This week the Nashville Health Care Council presented its second “Health Care Brass Tacks” virtual event, a new series in which Council board members and C-suite health care leaders discuss their unique perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic and its overall impact on the health care industry. This segment featured Premise Health CEO Stu Clark and was moderated by Council President Hayley Hovious.
Premise Health is a leading direct health care provider, offering onsite and nearsite wellness centers and 24/7 virtual health care to organizations around the world. The company serves more than 275 of the largest commercial and municipal employers in the U.S., operating more than 600 wellness centers in 44 states and Guam. Premise Health’s integrated care approach connects members and their families to primary care, occupational health, pharmacy, fitness, and other wellness services.
According to Clark, Premise has remained stable during the pandemic, and he credits this success to its decision to expand access to its onsite and nearsite programs through its virtual health platform. In 2018, Premise completed its transition to the electronic health record platform Epic, which allowed it to connect members to video and phone visits, secure messaging with their providers, and tools like online scheduling, after-visit summaries, and access to lab results. Through this platform, the organization has been able to mostly maintain the same level of care offered pre-coronavirus, but now 77% of visits are virtual.
Hovious acknowledged the massive amount of change that has occurred since COVID-19 arrived and asked Clark to describe how Premise Health’s leadership and culture have changed during the pandemic.
“What we talk about here at Premise is the power of belief. Do you believe you’re with the right team? Do you believe you have the right mission? Can you trust the person to your left? The person to your right? If there is belief and trust, you can do anything,” Clark said. “In times like this, leaders have to lead from the front. They have to be the first in and the last out, and they must show empathy. While your team may trust you and see there is a clear vision and mission, they have to believe and feel you care about them. We’re spending a lot of time talking about our team, our focus, humility, empathy, courage, and what’s required of leaders during this time.”
An audience member asked Clark how he is handling the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 on social media, mainstream media and even from U.S. health officials. In response, Clark referenced the health care golden rule to do no harm.
“In health care, our first priority is do no harm. If you are using protective masks that you can’t guarantee are N95 in nature or of the pedigree you think you bought, and if you don’t do your supply chain research and distribute those to your front line health care professionals, you have done harm. If you engage in procuring a million dollars of antibody tests and they don’t have the proper FDA authorizations and where accuracy is questionable, but you start testing, you have likely done harm. I would rather be accused of being deliberate, slow or too bureaucratic than irresponsible,” Clark said. “We’re relying on our resources in Washington D.C., and our manufacturing and distributor partners. There is an ‘after’ to all of this, and clients and team members will remember how you lead, the courage you had or lacked, the risks you took or didn’t and how you went forward with uncertainty in these times.”
Hovious acknowledged the current protests, riots and unrest in the U.S. and asked Clark to provide guidance for supporting diversity in both employees and clients. At the time of the discussion, a number of Premise Health centers were closed due to riots and social unrest in their cities.
“We unabashedly have zero tolerance for any sort of discrimination,” said Clark. “What I would say to other CEOs is that being passive is not an option. As business leaders, we can’t fix the national conversation, but we can lead by example. Words matter, how we treat each other matters, how and if we express empathy matters, and we have to do that all day, every day. Everyone needs to be treated with compassion and empathy and we’re trying very hard to do that here. We’re going to revisit our policies. Even as diverse as we are today, we are questioning everything.”
The Nashville Health Care Council will continue to offer relevant and timely virtual events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Register now for the Council’s next virtual discussion, “View from a Pandemic: The Road to Economic Recovery,” on Wednesday, June 10, at 11:30 a.m. Watch for more information on upcoming programs at healthcarecouncil.com.