In era of disruptive change, Catholic ministry called to innovate, lead and partner

July 1, 2018

2017-2018 Chairperson
CHA Board of Trustees
President and chief executive
Providence St. Joseph Health
Renton, Wash.

This year marks my 40th anniversary as a physician. After all these years, I'm as passionate about health care today as I was as a medical student in Boston. I continue to believe it's one of the most sacred services we provide as a society because, at the end of the day, health care is about being a source of healing love for one another when we're at our most vulnerable.

Dr. Rod Hochman
Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./© CHA

While I've seen many changes over the decades, nothing compares to the level of disruption we're experiencing today. The role of the traditional care provider is blurring as new entrants — such as retailers, tech giants and start-ups — make forays into health care.

Amazon, for example, shook up the health care world when it announced plans to team up with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to attempt to create a better, more affordable health care experience for their employees. The drug store chain CVS also made waves when it announced plans to acquire Aetna earlier this year in an effort to deliver care in the more convenient, lower-cost retail setting.

Meanwhile, health care is feeling pressure from other directions, as well. The fate of Medicaid and coverage for those who are poor and vulnerable hangs in the balance as lawmakers debate the future of health care policy. In addition, our nation's health care personnel have been called to step up, time and time again, as first responders on everything from mass shootings to wildfires and hurricanes. The feeling of upheaval and uncertainty can be overwhelming.

As a Catholic health care ministry, we have a responsibility to be a steadfast presence in this time of unprecedented change. I believe there are six ways we can respond and evolve with the times while continuing to lead with our values.

Care for our caregivers — The people who care for our patients are our greatest assets. We must continue to support them in bringing their best selves to work every day so they can contribute their gifts and talents to those we serve.

Care for our communities — We have long been a trusted pillar in our communities, and we must continue to play that leadership role especially in challenging times. From the opioid epidemic and the mental health crisis to mass violence and natural disaster, our communities count on us to respond to these events and provide leadership in times of greatest need.

Innovate with the times — The digital age is upon us, and we can no longer deny it. It's time to bring health care into the 21st century. We have an unparalleled opportunity to improve access and service by delivering care when and where people want it whether it's on their mobile device, a laptop, at their neighborhood drugstore or in their homes. Our founding congregations of sisters were never afraid to shake things up to improve the lives of those we serve. We shouldn't shy away from it either.

Focus on clinical excellence — Every community in the United States deserves the highest standard of care. We must relentlessly work to promulgate the best evidence-based clinical practice and reduce variation across the country. We must also streamline our systems of care to ensure individuals in remote areas have access to the care they need.

Forge partnerships — Catholic health care has a long tradition of partnering with those of good will to meet the needs of our communities. Going forward, this spirit of collaboration will need to include nontraditional partners to help us improve the way we deliver care. We will need outside experts in cloud computing and artificial intelligence, for example, to harness the power of data to help clinicians and patients make more informed decisions about their health.

Communicate and advocate — As Pope Francis has said, health care is a universal human right, not a privilege. We must continue to advocate for health care for all and use our collective voice to preserve Medicaid, which covers many of the most vulnerable individuals in our communities. We must also continue to be a voice for the voiceless, including immigrants, victims of human trafficking and the health of the planet.

Columnist Tom Friedman recently wrote that, in this age of accelerated change, communities must be anchored in strong values. He likens it to being in the eye of a hurricane, which "moves along with the storm, draws energy from it, while creating a sanctuary of stability inside it. It is both dynamic and stable — and so must we be," he writes. As a Catholic health care ministry, we are called to do the same. By staying centered in our values, we will lead our communities through this highly transformational period while continuing to be a source of hope and healing for each person we serve.



Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.

Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.