The leadership imperative

Becoming a force for change

A conversation with Mary Grealy, JD, President, the Healthcare Leadership Council

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EY - A conversation with Mary Grealy

Since 1999, Ms. Grealy has led the Washington, DC-based Healthcare Leadership Council (, a coalition of chief executives of the nation’s leading health care organizations launched in 1988. We talked with her about how health care leaders from all sectors are joining together in the pursuit of “efficient innovation.”

Q: Your organization is the nation’s only health policy advocacy group that represents all sectors of health care. How do you get everyone with diverse points of view on the same page?

A: It’s all about sharing a vision of what our health care system should be. For HLC members, the vision looks like this: a system that is patient-centric, built on the strengths of the private sector and designed to spur innovation. We understand that if we want a system that reflects our shared vision, fighting among ourselves is not an option. We need to work together.

With a health care career that began with the Carter Administration, you’ve seen a range of industry challenges over the years. From your perspective, of all the issues facing health care leaders today, which is the most urgent? What is the solution?

A: The most urgent challenge of the ‘70s is still the most urgent in 2013: how do we reconcile the two goals of reducing spending while improving health outcomes? Through our eyes, the answer is efficient innovation – products, technologies and care delivery initiatives that over the long term reduce costs and deliver better value.

Q: What does efficient innovation look like among the various sectors? Is it different from one to the other?

A: Providers are innovating by using evidence-based guidelines to reduce variation and resource use. Payers are using population health data and technology platforms to help drive efficiencies in care. Private sector players have been innovating for years with wellness and prevention programs. So, all sectors are making a distinct contribution.

Q: The HLC has played a prominent role in national discussions on Medicare reform. Is it possible to bring innovation to Medicare?

A: Yes. It’s a question of choosing the best option. The HLC supports an approach that would give beneficiaries the option of remaining in Medicare or moving into a competitive exchange, shopping for the plans that best suit their needs. We see innovation as being a key ingredient in the consumer choice approach.

Q: HLC has been exemplary in showcasing technology innovations for legislators. What has been the response?

A: Each year, we sponsor the day­long Healthcare Innovations Expo on Capitol Hill to let lawmakers see firsthand developments in health care technologies, treatments and practices. We’re told it’s a huge help to those developing policy and legislation.

Q: You’ve been ranked many times by Modern Healthcare as one of the 100 Most Powerful People in Healthcare. Your name is also on the list of the 100 Disruptive Women in Healthcare. What does it mean to be a disruptive leader?

A: I take my cue from our Healthcare Leadership Council CEO members. No matter how successful their organizations, they know that progress doesn’t happen unless there is a willingness to disrupt the status quo. I approach health policy the same way. The natural instinct in Washington is to tinker at the margins. But our challenges are too great to simply work around the edges. The HLC will continue to push for bold change and real progress, because that’s what the system truly needs.