Chuck Lauer

Q&A with Chuck Lauer

April 17, 2014
by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor
This year marks the 20th year anniversary of the IDN Summit and Reverse Expo — a show that has become a major event for health system supply chain executives. The spring conference gets underway April 7-9 at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate in Orlando, Fla. The two-day conference is not only a networking opportunity for group purchasing organizations and supply chain executives, but it also gives them a chance to participate in presentations and educational events. For the past four years, Chuck Lauer, former publisher of Modern Healthcare, has moderated a leadership panel where he engages hospital executives on a range of topics. He spoke with DOTmed HealthCare Business News about what participants can look forward to in April.

HCBN: You’ve been a featured speaker and moderator for several IDN summits through the years. Why do you keep coming back?
A couple of reasons. I retired from Modern Healthcare in 2008. I had not planned my retirement and I got a little itchy three months in. I got a call one day from a man named John Kelly — the CEO of IDN — who had purchased the IDN Summit and Reverse Expo from Greg Firestone, someone I knew and who had actually asked me to speak at IDN Summit years before. John and I eventually met and he asked me if I could advise him. Then he asked if I could put together a panel of CEOs for the show and moderate it. I did that for the spring show, and the response was enthusiastic. Based on that success, he asked if I could do one in the fall too. And I did it again even though it was a challenge to get CEOs to appear because of their time constraints. Now it’s been about four years of moderating and putting together these panels for both the spring and fall meetings. I enjoy it and I like John. He’s a terrific guy with good values.

HCBN: How have you seen the show develop and change through the years?
For one, I’ve seen attendance increase in numbers. The show is also more relevant now than it had been before – it’s not just about getting together and feeling good. The industry has been under a bit of duress the last few years because of the Affordable Care Act. The cost of health care is through the roof and the government – that pays a lot of the bills – is asking questions. Whether you are a for-profit or not-for-profit system, this is a business today and if you want to run an organization that is financially viable, you have to keep an eye on costs and that’s where supply chain executives come in because there’s been so much waste in that area previously.

HCBN: What will be some of the important messages this year in your opinion?
The industry has already been reforming in many ways even before the ACA, but now with the law in place, that has compounded the problems health care faces and you have Uncle Sam in the picture more than ever. Basically, everyone is nervous now about how they can make a buck — it all comes down to the dollars in many cases I think. So people in the industry are confused about what steps to take for the future. They are most concerned about compliance with the ACA and other regulations. It’s not just the Affordable Care Act, but also state regulations too because if you don’t follow them you are subject to scrutiny and penalties.

CEOs set the stage. That person sets the goals, mission, vision and moral of the organization. There are different types of CEOs out there and there are many today who are doing great things and seeing things in the future and focusing more on the quality of health care.

HCBN: Speaking of CEOs, tell us about the Thought Leadership panel you will lead at the show?
I’ve got three great CEOs lined up for the panel: Chuck Gijanto of Baystate Health in Massachusetts; Richard Miller of Virtua Healthcare System in New Jersey; and Mark Newton of Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago. In fact, Mark’s hospital was recently named by the Leapfrog Group as the number one hospital for quality in Chicago. All of them have put into place plans that are ahead of the curve and they are willing to take risks to make their institutions better. A lot of CEOs out there are just waiting for retirement. But these three, I think, are going to stimulate others because they have been willing to step forward, take risks and make things happen. They are role models we can all learn from.

HCBN: What do want people to take away from the show this year?
I want supply chain going in the same direction as their system or institution.

HCBN: If there was one piece of advice you want to give to health care executives today, what would it be?
Don’t stand still. I’m a big believer that leaders should bring together people and take them on a journey and today it’s about bringing quality care to patients. How do we get to that? Too often there are silos in the system, and sometimes different groups don’t get along, but that has to go by the wayside and we have to start taking a team approach. For example, nurses used to be afraid to speak up if the doctor did something wrong, but in many cases, the nurse is right. So you need to give everyone you work with the opportunity to object so they can rethink. That’s what leadership is all about.