Repeal & Replace

Lean In for Healthcare

We need to “Lean In together” to solve the biggest challenge facing healthcare now.

One of my sisters asked me when Lean In was first published if I had read the book. Even though it was getting great reviews, I had no desire to read about another women’s struggles in business and life — no matter who wrote it. However, I checked the book out of the library last week when none of the other books on my list were immediately available.

Lean In made me laugh out loud and cry because it validated so much of what I had felt and experienced over the course of my professional career and life. Some of Sheryl’s personal stories are funny but the book is also filled with some good information and stats for those struggling with the idea or the reality of balancing their careers with family life. It is a book that both men and women should read to inform their perspective and behavior towards one another.

Ironically, I was at home reading Lean In while millions of others all over the world were marching for equal rights. I didn’t join the Women’s March in San Francisco mainly because large crowds make me anxious. To some degree, I regret it now. Opportunities to make our voices heard matter even if they are deflected by those who need to hear them. They will eventually have to listen.

It will come as no surprise to those who know me well that I was also a little mentally preoccupied. I was thinking about the expected changes in healthcare, my HBA mentoring group and recent conversation with others in the industry.

Healthcare:

When I was working for one of the California based payers years ago, I said to the then VP of Strategy that everyone involved in healthcare needed a voice at the table to solve the problems. It wasn’t anything that I had read or heard, but rather what I really felt after working on both sides of the industry for about five years. When the ACA was drafted, everyone involved in healthcare had a voice at the table.

Like any other strategy, the plan for the ACA was hatched with the best information available at the time. Parts of it worked as expected and as with any other strategy, other parts need to be adjusted now that we have more information. It should come as no surprise to any of us especially those involved in healthcare. Repeal and replace sounds more dramatic but “the replacement” is likely to have many of the same elements as the ACA.

The biggest issue that remains is the rising cost of healthcare. There may be some fat left to be squeezed from insurers and prescription drugs. However, healthcare providers seem to be tapped out. For me it’s evident by the level of tension between physicians and administrations.

I don’t believe that we can financially engineer our way out of the rising cost of healthcare because the medical risk for the country is too high. Like the banking industry leading up to the financial crisis, the medical risk is spread across the industry with some verticals better capitalized than others to absorb it. As the screws get tightened, parts of the system will be squeezed to the breaking point. Unfortunately, it’s likely to be the parts serving the most vulnerable Americans.

Mentoring Group:

I participated in the inaugural HBA mentoring group around the time of the financial crisis. It was a great opportunity to meet other women in the industry and gain the perspective of those working in different fields. What’s more interesting to me now having read Lean In are the limiting beliefs that are holding some of the women back.

We did an exercise to help one another prepare for their next job. As part of the exercise, we reviewed the description for a desired job and resume for each person in the group. One of the women in the group is a highly trained scientist working in quality assurance for a biotech company. When she reviewed my resume and the job that I had selected, she told me that she didn’t see the exact qualifications for the job on my resume. She was looking for an exact match. When I selected the job, I was looking at it with a skills and competency lens. I didn’t need to have the exact experience to know that I could do the job as described. I chalked up her feedback as that of a scientist. However, now I understand that her perspective is how most women think which can be limiting to not only her but others including me. Reportedly, men don’t look for an exact match when they select and apply for jobs. My guess is that they may not hire that way either.

Communication was another problem raised by the group. The quality scientist was upset that her manager was always late to meetings. The group concocted this very elaborate plan for her to address the issue. I suggested to her that she just tell her manager “your tardiness isn’t working for me”. No one in the group believed that it could be that simple and dismissed my suggestion. However, Sheryl relays a story about Mark Zuckerberg joining a group at the office to learn Mandarin. When one of the women in the group was talking in Mandarin about one of their managers, Mark kept asking her to simplify so that he could understand what she was saying. Finally, she blurted out “my manager sucks.” Now that is something simple enough that everyone can understand and work to fix.

Mentors and mentoring groups are good because they open us up to different perspectives and challenge the beliefs that are holding us back. We need to get out of our comfort zones and if we are going to rise to the challenges ahead.

Recent Conversations:

Last week, I was able to meet with other executives working in different verticals of the industry. We discovered some shared experiences and mutual interests but what I appreciated most was being able to say “what do you think?” No one person has all the answers and it serves us all to do a reality check on your own perspective and role. Some of us are carpenters fixing problems within the existing system as we go and others are disrupters looking to turn healthcare upside down. We need both to solve the biggest challenges facing healthcare.

With that said, I initiated a new circle for healthcare professionals on the Lean In web-site so that we can meet, share, learn and challenge one another. I don’t have specific goals for the circle other than to give everyone a seat at the “table” who wants one.

About the Author: Shannon Smith is a healthcare strategist with over fifteen years of experience helping companies achieve greater success. She is also the founder and CEO of Hello Workout.

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