Health care leaders have a lot on their minds these days: How do you reduce costs while increasing quality of care? How do you satisfy the demands of discerning consumers? How do you implement new technologies into existing workflows? What can be done to alleviate clinician burnout as we enter the third year of the COVID pandemic?
All of these issues and more were discussed in a recent Nashville Health Care Council Brass Tacks member discussion with Council Board Member Eric Evans, CEO and Director of Surgery Partners, Inc. Of particular note, Evans shared his ideas and approaches regarding the promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace and the health care community.
DEI as a Leadership Strategy
Studies show that creating a DEI-focused workplace culture is vital for business sustainability and delivering optimal health outcomes. The pandemic has caused a significant staffing crisis throughout the health care industry. While many factors have contributed to this, new Press Ganey data shows that employees’ intent to stay at an organization is associated with how they perceive the value their employer places on the presence and treatment of people from different backgrounds. Notably, a diverse and equitable culture is correlated with a strong safety culture, which also impacts patient care outcomes.
Evans outlined several approaches to DEI that he is implementing at Surgery Partners:
1. Leadership must own the issue
Evans emphasized that being candid about a problem and making it an utmost priority is the first step in creating positive change. He and his team have worked to make DEI discussions part of everyday business and ensure the leadership team knows this is business critical. Regular listening/engagement sessions with cross-functional colleague groups and structured action plans also help Evans/Surgery Partners move the needle toward a more DEI-centered workplace.
We have a long way to go regarding DEI, and some of our past corporate initiatives didn’t get very far. But I’m proud of the progress we have made in recent years. Our board and investors are highly engaged on this, and it’s a top priority. We are seeing momentum, and it’s clear that these efforts are paying dividends through performance and recruiting great people.
2. Understand that diversity equals better results
According to the ”Diversity wins: How Inclusion Matters” (2019) report by McKinsey & Company, organizations in the top tier for ethnic and cultural diversity were 36% more profitable than those on the bottom. Evans concurred that this is evident in performance measures across the board. As a team becomes more diverse, the business simply gets better.
Surgery Partners identified five foundational core values, and we added another: to promote diversity and inclusion as part of how we succeed in business. We talk about this all the time, and it is understood that this is a major goal. Doing this has made a difference in our everyday thinking.
3. Take your time with recruitment
It may be harder to find diverse candidates for specific positions, but as stated above, the commitment pays off in the end. Evans has worked to give his team extra time and resources to make sure recruitment efforts are comprehensive.
4. Make DEI a part of your culture in ways both big and small
For example, Evans pointed out that the shift to remote work can have tremendous benefits for staff and also can help with recruiting diverse candidates who may be unable to relocate for a job. At the same time, it’s important to pay attention and make sure remote work doesn’t hinder some employees’ ability to advance, such as younger employees and women who may be more likely to stay home.
5. Think about how your company contributes to equity in the communities you serve.
Across the nation, gaps in health care are “large, persistent and increasing,” as stated by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Evans and his colleagues have initiated collaboration with nonprofits in the communities. Surgery Partners alleviates health equity problems and takes a personal approach to provide care to the underserved. They look to leverage its network of facilities, suppliers and clinicians, to enable surgeons, many of whom already do mission work abroad, to volunteer to help under and uninsured people in their own communities. The team is focused on expanding elective surgery access to those in need but unable to afford it, starting in a few centers with plans to expand the HEAL (Health Equity Access Leaders) program across their national portfolio and hopefully across the short-stay surgical industry.
The Nashville Health Care Council’s Commitment to DEI
For its part, the Nashville Health Care Council is working to educate, inspire and promote industry-wide change on some of health care’s most pressing issues and challenges. Last year, the Council Board released a position statement as a call-to-action for the health care industry.
“Embracing and encouraging diversity within our member companies is important, necessary work, and we must hold each other accountable and share best practices as we work toward our goals and strive to influence the broader industry,” said David Dill, Council Board Chairman and President and CEO of LifePoint Health. “These issues cannot be solved overnight, but we are optimistic our collective actions will manifest positive change around DEI.”
This virtual event was the latest installment of the Council’s “Health Care Brass Tacks” series, which invites Council board members and C-suite health care leaders to discuss their perspectives on the coronavirus pandemic and its overall impact on the health care industry. The Council’s “Health Care Brass Tacks” series is sponsored by Workday. For more information on upcoming programs, visit healthcarecouncil.com.
Based in Nashville and operating in 32 states throughout the country, Surgery Partners is a health care services company with an integrated delivery model. The company owns and operates more than 180 locations, including short-stay surgical facilities and ancillary services comprised of multi-specialty physician practices and anesthesia services.