Senior Client Partner and Sector Leader, Healthcare Board Services
Transforming healthcare boards for a world of new challenges
In the past, healthcare board members typically secured their positions through a combination of business clout, community prominence and stakeholder influence. Often these positions would be filled by local leaders or wealthy patrons who donated significant sums to healthcare organizations. As a result, they would often function as rubber stamps for C-suite decisions.
But in today's world — as we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic — healthcare organizations are looking for board members with the knowledge, skill and experience to address a wide range of challenges. From cybersecurity and virtual care to patient experience, price transparency and data analytics, healthcare boards face a dual challenge — recruiting and retaining top board talent while easing out board members who no longer complement the organization's strategic objectives.
Today's complex healthcare landscape requires board members to shift their focus, adjust policy where needed, engineer new processes and reimagine image and identity. The strategy must be clear. As a result, C-suite executives must ask a series of key questions in order to gain insight into board roles, responsibilities and functions in the months and years ahead:
How will new healthcare board members add value to the organization? How will they identify new and emerging markets? How should they address tomorrow's trends and challenges? How can they help facilitate new collaborations and partnerships?
The answers aren't always easy, but asking the right questions is critical in shaping the most effective and successful healthcare boards of the future.
Tomorrow's high-performing boards will also leverage alternative sources of revenue and growth — making it more important than ever to engage with community leaders, business owners, employees and other stakeholders.
First, does the revenue stream meet a related need for customers and stakeholders? Next, how would a new revenue stream shift stakeholders' value expectations? Lastly, does the new revenue stream integrate well with your organization's business/clinical models and resource availability?
Acting on new revenue streams requires board members to revisit board performance — including finding new board members who complement the organization's mission, vision, values and strategy.
Insight-driven decision-making will be a key factor in determining successful outcomes. Decisions about focus, purpose, vision and strategy will test tomorrow's healthcare board members. That's why each member must be evaluated based on more than knowledge and experience.
Qualities like critical thinking, emotional intelligence and personal character will play an equal or even greater role in addressing and solving future challenges. And at their core, healthcare boards must continue to operate with accountabilities, policies and processes supported by education and training.
Periodic "deep dives" on issues like workplace transformation, risk management, DE&I and ESG will be important ways for members to stay up to date on the latest trends in the healthcare world.
Moving forward, healthcare boards should select members who can connect and engage with a mastery of communication's seven Cs: clear, concise, concrete, candid, complete, coherent and courteous.
At the helm of every high-performing board is a high-performing board chairperson. These leaders understand the business of healthcare and how boards create a strategic platform for C-suite decision making and problem solving.
The best board leaders facilitate collaborative decision making, deliver friendly reminders on strategic imperatives, clarify expectations, and run efficient, productive meetings. They also support the CEO and C-suite team, refresh the board and C-suite succession plans, raise the bar on recruitment, hiring, development and retention, and request feedback. In some cases, they also transition or ease out disengaged or hostile board members.
The hallmarks of high-performing healthcare boards include supporting strategic imperatives, acting as stewards of mission, and informing CEO and C-suite decisions.
That's why board members always need access to timely, evidence-based information and insights — ensuring every decision aligns with organizational mission, vision, values, size, and complexity.
Many healthcare boards have re-engineered their member profile to incorporate individuals with healthcare or business knowledge, skill, and expertise in high-demand areas like finance, strategy, retail, advertising, product development, marketing, or technology. However, it's important to remember that fit is everything.
Organizations looking to expand via merger, acquisition, or alliance should seek out members with comparable knowledge, skill, or experience. For example, a small, faith-based system in rural Nebraska might look for members with expertise in small business, banking, marketing, or transportation.
In the end, all healthcare boards confront the same set of challenges: reinvigorate the organization’s culture, hold the CEO accountable, and address strategic trends, issues, and challenges.
Tomorrow's healthcare boards will experience significant transformation if board members maintain a strong sense of self, know their audience, listen actively, and communicate clearly.
Members who can integrate and embed these traits into board deliberations will be at the top of their game — ready to shape a mission-driven strategy while navigating the next big challenge ahead.
Interested in learning more? Contact us.