacuum. By that I mean, hospitals and providers should consider a host of factors specific to the community it serves. Specifically, they should think about answers to the following questions when designing and developing these partnerships and programs:

  • What does the community need? Results of community needs assessments should be at the foundation of community partnerships. This will allow you to use objective data when developing new programs and ones that speak to the documented needs of your community. For example, in some communities, assessment results will lead you to develop obesity prevention programs, while in others, it might be diabetes education or infant mortality protection programs. 

  • What do the people want? Listen to your friends and neighbors to figure out what services they are asking for. While assessments will help define priorities and programs, it is equally important to directly listen to the population you serve. One way to do this is to hold conversations at different locations throughout the community in order to hear from a broad cross-section of the population. 

  • What are active access points for the community? In some, churches are a significant spot for activity and engagement, in others it is schools or community centers. Think about where neighbors go, and work with those institutions, when possible, to offer services. A great deal of providing community services is breaking down barriers to access.

  • Are you taking the long view? Partnerships and programs should be seen as providing a continuum of care for the community. Community partnership services should reflect an emphasis on preventative care, prevention and wellness enhancement as well as direct services.

  • Are you engaging neighbors and advocates to promote health and wellness? Empowering folks to take an active role in their health as well as that of their neighbors can be an effective and powerful thing. Think about developing partnerships that work to promote education about the health care policies that affect their community as well as providing opportunities for them to serve as ambassadors in their neighborhoods. This will allow you to develop a new set of stakeholders in the programs and services you offer, while continuing to develop more expansive ways to promote healthy living.

As the health care landscape continues to change and as consumers and neighbors rely on providers for more than just their direct services, leaders and organizations must continue to reimagine what it means to provide care. Today, we in the industry are charged with taking care of the health and wellness of our whole community and not just the patients that walk through our door. With this mindset, it takes our whole community strategically working together to make this happen. The more we can partner, the stronger our community will be.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

That Time of Year

With 2017 coming to a close and 2018 just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to talk about setting professional leadership goals. As with anything, having a road map to guide you makes your route clearer. So, think about goal setting as a way to map out - in broad strokes - your path for the year ahead.

While I am sure that you are swamped with wrapping up year-end projects, and setting goals might be the last thing on your list, I encourage you to carve out the time to make it happen. Not only will it get you pumped up for next year, it will help refocus you on the tasks at hand.

As you begin to think about what you would like to accomplish, I suggest first spending some undisturbed time reflecting on the what has transpired over the course of the last year and prioritizing what is most important for you to achieve in the months ahead.

You will want to be both realistic and aspirational in your goal setting. I recommend choosing no more than six goals - four that you feel you can attain with the right amount of work and attention (don’t choose ones that you can phone in) and two that are a stretch. This will allow you to hone in on what you really want and need to get done, while providing a bit of space for you to increase your capacity and to challenge yourself.

I realize that sometimes the toughest part of the goal setting is not the work attaining the goals, but deciding on the goals themselves. Here are a few tips that will help provide a framework for goal selection:

  1. Set goals that are influenced by what you experienced the previous year. Build on what you have learned and take things to the next level.
  2. Seek the advice of others. Meet with a colleague or mentor and ask them to help coach you on developing your list for 2018.
  3. Ask yourself, “and then what?” What will be achieved by accomplishing this goal? What will it allow me to do?
  4. Use this as a time to work on a problem area. Think about a blind spot or an area on which you can improve and set a goal that addresses that issue.

Finally, and most importantly, share your goals with others. Let your team and your colleagues know what you are working towards achieving in the year ahead. This will allow them to not only push you, but having their buy in will prove invaluable.

The dawn of 2018 provides the perfect opportunity to set your course for the new year. Get to work on the four to six things you want to accomplish over the next year. Think about how great it will feel in December, when you are able to look back and celebrate all you have accomplished.

I wish you all a happy and healthy 2018!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Balancing Act

As I approach my three-month anniversary at Tampa General Hospital, I have barely had any time to take a breath and reflect on my new role. In many ways, it feels like I have been here for years, but in others, it seems like I am just in my first week.  You see, I have divided my time between immersing myself in the organization—listening and learning—and diving in to solve problems, facing the challenges head on.

You might recall, back when I first announced my move toTampa,  I discussed my first priority on arrival was to spend a significant amount of time listening. My goal was to listen to team members, to physicians, to patients and community members and to learn from them. I wanted to immerse myself in all levels of the organization and in its culture in order to truly understand all aspects of the hospital from its successes to its challenges. As I stated back then, I believe wholeheartedly that in order to lead effectively you must listen and learn.

To a large extent, I have been able to spend my time as planned. I have been rounding, spending time with transport, in ICU, in the main operating suite, on the oncology floor and more, working alongside our nurses, techs and entire team. I have been focused on working my way through the hospital, listening, observing and learning. I have learned so much in the short amount of time I have been part of the TGH team and am more impressed than ever with the dedication and talent of my team, our physicians, our board members and our community as they come together to deliver world-class health care to the region.

But like many things in life, this job is a balancing act—developing a team and helping to shape an organization while bobbing and weaving through the challenges and day to day issues that arise. I have come to realize that it is not only through listening but also managing the new issues and challenges that come up each day, that I learn just as much about the organization—the intricacies and nuances of a complex hospital system as well as about my team—their capabilities, their approach to their work and their colleagues. The last three months have taught me to see every moment as a learning experience, and appreciate the blend of working alongside the team and managing from the helm. This has allowed for a 360-degree view of the organization.

So when in your career and you find yourself taking on a new role, it is good to listen and soak up as much as you can from day one. Get insight and perspective from your colleagues and sit back, when appropriate, and hear what they have to say.  But I have learned it is also just as valuable to get in the thick of things as soon as you can and work with your team on moving the ball forward. In other words, some days you will need to wade into the water and splash around and other days you will need to dive in and swim as fast as you can.