The Center for Healthcare Governance winter symposium in February was a terrific event, and not only because it gave some of us a chance to thaw out in the Phoenix sunshine. This was my first CHG meeting since becoming editor of Trustee in the fall, and what impressed me most was how eager attendees were to get their arms around all the changes now going on in health care.

Many of these folks, after all, are not health care professionals; most have demanding jobs in other business sectors, but they volunteer a generous chunk of time to institutions they consider cornerstones of their communities. Of course, if you’re reading this, you probably serve on a board yourself, so I salute you. And if you couldn’t make it to Phoenix, allow me to briefly outline three big themes that emerged from the meeting.

  1. Change is driven primarily by the market, not by the government. No matter who prevails in the November elections, and whether all or part of Obamacare is ever repealed, insurers, employers and the public are demanding more bang for the buck. All of us are now firmly on the road to accountable care.
  2. They’re consumers first, patients second. When people are signing up for health plans with $5,000 or more in deductibles, they’re going to shop for health care just like they shop for everything else. They want to know how much it will cost and if it’s worth it. Hospitals need to adopt a retail model.
  3. Boards must be more engaged. That means asking tough questions of executives and not simply rubber stamping whatever’s put before them. Board members need to get involved in discussions early, ask plenty of questions, and their questions need to go beyond the fiduciary. For one: How will this decision affect the mission of the hospital and the community we serve?

For me, the most valuable part of the symposium happened when trustees from different regions talked among themselves, sharing ideas, concerns and lessons learned. You can be part of those discussions at the CHG’s fall symposium in September in Boston. Learn more at www.americangovernance.com.