As health care changes, systems need to broaden search to find disruptive CEOs

Harris Meyer, www.modernhealthcare.com

Critics say today's health system CEOs haven't proved willing or able to shift their business model to meet the demands of consumers accustomed to rapid, high-quality service in other industries.

But that's not always true. Four years ago, Dr. Rod Hochman, CEO of Providence St. Joseph Health, hired Aaron Martin away from Amazon to head strategy and innovation. Martin's team has spun out several new products to better engage consumers between episodes of care, then found venture capitalists to turn them into businesses. 

One is Xealth, which enables physicians to “prescribe” a wide range of nonmedical products or services for patients directly through the electronic health record, including apps, articles, Lyft rides and health-assisting products.

Martin said what Hochman hired him to do—build deep digital engagement with consumers—is taken for granted in other industries but is brand new in health care. Still, he doesn't think he would ever feel comfortable moving into the Providence CEO role himself.

Instead, he urges more health care CEOs to learn from Hochman. “I think you need people with clinical or health care operational backgrounds working elbow to elbow with folks like me,” said Martin, now Providence's senior vice president and chief digital officer. “It's getting into the lean startup mindset.”

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