Episode #71 – Understanding the Health AND Healthcare Needs of a Community – with Dr. Tony Slonim

Colleagues & Friends,

You may not have heard of Renown Health – a moderate-sized healthcare system in northern Nevada – but once you hear how they are reframing healthcare – literally redefining and reorganizing healthcare delivery, I suspect that you’ll not forget them.

Our guest this week is Dr. Anthony Slonim, President and Chief Executive Officer of Renown Health in Reno, NV.  Over the last four years, he and his colleagues have created one of the most innovative and progressive health services organizations in the country. Dr. Slonim is a nationally recognized thought leader. Modern Healthcare has named him one of the “50 Most Influential Clinical Executives” of 2019. He has also been named a “Physician Leader to Know” every year, since 2014, on the Becker’s Hospital Review. A board-certified pediatric intensive care doctor by training, Dr. Slonim has authored more than 15 textbooks and published more than 60 academic journal articles. Before joining Renown Health, Dr. Slonim served in executive leadership roles at Barnabas Health in NJ, Carilion Clinic in VA and Children’s National Medical Center in DC. Dr. Slonim currently chairs the American Hospital Association’s Systems Council, representing more than 300 integrated health systems nationwide.

In this episode you’ll hear about:

  • How Dr. Slonim caught the healthcare industry’s attention by launching the Healthy Nevada Project®, the first population health initiative that combines genetic, environmental, social and clinical data to address individual and community health needs.
  • The reorganization of the Renown Health system into two major divisions – a ‘health’ division addressing preventive, population-based, public health needs; and a ‘healthcare’ division comprised of acute care facilities and chronic disease management providers and services.
  • Why Dr. Slonim believes that the doctor’s prescription pad is a metaphor for the constraints of our system and what a better “prescription” for care looks like.. 
  • How Dr. Slonim’s background in public health, combined with his own long-term experience as a patient, shaped his perspective and his approach to healthcare delivery.

There are a number of things that stand out about this interview. First, Dr. Slonim brings a great depth of clinical AND public health expertise to the perspective of a healthcare CEO, which is a rarity. Second, his thinking and approach are scientifically based, consumer-oriented, brilliantly logical, and elegantly simple. Third, he is laser focused on the needs of his patients, consumers and community. Dr. Slonim and his leadership team recognize that there are two fundamental, vastly different, value propositions that are required to care for communities. So they set about to restructure their system and redeploy the appropriate resources to deliver on those two value propositions. Their goal is to improve health through proactive community-based prevention, while creating the best healthcare system for those with acute and chronic disease. Once I heard Renown’s strategy and approach, I was left wondering why other hospital systems in the country aren’t immediately following suit.

From my perspective, Dr. Slonim and his colleagues are brilliantly executing the steps of the Reframe Roadmap – reorienting their approach; redefining the problems from the primary perspective of patients and community; rebranding their value proposition to meet those needs; redesigning their healthcare delivery for results that matter to people; reorganizing their healthcare system to optimally deliver on those results; and importantly, redirecting their strategies, tactics and resources to make it all happen.

What resonates the most, however, from this interview is the profound sense of empathy Dr. Slonim has for the people he serves. He shares that the biggest lesson he learned from his own cancer diagnosis and treatment was about the inequities and disparities of healthcare in our country. The lesson he learned wasn’t about himself, but about others. That speaks volumes about how his mind and heart work.  His goal and the goal of Renown Health is clearly to humanize healthcare. To make it less complex and less reactive. To make it more convenient, customized and accessible. To make one of its prime purposes the prevention of illness and trauma. To make it what people want and need in order to stay healthy and return to health.

Again, why aren’t more healthcare leadership teams learning from and emulating this approach?

Until Next Time, Be Well.

Zeev Neuwirth, MD