November 2020, Volume XXXIV, Number 8

100 Most Influential
Health Care Leaders

In preparing this feature we asked each of the nominated health care leaders to answer the two questions listed below. Their responses provide a unique and kaleidoscopic overview of health care in 2020.

  1. What are the biggest challenges facing health care delivery today?
  2. How is your organizations preparing to meet these challenges?

Jerry Carley, MBA, HSE, LNHA

President and CEO | Benedictine

Challenges: Like many other health care providers in Minnesota and across the country, finding enough qualified staff to care for those we serve is a significant challenge.  Added to the challenges related to COVID-19, this critical issue is amplified to a level that I have not been seen in my 30-year career.

Strategies: At Benedictine, one strategy has involved a partnership with the Benedictine Foundation and our innovation committee. This group has focused on workforce recruitment and retention as a priority initiative.  The committee has issued innovation challenges across our ministry with monetary rewards for both individuals and/or communities within Benedictine that submit innovative recruitment and retention methods that are adopted by the organization.

Nathan Chomilo, MD, FAAP

Medical director for Medicaid and MinnesotaCare | DHS

Challenges: COVID-19 and structural racism. As we fundamentally restructure our health care system and society, it is important to recognize that we can’t simply go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working for many communities, so this moment requires a “new normal” committed to addressing racial inequities that have persisted for much too long.

Strategies: We are committing to a culture of antiracism while beginning to more consistently make all decisions through a racial equity lens. We are continuing to improve our community engagement, finding ways to work racial equity incentives into our contracts, and prioritizing health care interventions that are co-created with historically under-resourced communities.

Raymond Christensen, MD

Associate Dean for Rural Health | University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth Campus

Challenges: My rural roots dictate my patient-based mission and vision to establish, provide, sustain, and improve rural health care for all. The journey is not complete. We continue to witness rural hospital closures and loss or diminution of essential services. Needed services in emergency medicine, OB-GYN, surgery, mental health, and primary care remain as we face challenging demographic and policy changes.

Strategies: Our campus is mission-driven to educate family medicine, primary care, and specialty physicians needed to serve rural and Native American communities. This venerable mission has been mirrored by many health provider programs. I continue to practice family medicine while training future rural physicians.

Nate Clark

CEO | MNSure

Challenges: Achieving health equity is the biggest challenge. The pandemic has amplified existing disparities in insurance coverage and health outcomes. MNsure can’t address all of the issues that affect the health and well-being of Minnesotans, but we can provide resources and trusted information, and help Minnesotans enroll in free or lower-cost comprehensive health insurance.

Strategies: MNsure works to ensure all Minnesotans have the security of health insurance. Through outreach, partnerships with service organizations, and increased coordination with state agencies, MNsure is working to overcome barriers, help the uninsured enroll in health coverage, and improve access to health care for underserved and hard-to-reach populations.

Kent Crossley, MD, MHA

Chief of Staff | Minneapolis VA Health Care System

Challenges: Immediate challenges for the Minneapolis VA include the need to initiate a workable SARS-CoV-2 immunization program that will prioritize our most vulnerable Veterans.  There is also a developing need to manage the demands for care that have built up over the last nine months while many of our staff were reassigned to COVID19 related duties.

Strategies: VA has an astonishingly rich data system that will allow us to identify Veterans at high risk from SARS-CoV-2 infection and to assure they are immunized as soon as possible.  We expect to manage our pent-up service needs by expanding clinic access (both in Minneapolis and in our 13 Community Based Outpatient Clinics) and calling on our community partners for assistance in providing care.

Kevin Croston, MD

Chief Executive Officer |North Memorial Health

Challenges: Healthcare is in crisis and the current pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the current healthcare system along with opportunities to improve care delivery. While the care we deliver to those who need it most remains outstanding, it is reactive. To be responsible for a community’s health, proactive, anticipatory and preventative services must be at the forefront.

Strategies: To be sure the financial incentives between the payers and provider organizations are better aligned and we both take our community missions seriously. We at North Memorial Health feel that we need to differentiate ourselves through both outstanding clinical outcomes and the customer service we provide to the community. We pledge to serve as an example of “Healthcare.

Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD

Medical Director | Crutchfield Dermatology

Clinical Professor of Dermatology | University of Minnesota Medical School

Benedict Distinguished Visiting Professor of Biology | Carleton College

Challenges: Health insurance plans drop or block physicians from their panels, putting their company’s interests between doctor and patient. “Lowest cost” mandates exacerbate health disparities affecting communities of color. The provider tax threatens to eliminate independent medical practices. Big health systems can bear the cost, but community doctors cannot.

Strategies: We work on efficiencies to stay financially viable, and work with government leaders to implement “patient choice” to prevent health plans from refusing to cover doctors in good standing who care for communities hit hardest by health disparities. We have developed a blue-ribbon telemedicine platform that allows us to serve all patients of color and underserved rural communities.

Bobbi Daniels, MD

Associate Vice President for Clinical Affairs and Professor of Medicine | University of Minnesota

Challenges: As was brought to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant health care challenge is ensuring the ability to deliver accessible, high quality care in a way (and at a place) that addresses the diverse needs of populations throughout the state of Minnesota.

Strategies: Thanks to its depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise, the University of Minnesota is developing new solutions through research, education, and new interprofessional clinical care models to tackle today’s toughest health care challenges.

Jennifer DeCubellis, MA

CEO | Hennepin Healthcare System

Challenges: Maximizing health outcomes, while reducing costs. We cannot afford the health care system we have today, nor have we realized health outcomes equitably across our communities. Simplifying regulations, allowing flexible funding, investing in wellness, and realizing health equity are all critical components to reimagining health care.

Strategies: We are working to create a system that invests in health, responds early to illness, and is focused on outcomes. Partnering with communities and individuals to ensure health care is responsive to what matters most to them. Ensuring our system is accessible, culturally responsive, and outcome-focused is key to better health and lower costs. That includes seeing health as more than just health care, and building systems responsive to those needs.

Sarah K. Derr, PharmD

Executive Director | Minnesota Pharmacists Association

Challenges: Building an inclusive team and treating patients according to their needs. Pharmacists work with teams in hospital and clinic settings and play a key role in communities. We need to ensure that we treat patients according to their race, ethnicity, and cultural beliefs. If we do not know what their beliefs are, we cannot properly care for them.

Strategies: The Minnesota Pharmacists Association promotes the value of having pharmacists (and all health care professionals) working at the top of their license to care for patients. As for treating patients of different race, ethnicities, and cultures, MPhA is working hard to educate our members on the difference and the importance of caring for the patient where they are at.

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