Dr. Marc Harrison is back in Salt Lake City as the new president and CEO of Intermountain Healthcare. After spending about 17 years at Cleveland Clinic, Harrison returns to where he spent his time in the critical care units of Intermountain Healthcare’s Primary Children’s Hospital.
Previously at Cleveland Clinic, he served as Chief of International Business Development, Chief Medical Operations Officer, and chairman of Pediatric Critical Care. At Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi where he served as CEO for five years, Harrison put together an international workforce of 3,500 members and managed clinical and business operations.
Harrison was selected as the new Intermountain president and CEO earlier this year, replacing outgoing CEO Dr. Charles W. Sorenson. He assumed his new role last month and will be using lessons learned during his time at Cleveland Clinic as a means to manage current focus areas at Intermountain, which consists of 22 hospitals, 185 clinics, a division for health insurance, among other services.
“Although Cleveland Clinic and Intermountain Healthcare are different organizations, they share many of the same values in committing to their patients and providing excellence in what they do and I think they’re both extremely high-integrity organizations,” he told Healthcare Dive. “So in many ways it has not felt like an abrupt change.” However, Harrison and Sorenson worked together for weeks on a daily basis to “make sure the hand-off was smooth.”
Two of the most crucial components of Harrison’s on-boarding process have been meeting with others to understand what it is like to do their jobs and have them talk about where they think the hospital system is going as well was building trust. “I’m trying to place things in the context of history and then understand where Intermountain fits in the national and international health ecosystem,” he said.
My short-term priority is to understand Intermountain "as fully as possible without disrupting its operations. So I’m listening a lot and talking to a lot of people,” he said.
A secret to Harrison’s success has been having people around him who are empowered to try new things, move quickly, lean forward, and even fail occasionally. "If they feel safe doing that and are transparent of what goes well and what doesn’t go well, the organization progresses rapidly into the benefit of the people they serve. I certainly tried to put that kind of environment in place in Abu Dhabi and I’m trying to bring that same spirit with me here."
Intermountain expects to continue as a model healthcare system with affordable and accessible care, according to Harrison. He believes this will mean being responsive to consumers. Harrison outlined three of Intermountain’s current focus areas:
Population health management
"I think population health management is a very active focus for us right now. What I’ve really enjoyed watching is how our medical groups and hospitals and our payers are working together to reduce procedures that may not be formally necessary from a population health management standpoint.
We put in place care process models, which are essentially maps of how care is provided. These care process models are being adopted across our system more and more broadly every day enabled by electronic medical records to make sure that variability is reduced so they can get highly reliable and effective care."
"One of the things that was very appealing about joining Intermountain is that it has a long history of using data to improve patient outcomes. A lot of this revolves around reducing variability in patient care and seeing how that improves their health status.
We’re also seeing a real explosion in a positive way in the use of digital health from a distant standpoint. A really good example of that is the tele-critical care program that Intermountain developed. We cover all 22 of our hospitals and ICUs from a central monitoring station and now they expanded that to 11 or 12 outside hospitals as well. In each of the hospitals where we’re providing backup we have seen improvements in length-of-stay, mortality, and in the ability to keep people close to home for their healthcare...We’re doing tele-stroke, we’re providing infectious disease consults by a distance, we’re doing psychiatric care by a distance, and many other services. I think this is the next wave of digital activity."
"We launched a company called Navican in the last couple of weeks and it’s a precision cancer medicine company. Tumors are sequenced to identify mutations that would make patients candidates for very specific targeted therapies. In part, the work behind this company relates to a very strong partnership we had with Stanford Medicine. It’s been an excellent partnership, although this is an Intermountain company. They’re off to a very nice start, including some international contacts.
I think that every patient, regardless of things that are wrong with them, what they really want is, 'Am I being treated as specifically as possible for what is ailing? Am I getting the right therapy? Am I getting what I need but no more?' When one is not well, it’s okay to be self-interested, and people want to know, 'Is this best for me?' I think the trend we’re going to see is highly specific and tailored approaches to people’s problems.
That doesn’t always necessarily mean that we need to do more. It may actually mean that we will be able to identify people who need a lot less done for them. I think this is a trend that we’re going to see across the board and what we’ve done with the precision cancer company is a foray into a specific area though I think the general trend is valid as well."