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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hospital CEO in Detroit Brings Engagement to Town

In all of the attention to and handwringing over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare," at least one thing has gotten rather lost: discussion of the impact on health-care employees.

There are going to be both growth and opportunities as well as dislocation and loss for the more than 18 million people who work in the health-care sector in the United States, as Obamacare unfurls over the next several years.

And in order to make the transition a positive for their staffs, some health-care brands are trying to make sure that they are on the same page as their employees when requirements of the law begin taking hold in earnest in 2013.

That's a major reason why one big provider, Vanguard Health Services, is focusing on employee engagement like never before. Vanguard is a large operator of hospitals and other health-care facilities in notable markets including Boston, Detroit and Phoenix.

Having helped transform the culture of Vanguard's operations in New England, Joe Mullany is ready to lead a similar movement within Detroit Medical Center, another important Vanguard division. Mullany, currently president of DMC, is taking over as CEO from Michael Duggan, who helped build the southeastern Michigan giant into a strong player in a highly competitive market and has stepped down to consider a bid for mayor of Detroit.

"We had seven years of good success [in Massachusetts] basically taking a fragmented system of hospitals and bringing them together with a common mission, system and values, centering mostly on patient care and safety," Mullany told us. "We created a culture of engagement where employees feel that their job is to improve patient care every day."

Hiring people with engagement in mind is one crucial part of this strategy, Mullany said, in part relying on a "rigorous" assessment process. He also plans to launch an annual employee survey about engagement in Detroit just as he did in Massachusetts. And Mullany has formed an employee-engagement committee at DMC.

The new-CEO-to-be also has just started his own B2B blog just for the directors of DMC's various departments, a couple hundred strong. 

"It will give me direct access to them, and I hope keep them informed and motivated," Mullany said. "We have a lot going on here with all of our [$850 million in planned] construction, and improving quality measures, and our journey on safety.

"And I'll be asking the directors more about what they're seeing, to act as our eyes and ears. What stops them from being as successful as they want to be today? What issues and roadblocks are there? We hope to knock down those obstacles one by one."

Clearly, Mullany understands the importance of an engaged management and workforce as his company, and health-care providers across the country, stand on the precipice of the Obamacare era. Here's betting they don't fall off the cliff.

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