Episode #109: Threading the Needle of Disruptive Transformation – with Dr. Roger Ray


Welcome to the first ‘Creating a New Healthcare’ podcast episode of 2021. The major themes we’ll explore in this episode are two sides of the same coin: the strategic, market-driven imperative for transformation in healthcare; and the financial and operational challenges of disrupting one’s own healthcare organization.

Our expert guest in this interview refers to this phenomena as the “conflicting realities” of transformation and disruption. The situation is challenging. If healthcare systems and provider groups don’t pursue transformation, it’s likely that they will find themselves increasingly less relevant in the future. Yet, at the same time, disrupting oneself is fraught with pitfalls and seemingly insurmountable challenges. Our guest this week has spent years threading this needle, earning the wisdom and the wins that demonstrate his competence and credibility. His message is simple and clear, and worth listening to. He believes that we are up to the challenge, if we grasp the mantle of high integrity, courageous, patient-centered leadership.

Dr. Roger Ray is the Chief Physician Executive with The Chartis Group – a well-known and highly respected healthcare consultancy. He has over three decades of service in a variety of leadership positions at major healthcare organizations throughout the eastern United States. Most recently, Dr. Ray served as Executive Vice President/Chief Physician Executive at Atrium Health, where he led a medical group of over 3,000 members and had operational oversight over myriad clinical services & functions. In full disclosure, I had the privilege of working with Dr. Ray for a number of years during his tenure at Atrium Health.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • The 4 major strategic advancements that Dr. Ray believes every healthcare system needs to be focused on achieving.
  • The increasing and unprecedented importance of physician leadership, and how that is a differentiating factor among healthcare systems.
  • The specific and significant challenge of disrupting one’s healthcare system, coupled with the conflicting need to rapidly adopt technology, generate new business models and transform healthcare delivery.
  • Why becoming expert at ‘fast-following’ and adopting best practices may be a superior strategy vs being a ‘bleeding-edge’ organization.

Dr. Ray is a pragmatist and a highly strategic thinker. But, he’s also a highly principled leader. One of my favorite ‘Ray’ quotes is, “Principles matter when they’re inconvenient.” The point being that it’s much harder, much more meaningful, and far more impactful to manifest principles when they inconvenience you. One of the fundamental principles that Dr. Ray has led by include his focus on ‘patient-first’ healthcare delivery. That is, leading with the question of how any decision impacts patients – first and foremost. As an example of this principle in action – when I asked Dr. Ray what he would say if he had a few minutes with President Biden and VP Kamala Harris, he said that he would remind them that healthcare is fundamentally about “people taking care of people” – highly skilled professionals who are earnest and passionate about helping and healing others – providers and staff who sacrifice and give of themselves, and who daily deliver near-miraculous outcomes. Yes, healthcare is a business. But, if we forget what it’s fundamentally about, we will sub-optimize the endeavour and harm patients. Dr. Ray also added that he would remind the President & VP that the current disparities in American healthcare are an embarrassment to our nation. He would encourage them to use the resolution of healthcare disparities as a primary marker and absolute requirement for American healthcare improvement.

I’m delighted to see that Dr. Ray is sharing his expertise and wisdom with many other leaders and organizations across the nation. American healthcare needs more leadership with principled pragmatism, and we need leadership that is willing, capable and courageous enough to thread the needle of disruptive transformation.

Until next time, be safe and be well.
Zeev Neuwirth, MD