The 3 Vital Signs of the Healthcare System Dr Joanne Conroy Monitors as CEO of Dartmouth-Hitchcock


Joanne Conroy, MD, CEO and President of Lebanon, NH-based Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health, has grown accustomed to monitoring her patients’ vital signs during her clinical career as an anesthesiologist.

Today, as CEO, she said she focused on the vital signs of her organization – people, patients and operations.

Dr Conroy has been CEO of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health since 2017. Prior to joining New Hampshire’s only university health system, she was CEO of Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, MA; director of health care for the Association of American Medical Colleges in Washington, DC; and CMO, executive vice president and COO of Atlantic Health System in Florham Park, NJ

Dr. Conroy is also board certified in Anesthesiology.

Here, she shares her priorities for 2022, discusses the most pressing issue CEOs face, and reveals what she sees as the core skills CEOs need to thrive in today’s healthcare environment. hui.

Editor’s Note: Answers have been edited slightly for length and clarity.

Question: What is the most pressing problem facing hospital CEOs amid the latest wave of COVID-19?

Dr. Joanne Conroy: We are definitely feeling the pressure of staff shortages impacting our system, as well as hospitals and healthcare systems across the country. Our team members put in the extra time, extra work, extra energy and extra care for our patients and for each other as we work to meet this challenge, which impacts all areas of our operations. Our workforce has been a strategic priority for many years, and we have taken steps to proactively plan for our current and future needs by establishing a workforce planning program that informs and enables our strategic, financial and operational plans. The fact that over 99% of our colleagues have complied with our COVID-19 vaccination requirement speaks volumes about their commitment to supporting our patients, and we are working to find ways to support our employees through all stages of their careers. and attract new talent to our hospitals and healthcare systems. It is an acute problem, but it is also a long-term challenge that we cannot fail to meet.

Q: What are the main system priorities for 2022?

JC: Even as we continue to meet the unprecedented challenges brought on by the pandemic, we must continue to move forward and plan for the future. The recruitment and retention of staff in a range of roles across our system will continue to be a top priority. We are also focused on the availability of affordable housing for our employees and our community; it will be very difficult to convince talented people to move and come and work for us if affordable housing is scarce.

As the most rural academic medical center in the country, expanding access to care in the communities we serve – and with a focus on tackling reluctance and resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine in these communities right now – will always be at the top of the priority list. We are making major investments in this area because we are committed to providing the best care available, as close to home as possible. Earlier this year, we opened a new outpatient surgery center in our community group practice in New Hampshire’s largest city, and built a new 212,000 square foot patient lodge that will provide new hospital beds. hospitalization essential in our flagship hospital.

We will also continue to expand telehealth services. Our important work on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging is progressing. The more diverse we are, the stronger, happier and healthier we will be as colleagues, caregivers and as a community.

Q: How does the system work with state and federal stakeholders to advance hospital and healthcare initiatives, resources, funding, and legislation?

JC: We are fortunate to have a close working relationship with our state’s Congressional delegation, which continues to do an outstanding job advocating for policies and funding to meet the health needs of all of our patients. We are a member of the Washington, DC-based Bipartisan Policy Center, and work with them and other advocacy organizations on relevant national programs and initiatives, including and in particular those that highlight the unique challenges facing them. faced by rural health providers. I am a member of the board of directors of the American Hospital Association and am involved with other organizations that help set priorities and inform policy development. And we’re also working closely with our New Hampshire state leaders on local and regional public health issues, such as the current opioid and mental health crises, vaping and, of course, COVID-19 issues.

Question: What skills are essential for healthcare system CEOs to thrive in today’s healthcare landscape?

JC: During my clinical career as an anesthesiologist, monitoring a patient’s vital signs was a critical part of my job. Today, as CEO, I learned the importance of constantly monitoring the vital signs of your hospital or system: our people, our patients, our operations. Efficient and regular communication, always transparent, is essential. The pandemic has served to reinforce the fact that we can never compromise our belief to always ‘follow the science’ and use factual information for decision making. And I can’t stress enough that you have not only a willingness to collaborate, but an enthusiasm for collaboration and partnership. Static thinking prevents us from advancing our mission; Developing new ideas and strategies is critical to success, and those ideas come from listening and dialoguing with colleagues who have the widest range of perspectives and experiences.

Question: What advice would you give to another CEO of the healthcare system and why?

JC: I think the most important thing we can do as leaders is to empower our talented teams to do their jobs, first by continually building the confidence you have in their abilities and second by ensuring that they have the tools they need to be successful. I also encourage leaders to always be learners. It means staying interested, staying curious, and staying open-minded. Most importantly, it means you have to really listen – your patients, your community, your team. Finally, it’s hard to overstate the importance of preparation and planning. The pandemic has taught us a lot about the benefits of having a plan in place before a crisis hits. It’s much easier to modify a solid, existing plan in real time than it is to try to “build the plane while you fly” when you’re in the weeds.


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