Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leading CHRISTUS in the New Economic Environment, Part 1

Early this week, I met with two representatives from IBM who asked to hear my thoughts for their 2010 Global CEO study entitled, “Leading in the New Economic Environment.” IBM publishes a CEO report every two years, and interviews 1,200 CEOs across the world regarding how they will lead into the future. This is useful for IBM, as it also provides them with a chance to survey their audience about the directions they will be headed, since IBM has evolved over time from a technology-driven business to a focus on business process and “helping businesses solve the big problems of the day.”

One of the first questions they asked was, “What are the three most important external forces that will impact your organization over the next three years?” I was able to choose from a list they provided, and identified:
1. Regulatory concerns. The change brought to our industry by health care reform will be revolutionary. I still think this is a great time to be in health care, though. I often say that the “good old days” really weren’t that good. We’re able to treat so many more diseases because of advances in medicine and technology than when I was a med student. Granted, these days may not be easier, but they are much more rewarding, and require that we truly must figure out how to be the high quality, low-cost providers in our communities. Ten years ago, you could sleep in your office and make money because Medicare reimbursement was so high. Today, though, only the high quality/low cost providers will be able to prove their value to consumers and survive.
2. Technological factors. CHRISTUS has a commitment to incorporate small technologies (technology that is owned by most people) into every day care. We know that it is possible for diabetics to take a blood sugar reading by feeding a blood sample into their cell phone, which can read it and then send the results to their physician. We also know that tools are being developed for and in use at our Senior campuses like toilet seats that send messages to remote caregivers if the toilet has not been sat on or shoes that send similar messages if they have not been put on. These signs let us know that a Senior in our care has not gotten out of bed, and may need help. All of these tools help us as we move from “health care” to “health.”
3. Globalization. Because of the regulatory environment in Mexico, we operate there as a for-profit and reinvest our profits in our clinics for the poor in rural areas of Mexico. We are now the second largest for-profit health system in Mexico, and are exploring opportunities to expand into Panama and Peru. I really do believe that 10 to 15 percent of the health care solution in the U.S. will be provided by medical travel to Mexico. And we expect the current number of 1 million American expats in Mexico to grow because of our recent recession that undoubtedly affected many retirement funds.

We have worked hard over our history to manage change, which has positioned us well to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future. We have expanded into Mexico; systematized many key functions like our supply chain and home care activities; made future planning a key focus of our organization and are currently reorganizing our portfolio from an emphasis on acute care to 1/3 acute care, 1/3 non-acute care and 1/3 international facilities.

Innovation is a key part of our future planning strategy. This is why we have created and sponsored two Futures Task Forces in our 10-year history as CHRISTUS, and why we founded the CHRISTUS Innovations Institute. We have partnered to systematize our supply chain, extend care to the poor in Mexico and provide psychiatric services at Our Daily Bread in Galveston, Texas, which provides support services to homeless men, women and children.

The folks from IBM who visited with me this week had many more questions about CHRISTUS and our future--too many to fit into one blog post. Therefore, I plan to revisit some of their additional questions in next week’s post as well.

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