Healthcare analytics leadership, it's complicated

Training programs for cultivating leaders often focus too much on skills and not enough on process, says Bryan Bennett, executive director of the Healthcare Center for Excellence.
By Tom Sullivan
10:51 AM

SAN FRANCISCO —  Leadership is the top challenge for healthcare analytics, but many of the people in those positions don’t recognize when they’re part of the problem.

That’s according to research conducted by Bryan Bennett, executive director of the Healthcare Center for Excellence.

Among the reasons unique to healthcare is the fact that many hospital and health system CEOs are former physicians and, as such, tend to be focused on doctors, sometimes to the detriment of the overall organization.

[Also: Cognitive clinical science is healthcare’s new tipping point]

Bennett pointed to one physician-turned-CEO who told doctors they didn’t have to use the hospital’s EHR. Why? He didn’t want physicians leaving to be employed by a competitive hospital.

“Well, where would they go and not have to use an EHR?” Bennett cracked at the Big Data and Healthcare Analytics Forum on Tuesday.

Hospitals undertaking healthcare analytics initiatives need a foundation of leadership before they can put training, process workflows, data technology and, only then, analytics in place, Bennett said. 

[Also: How predictive analytics, telehealth helped one hospital make patients safer]

Bennett shared four qualities of great leaders: empathy to know and understand the people you work with, humility enough to put others’ needs ahead of your own, vision to both understand where you’re going and communicate that to your team, and the ability to be a risk-taker who knows and accepts that arrows and knives are pointed at your back and leads through the situation regardless.

“Leadership is a process, not a skill,” Bennett said.

To that end, training programs for cultivating leaders often fail for four reasons: they focus too much on skills and not enough on process, they take a one-size-fits-all approach, include only minimal time for reflection, and lack any kind of follow-up or feedback loop.

[Also: Healthcare big data is only in its terrible twos]

Bennett has what he calls a five-part prescription for effective leadership.

The first phase is understanding who you are as a person and as a leader. Second is assessing the leadership influence around you and third is developing your own vision and then executing on that every day.

At that point it’s time to reflect, Bennett said. He recommended not only reflecting on what happened but also pre-reflection to measure events before they even occur.

And just like Serena Williams, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan and others all had coaches teaching and driving them throughout their careers, analytics leaders should find a mentor to help their professional growth.

“Self-reflection makes for better leaders,” Bennett said. “After you get to coaching and mentoring, you circle back around.”

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