Tony Nader knows exactly what Rivers means. He readily admits that the board he chairs for Inova Health System, a network of hospitals, physicians, and other care facilities throughout the Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia metro area, had become “complacent and comfortable.” It’s understandable; the former CEO had been with Inova for 35 years and transformed the organization from a regional hospital chain into a national healthcare brand.
“We were not asking for the right information. We weren’t doing enough digging into the strategy, relationships with external partners, or exploring new directions of where the organization should be heading,” Nader says. “There wasn’t a lot of communication and transparency amongst ourselves.”
So when it came time to search for a new CEO, Nader used the opportunity to reanimate the board as well. He and the other directors went on a monthlong listening tour throughout Inova to do, as Nader says, some “self-examination first to find our blind spots.” They talked to nurses, doctors, technicians, administrators, marketing staff, and others at all levels of the organization. From interviews with more than 100 people, the board put together a list of qualities the new CEO needed to have. “We didn’t want to just replicate the former CEO,” Nader says. “We wanted someone who could lead us through transformational change during this dynamic time in healthcare.”
Ironically, however, the board eventually settled on a physician for the new CEO. He just happens to hold an MBA degree in addition to his MD. The combination of medical and business acumen is just what Inova needs as it builds out the strategy and facilities for the 117-acre campus it purchased from Exxon Mobil. “The new CEO and his team are in the process of evolving the plans,” says Nader.
Beyond evaluating M&A deals or searching for a new CEO, healthcare boards are also being forced to confront challenges that never existed before—everything from artificial intelligence to data privacy. Meanwhile, they must also pay much more attention now to cultural movements, which can range from pay equity to environmental issues to impact investing to diversity and inclusion, and more.
This, of course, means that boards need to prospect for directors with entirely new skills and competencies than in the past. Korn Ferry’s Flannery says rethinking a board’s purpose for today’s healthcare landscape means clearly articulating a mission and outlining key responsibilities, and then finding new directors with not only the skills, but also the values, temperament, agility, and leadership traits to fulfill that mission.
“Most healthcare boards are rethinking their membership profile by changing their mix to include more individuals with industry/business experience, or with specific expertise in areas such as technology, strategy, or governance,” says Flannery. “[That’s in addition to] attempting to identify soft skills that are necessary to be an effective, impactful board member.”
Or, as Dr. Keroack of Baystate Health puts it, healthcare boards need to evolve to be more enterprise focused. That’s easier said than done for organizations where creating a cohesive culture wasn’t considered a top priority. “As the healthcare environment is disrupted by change at an ever-increasing pace, healthcare boards will require a fundamental re-examination and redesign to fulfill the changing requirements of their role,” says Dr. Keroack. “It is essential that directors understand and align with the organizational culture of the system and its strategic direction.”
For more information, please contact Tom Flannery at firstname.lastname@example.org or Christine Rivers at email@example.com.