"Must haves" for future healthcare leaders


Abigail Ulrich


Korn Ferry

April 29, 2018

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I have the honor to serve on Trinity University’s Advisory Board Council for the Master’s Healthcare Administration Program. It is a great opportunity to sit around the table with healthcare executives from across the country to talk about preparing future healthcare leaders, focusing on the skills and competencies required for them to be successful during this time of transformation in the industry.


The purpose of the Advisory Council is to assist, support and provide strategic direction for the programs efforts to develop future leaders in healthcare administration. Our most recent meeting focused on the assessment of the program’s curricular offerings to ensure that the curriculum is relevant to the current healthcare environment as well as ensure it provides a firm foundation for a successful long-term career in health services administration.


There was recognition that we must educate these future leaders both on challenges they will face today, while looking forward enough at trends to provide them the skills and knowledge to be ready for what that future entails.


We all agreed that the move to value is here – although it may take different variations depending upon different markets, but it’s here.  Pressure to reduce costs and improve quality and outcomes are likely to continue. This shift in the industry has caused organizations, and programs like Trinity’s, to also shift to building different key capabilities. 


With this move to value as a central organizing theme, there were a few areas that the Board identified as “must haves” for future healthcare leaders:


Consumerism: With more cost-sharing on the line, healthcare consumers expect more from healthcare providers including things like convenience, quality and value as well as personalization. Hospitals and health systems are looking toward consumer favorites like Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks for examples and ideas on how to improve patient experience.  Not to mention, some of these consumer favorites, like Amazon, have taken a surprising turn into the healthcare industry. Recognizing this challenge, health systems across the nation are creating entire divisions/departments dedicated to consumerism.


Physician Alignment Strategies: Hospitals and physician alignment is a must to achieve successful clinical integration. Physicians have a significant impact on healthcare expenditure as a physician’s clinical decisions about patients make up about 90% of every healthcare dollar spent. The financial and quality impact physicians have on healthcare expenditure as well as the establishment of more integrated health delivery systems has intensified the need for hospitals and physicians to partner together to meet both quality, financial, and consumer demands of the environment.  My colleague Chris Rowe wrote a nice piece about this recently.


Ambulatory Strategy – Retail Focus: Health systems have been developing their ambulatory platforms and retail strategies over the last several years as patient care has shifted from the inpatient to the outpatient setting. This trend continues to accelerate as health systems consider new ways to provide high quality services in lower cost settings. 


Ability to Innovate: The healthcare industry is amidst enormous change, requiring leaders not only understand and possess this critical competency around the ability to innovate, but more importantly, know how to instill it throughout an organization. Some basic skills can be taught, but the environment needs to encourage innovation My colleague, Harry Greenspun spends a lot of time in this area and wrote about it here.


Although there are many trends that are here to stay as listed above, there is also so much unknown in healthcare. No one person or organization has the crystal ball to see the future, so the most important thing to be done is to develop a leadership model that prepares organizations and future health care leaders with the agility to adapt to change.