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Trinity Health Playbook: Double Down on Hope Using New Thinking and Possibilities

NRC Health’s Patient No Longer podcast features healthcare leaders who inspire a positive shift in the customer experience and Human Understanding. The latest episode, “Where Do We Go from Here?” features Michael A. Slubowski, FACHE, FACMPE, President and CEO of Trinity Health. Trinity Health is a 22-state, 92-hospital Catholic health system that includes 120 continuing-care locations encompassing home care, hospital, PACE, and senior-living facilities. 

Host Ryan Donohue, Strategic Advisor with NRC Health, welcomed back Slubowski to discuss gut feelings on the industry’s ability to evolve for the future. 

Although the industry is going through a lot of change right now—and Slubowski believes the radical transformation the healthcare industry is experiencing feels like the tip of an iceberg right now—his outlook starts with hope. He says that while change is inevitable and the future is complex, having a beginner’s mindset can help raise fundamental questions to make us think more clearly about what matters. 

“I think market forces are driving us to focus on the people we serve in a very different way and will compel us to be even more person-centered, consumer-centric, member-centric,” he says. “And that’s why we think our brand promise—listening, partnering, and making it easy—while we’re far from that, it’s just something that we repeat. It’s a mantra for us to apply to almost everything we’re doing.” 

Currently, Slubowski says the organization’s continuous relationship with its patient-members, colleagues, and employees are at the top of its priorities. Next is certainty of managing cost, and last is getting help from regulators to eliminate some of the playing-field disparities healthcare is experiencing. While none of those priorities is necessarily new, he says thinking differently has enabled his health system to be a leader. 

Slubowski also says that one way Trinity Health shifted away from issues with having enough clinical staff and overreliance on external staffing agencies was by creating its own internal staffing agency.  

“We figured, if nurses want more flexibility and move more to a gig approach, it would be better for us to keep people in our organization than to lose them to an external staffing agency,” he says. “We can give them that extra flexibility because they know us and our mission, which has been critical for us during this pandemic. I’m really excited that our nursing leadership understood there wouldn’t be enough nurses to go around on the old delivery model.” 

Slubowski says that an “Emergence 2.0” framework is rising out of the pandemic, which is about new thinking and possibilities. Trinity Health created a group of emergence teams across ministries to address specific problems or opportunities, and each team gathered the best minds together to develop ideas and guidance from culture and a zero-harm approach to safety and stewardship. 

“Let me just start by saying it’s hard work,” Slubowski says. “It’s not going to be a cakewalk for any of us to go through this transformation. But we are focused on improving the world through values and activism, and using technology to drive the capability to communicate and engage. We also need to rely on the new generation of impact-minded individuals. The beginner’s mind questions, and thinks that we’ve been blind to raising the fundamental questions that make us think, Hey, maybe there’s a different way here. We need to take advantage of the fact that they come with a beginner’s mind and enthusiasm to make a difference. I say, let ’em do things. Let ’em try things. Let ’em make mistakes. Let ’em help us.” 

Learn more about the importance of listening to fellows and residents and why it’s so important to get out of your comfort zone in this episode of Patient No Longer.