President and CEO
Medical Group Management Association (MGMA)
Location: Englewood, CO
*Second Year Honoree*
Listening is the most powerful tool any leader has at their disposal, according to Dr. Halee Fischer-Wright, MD.
“When we listen, we learn to be flexible and adaptable,” she said. “We learn where and how we need to alter course.”
And for Fischer-Wright, President and CEO of Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), adaptability is mandatory.
“Every day, I think about the impact MGMA is having on our industry, and how we can lead the charge for the best kind of change. In healthcare, too much change is top-down,” she said. “We need more change initiatives that are based on the wisdom and experience of those on the frontlines, emerging from the work they’re doing to improve the care they deliver. That’s my personal driver.”
Fisher-Wright explained over this past year, she had to help guarantee that medical practices could survive. In early March of 2020, she assembled a group of 25 leaders from eight of the business-of-healthcare associations, including those that see our organization as a competitor. Setting aside past relationship hurdles, they became hugely collaborative, with the goal of helping the healthcare industry survive a crisis as they were forced to close their doors to patients. Meeting weekly, sharing ideas, and updating each other on what they were learning from their members. She said that one of the most important outgrowths of that work was the development of the COVID-19 Recovery Center, a rapidly developed collection of online resources available to all the members of the different organizations.
“Because of this partnership, we were able to offer information and support on sourcing PPE, securing SBA loans, navigating the fast-changing regulatory landscape, and implementing telehealth services. We did this at an incredible speed to help our members survive the toughest months,” she said. “One of the great obstacles in healthcare is a zero-sum mindset, or the belief that for one player in the industry to win another probably has to lose. This kind of collaboration is what the industry needs more of, to break down that worldview and keep us all moving toward excellence.”
She added that helping their members survive was one of the most critical goals over the past year, she could not lose sight of the broader changes in the healthcare industry, including an ever-increasing reliance on technology, the shift toward healthcare consumerism, and transformation in the medical practice models.
“In fact, the pandemic accelerated some of these changes, such as the adoption of telehealth. I worked closely with our board of directors to shape strategic goals for our fiscal year that were closely aligned with the changing industry and designed to help us have a positive impact on medical practices across the country. We have been developing resources and services to help medical practices shift to the value-based care model as seamlessly as possible,” she said. “Although it has been a hot topic for years, relatively few practices have actually made the transition. Those that did fared better through the pandemic. It’s a critical strategic step for many and one we want to help practices take.”
She believes hope and gratitude are sometimes the most important tools for a leader to leverage.
“Never have leaders, especially leaders in healthcare, been expected to manage so much fear, grief, loss, anxiety, depression- their own and others. These are not the emotions we are trained to manage as leaders. Making the space to acknowledge fear and grief is not something we are necessarily good at in business. Those are ‘at home’ emotions,” she said. “But not anymore and denying them or trying to muscle our way through them won’t help anybody.”
She added that to sustain, her team has worked to open conversations about the negative emotions. “We offered one another understanding and hope, but we can’t offer what we don’t have, though, so we have to be intentional about building it in our own lives. We must build connections. We must fight isolation, something that leaders struggle with already. And we have to focus on the contributions we’re making each day.”
Fischer-Wright said that as they work toward reopening offices and reintegrating staff, she is focused on making sure that people feel they have a choice and that their opinions are valued.
“There is still work to be done, but we have a better pulse on employee engagement and challenges and more people focused on improving our team’s experience,” she said.
“And the simple act of listening inspires others to openly address challenges and struggles, to freely share ideas and innovations, and to alter their course, for the betterment of the team and organization.”
And that is just what the doctor orders.
"When we listen, we learn to be flexible and adaptable."