CHARLOTTE, N.C. – October 23, 2023 –In this edition of 4×4, Robert Russo, CEO had the privilege of speaking with Ken Haynes, President of Advocate Health, Southeast Region. Ken has over 30 years of experience across the continuum of health care. His most recent achievement includes helping to oversee the merger of two health systems, which now combined encompasses more than 1,000 sites of care, 67 hospitals, and more than 151,000 teammates. They spoke in Ken’s office in Uptown Charlotte, where he offered his insights on the blueprint for a successful merger of any size, excelling in a highly regulated field, and how AI and ChatGPT impact the health care industry.
Watch the full interview above or continue reading for Ken’s thought leadership on those topics.
Question # 1
R: At the end of 2022, Atrium Health and Advocate Health combined into one organization called Advocate Health. Your new organization now comprises of more than 1,000 sites of care, 67 hospitals, and more than 151,000 teammates. That is a massive undertaking. What do you think is a blueprint for a CEO contemplating a merger or acquisition of any size to ensure a successful outcome?
K: Great question. I’m exhausted just hearing you read those things. We’re really excited about bringing our two organizations together because we believe that Advocate Health is going to really be able to impact our communities in a big, big way. It puts us as the third largest not-for-profit in the United States. When we went into it, we always ask the question, “Is it going to make our communities better?”. If we don’t believe that wholeheartedly, we don’t go past go.
Then, clearly we had to have cultures aligned and in our situation, two mission-based organizations that are quite successful in their own right. It was easy to see those cultures blending well, and that’s always important for us. We want to make sure our teammates feel good about why we’re doing it, and we always tie back to our mission. The thought for us as an organization is together, can we do things better, faster, and do more for our communities?
R: Like financial services, the health care industry is a highly regulated field. How do you navigate issues like an aging patient population, fierce industry competition, and financial pressures while recruiting and retaining top talent and addressing health inequities that the pandemic has exacerbated?
K: Well, a lot in there. I think the key things you ask about are dealing with regulation. It is a regulated environment, but the core is the second part of what you talked about – that’s the teammates, it’s the people. It’s a people business and people taking care of people. Our teammates are critically important to us, so we need to make sure we’re doing right by them and we always want to make sure we’re doing right by our patients. Ultimately, that impacts the impact to the community.
Right now, it is an absolute talent war in all industries and we’re not immune to that. In fact, the pandemic probably pushed our industry even more. We’re blessed as an organization here in Charlotte to be able to attract a lot of great teammates. In our talent war, we’re winning, but it’s very difficult because there’s a shortage of many of these high-tech or sophisticated caregiver components. We’re building that. We’re going upstream and we’re creating new opportunities for people including minorities and people that haven’t impacted health care or had the opportunity. We’re going to ninth grade bringing them in and letting them see what we do because it’s an impactful career and we need more people doing it.
R: AI and ChatGPT are all the talk right now. How does Advocate Health currently integrate these and other telemedicine practices and what is the positive long-term impact of the digitally-enabled care?
K: Well, great question and timely for sure. We’ve been an early adopter in the telemedicine area because we know that there’s a shortage of physicians nationally and anything we can do to multiply those scarce resources, the better. We’ve been an adopter of that and really the key is the clinician, whether it be a physician or an APP, providing that care directly to the patient. We are a strong believer in care closer to home, so this telemedicine component allows us to actually go into the homes and provide that care. When we had bed shortages during our pandemic, we took the hospital at home area to use the technology so we could actually find out where those patients were and then take the care to them. It kept our hospitals from being overcrowded during that time. We think it’s a key part of being more efficient for our community and for our patients.
R: In January, Advocate Health broke ground on the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Charlotte in Charlotte’s new innovative district – The Pearl. What entrepreneurial opportunities are created at this intersection of health, academia, and innovation? And how do you think it benefits the people who live and work in this community?
K: Well, we’re incredibly excited about The Pearl. It really is an opportunity for us to take these outstanding caregivers, whom are doing great care for our community, and bring in national resources to find the next level of health care. That’s what The Pearl will be about.
The other beauty of it is that we made sure it impacted our entire community, albeit it’ll be sitting out here in The Pearl as a district. We’re making sure folks from all walks of life come in and work in and are able to participate in this. Many of the jobs that are created are non-four year degree jobs, so we can have a diverse population that’s actually participating in The Pearl. We do believe it allows us to find those breakthroughs.
We’ve got many Fortune 500 medical firms that are already signed up and coming, and Siemens has been communicated and several are still to be communicated here pretty soon. IRCAD is a place where we simulate surgical work from all over the world and they have multi sites throughout the world. We’re really proud of the fact that we will have all of the diverse components of care and our community providing that work behind The Pearl. It’ll be the crowning jewel for the Queen City we think.
R: I know you’re a sports guy. I know you went to Alabama. I heard they’re pretty good at some sports. What do you think probably the most heartbreaking home loss that you’ve ever experienced as an Alabama grad is? Who was it to? And what year was it?
K: I think it had to be with Joe Burrow when he came into Tuscaloosa and took care of business four years ago or so. He turned out to be a pretty good quarterback, though, in the NFL. Now, let’s get to the good stuff. Bryce is going to do it. Just get ready.
R: Well Ken, thank you so much for your time. I appreciate you being a generous host. I love the office here and I love the people we’ve met. We appreciate the kindness that you’ve showed us.
K: Fantastic. Thanks for letting me tell a little of the story. We’re excited.
Advocate Health is committed to generating a positive impact. They aim to advance population health, enable career advancement, bring medical innovations to patients more quickly, address the root causes of health inequities and achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
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