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ACOs, the ACA and ADIDAS

by Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA

Stephen Klasko, MD, MBAWe have it all wrong. Going around the country, I hear physicians and hospital administrators screaming that the end is near, or, as Woody Allen put it: “We are at a crossroads, one road leads to total destruction…the other to utter despair…let’s hope we choose the right one.”

Our consultant colleagues don’t help much. According to them, yes, we’re doomed. But, for a lot of money they can make us 30% less doomed! As a practicing physician and president of a storied health sciences university and hospital system with a 189-year-old history and tradition, I have found my solace not in Maimonides, Sir William Osler or even Dr. Oz, but rather, I am banking on an Adidas advertising campaign from a few years ago.

If memory serves, it went something like this: “Impossible is just a small word thrown around by small men and women who don’t want to do the hard work that needs to be done to transform their world. Impossible is nothing. Impossible is potential.”

So, health care is impossible. Academic health care is whatever is worse than impossible. Which is exactly what excites me as a leader.

It would have been impossible to imagine the Apple of 2013 as the world’s largest capitalized corporation when it was getting its head bashed in by Microsoft and Dell in the late 90s. Instead of competing on terms dictated by others, Steve Jobs changed the dynamic by ushering in the mainstream digital lifestyle with iTunes and an easy-to-use square box that held 200 mp3s.

The organizations I have been honored to lead are not Apple — and I am no Steve Jobs — but there is a lesson for all health care professionals here. Whether you are a physician, administrator or board member of a small or large hospital or academic entity, it’s time to forget about health care reform and think instead of transformation.

The ability to look at what will be obvious ten years from now and to start doing it today through iterative innovation is the way out of this “impossible” situation. Or, as Buckminster Fuller, someone much smarter than myself, put it, “if you really want to transform something, don’t change the existing reality, create a new model that makes the old model obsolete.”

Continue reading Dr. Klasko's post on the Leadership Forum.

Dr. Klasko is President and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital System in Philadelphia and is a regular contributor to the Leadership Forum.

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