Q&A: Texas Health Resources Incoming CEO Talks Strategy

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media , August 1, 2014

HealthLeaders: When you and I first met in person for a HealthLeaders Media Roundtable on using population health strategies to build market share a couple of years ago in Dallas, you were senior executive VP of system alignment and performance. What did you learn in that role, and in your most recent role as COO, that you think will help you most as you take over leadership of the system?

Berdan: Well, I think leadership is both a skill and an art. My style is to try and first listen pretty intently to the staff in our system, or physicians, or employers or payers and particularly listening to patients on what all those groups want, and then help drive to a consensus on a clear direction.

Once you have it, it's really important to communicate that direction clearly and frequently. If you have a great organization like Texas Health, with a great group of leaders, you let them run in that direction. You constantly coach and advise and reconcile some turf or leadership conflicts, give them the appropriate resources and then celebrate when you achieve the result or the goal.

If you do that openly and honestly and create what I call "personal capital," which is primarily trust as a leader, that just builds on itself. Topics can change, and emphasis can change, but you have that trust. For example, population health is still getting an awful lot of attention, but not everyone's aligned in that direction.

It's still a challenge to get payers to create mechanisms with organizations like ours to help shift the financial incentives. Sometimes different groups like payers or physicians or health systems want to move at different paces.

My role is in trying to help each party develop an understanding of the perspective of the other parties and work to bring that together. More often than not, that strategy works.

HealthLeaders: You spent a lot of time talking in that Roundtable about giving physicians tools to manage their patient panels in a different way. One example you used was helping docs figure out how to manage the patients who need the most resources, and who might face expensive complications, instead of having physicians be fixated with working 35 patient visits through their office per day.

That's the essence of care coordination. How much progress have you made in turning those tools into reality and in aligning the economic incentives to use those tools effectively?

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