Thursday, January 20, 2011

Working Toward a World Class Organization

Governor Mark Parkinson
President & CEO, AHCA/NCAL
January 20, 2011
By: Governor Mark Parkinson, President and CEO, AHCA/NCAL

I’m happy to report that I started my position as President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL last week.  My wife Stacy, my daughter Kit, our ridiculous number of pets, and I are now settled in Potomac, Maryland and I am fully engaged at work.

At the outset, I want to thank you for this remarkable opportunity. This position provides me the chance to have an enormous impact on the field that we love. That it came open at just the right time, that our family situation came together to make it work, and that the Board selected me for it, have me convinced that this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

Our Opportunities and Challenges
I am a policy person. I try to be strategic and I’m results oriented. So, let me get down to business and outline our situation, as I see it, and our plan to prevail.

Very few professions have the opportunities that we do. The aging of the population means that we will have many more customers in the future. According to Census Projections, there are currently 11.5 million Americans over the age of 80, there will be 12.8 million in 2020, 18.9 million in 2030, and 27.6 million in 2040.

Finding customers is not going to be the issue.

The challenge that we face is how our federal and state governments will pay us fairly to take care of those customers – and do so in a manner whereby quality care is always a given, not just a goal. It’s a big problem. Approximately 65 percent of our reimbursement comes from federal and state governments and currently all levels of government are out of money or running out.

The condition of the federal debt is so bad that it compels me even more to take action. We have just gone through 40 years with a comparatively young population, working through their productive years, and with a very small older population to support. These should have been the years when our country was developing surplus funds to take care of the very demographic challenge that we now face. But this did not happen.

Our job now is to navigate through this the best we can.

How We Are Going to Prevail
First, we must continue to be the solution to health care costs. Not part of the problem, but the actual solution. We do that by being the low cost, high-efficiency, quality providers of care to the frail and elderly. We do it by demonstrating that no other part of the delivery system can achieve the results we achieve for the cost that we achieve them. Cutting skilled nursing facility (SNF) funding? You will see massive re-hospitalizations, higher costs to taxpayers, and other budgetary strains on the system.

Second, we must continue to drive quality. We won’t be just part of the solution on quality, we will be the driver. We know that we have made dramatic improvements in quality – and we must let consumers and policymakers know this -- but we can do more. And it’s time to change the perception that we are reluctantly going along with change, to the reality that we are actively leading change. We will do this by continuing to make our quality programs substantive, measurable, and cutting edge.

Third, we must change our image. We are all too aware of the perceptions of this industry. They are so out of whack with what is really happening in our modern health centers that we cannot afford to sit back quietly any more. Now is the time to show the public the reality of the care we provide and begin the process of erasing the stereotypes that have plagued us.

Finally, we must become a political and lobbying powerhouse. Unfortunately, in this town you can be right about all the issues, as we are, and lose out if you don’t have the tools to ensure federal and state lawmakers – and the public at  large – hear our message. That will not happen to us. You have created an Association, with broad based membership that gives us the ability to become what we need to and we will.

A World Class Organization
On my second day of work we had a meeting with all of the employees and I outlined that it is our objective to create a world class organization. I defined it as one that:
  1. Meets the needs of our members, and meets the needs of our residents and patients;
  2. Puts our members in a position to succeed with adequate reimbursement and a survey environment they can live with;
  3. Is a great place to work; and
  4. Endures beyond any of us.
I challenged the employees to think about an organization where the goal was to meet the needs of our members, but that our real objective was to provide results so favorable that they are shocking. That is what we are striving for--shocking results.

It’s going to take some time, but we’re going to get there. I like to take on tasks that are difficult, but not impossible. I see no point in working on tasks that are easy, because someone else will take them on. Similarly, I have no interest in working on tasks when they are impossible, because it’s just a waste of time. This task suits me perfectly. Our challenges are difficult; in fact, they are very difficult.

But overcoming them is possible and the consequences of not overcoming them are so great that failure or accepting the status quo is simply not an option. As I said at the outset, you have given me a great mission and I’m fully engaged.

From time to time, I’ll update you on what we are doing. In the meantime, please contact me any time you have suggestions or comments. This is your association, and the best ideas always come from you.


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