George C. Halvorson is chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Inc. and Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, headquartered in Oakland, California. Kaiser Permanente is the nation’s largest nonprofit health plan and hospital system, serving more than 8.6 million members and generating $40 billion in annual revenue.
George Halvorson serves on the Institute of Medicine Task Force on Evidence Based Care and the Commonwealth Commission for a High Performing Health System. He serves on the American Hospital Association’s Advisory Committee on Health Care Reform. He chairs the World Economic Conference Health Governors for 2009 and chairs the International Federation of Health Plans. He has received the Modern Healthcare/Health Information and Management Systems Society CEO IT Achievement Award. The Workgroup for Electronic Data Interchange also awarded him the 2009 Louis Sullivan Award for leadership and achievements in advancing health care quality.
Halvorson has written several health care reform books, including the newly released Health Care Will Not Reform Itself: A User’s Guide to Refocusing and Reforming American Health Care. He also wrote Health Care Reform Now!, Health Care Co-ops in Uganda, Strong Medicine, and Epidemic of Care as guidebooks for health care reform.
Halvorson served as an advisor to the governments of Uganda, Great Britain, Jamaica, and Russia on issues of health policy and financing. His strong commitment to diversity and inter-ethnic healing has led him to his current writing project, a new book about racial prejudice around the world.
Prior to joining Kaiser Permanente, Halvorson was president and chief executive officer of HealthPartners, headquartered in Minneapolis. With more than 30 years of health care management experience, he has also held several senior management positions with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota.
Question: What is some advice you have for CEOs?
George Halvorson: A couple of pieces of advice. One is, pay attention, understand very, very clearly what is happening, in your environment and in our organization. Don’t work out of theory, or past practice, or history, but have a really clear sense of what is actually happening right now and make sure that if there are any barriers to the truth getting to you that you knock them down, or get them out of the way. So, that’s one step.
The second thing is you should always be looking out to the horizon. You should be looking out over the horizon and have a three to five year planning horizon and know that if things go well, here’s where we want to be five years from now. And to get there, here are the things we have to do in four years, three years, two years. And then build your agenda around that, and don’t build it around being responsive to the crisis of now. You have to deal with the crisis of now. The crisis of now is now. And so that has to be dealt with, but if you are dealing with the crisis of now and you know where you want to be in five years from now, you may go this way instead of that way to get around it. And that’s critically important.
So, yeah, you need to understand where you are going and you need to pay attention. So, if I were giving people advice, those would be the two pieces of advice I would give.
Recorded on: September 21, 2009