One Job for Health IT Leadership

“The role of leadership is to provide CLARITY versus certainty” – Dr. Rasu Shrestha

Dr. Rasu Shrestha, Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President at Atrium Health, spoke these powerful words at the recent Interactive Series event and immediately broke the webinar chat feature.

Instead of delivering his keynote live, a recording of Dr. Shrestha’s presentation was played to the audience. This allowed him to engage with the audience in real-time through the event’s chat feature and on Twitter – something that is only possible in a virtual setting.

If you have ever heard Dr. Shrestha speak you know that his keynotes are full of quotable lines and tweetable nuggets. He did not disappoint at the November event. As soon as he made the statement above, the chat and Twitter lit up with comments.

The Next Normal

Dr. Shrestha made his statement while talking about the role of healthcare leaders as we head into a time of crisis and rapid change.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed healthcare: the way it is delivered and perceived. In just a few short months we moved from:

  • Viewing frontline workers as staff to being heroes they truly are
  • Telehealth being a nice-to-have to being a must-have
  • Seeing waiting rooms as a necessity to being a liability
  • Stable provider and healthcare vendor revenue to income uncertainty
  • An annoying lack of interoperability to a critical (life and death) need for interoperability

Dr. Shrestha argued in his keynote that this is just the beginning of the “Next Normal”. He labels what we are going through now as just the transition period – a time when the traditional way of doing things are disrupted. According to Dr. Shrestha, to effectively navigate this transition, healthcare leaders will need to use their crisis management skills and chief among those is providing CLARITY rather than CERTAINTY.

Clarity in a time of uncertainty

The Oxford Dictionary defines clarity as “the ability to think about or understand something in a way that is sensible” and certainty as “that which you can rely on to happen or to be true”.

During a crisis what we all crave is certainty. We want to know exactly what will happen. Unfortunately, crises are not like streamed movies or books where you can skip to the end. It is tempting for leaders to cave into our wishes and try to predict the future for us, but that is folly. Instead, Dr. Shrestha recommends leaders prioritize clarity.

Clarity in a time of uncertainty can come from many places. For example, in a hospital setting, leaders can provide clarity of purpose by reminding staff daily about the difference they are making in the lives of people in their community. Similarly, leaders at Health IT companies, can ground their teams by showing them how their work affects the operations of their customers who in turn are better able to provide care to patients.

Clarity can also come by focusing on things that can be controlled and pushing aside anything that cannot. This can be as simple as making an accelerated product release a common goal or conducting a certain number of telehealth appointments in a single day/week. The key is setting realistic goals that can be achieved together.

Clarity = Success

The pandemic has produced many examples of companies and organizations that have thrived by providing clarity:

The leadership team at Providence, one of the largest health systems in the US, provided clarity to their organization by staying true to their well-crafted strategic plan. The plan helped to guide operational decisions and keep their eyes on the horizon. Despite the tumultuous year, Providence is well positioned to achieve some of the goals originally outlined in their plan.

At TiER1 Healthcare, CEO Greg Harmeyer, used Yammer to post daily updates on the company’s health including: revenue, profitability, utilization, etc. He also shared links to useful COVID-19 resources. The TiER1 team found these updates helpful and appreciated the level of transparency from their leaders.

Denianne Gardner, Marketing Manager at TiER1, had this to say: “When people are left without information, they will, by human nature, speculate. Speculation is more than not-productive, it’s counter productive. By being as transparent as possible, our leaders allowed people to focus on the work in front of them.”

In the early days of the pandemic, hospitals were unable to meet with families and caregivers in-person. This made already difficult end-of-life conversations even more challenging. Dr. Michael Kanevsky, a Critical Care Intensivist and ICU Chief at Lasalle General Hospital in Montreal needed a solution and turned to Google and Onix for help. Together they set a goal of developing a solution to virtually connect physicians, patients, and their families using hospital-grade tablets, Google Meet and Google Calendar. This clarity of purpose helped the team move quickly. The resulting solution saved physicians’ time and provided a more human experience for patients and their families.

One Job

Now that I have had a few days to internalize Dr. Shrestha’s statement, I am convinced that providing clarity is the ONE JOB that healthcare leaders should focus on. Do that, and success will follow.

It doesn’t matter if you work at a provider, a government agency or a Health IT company, it is critical to create an environment where staff have clarity:

  • of purpose
  • on the goals that should be achieved
  • on where leadership stands

Communicating the above, consistently and concisely will focus your entire organization on things they can control. While the world lurches forward to the Next Normal, your team will be ready for its arrival.

To watch Dr. Shrestha’s entire keynote on-demand, go to this page.  Also, join us for our December event focused on healthcare cybersecurity.

About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.