Notes from the Field – 7 Questions with Matt Kolb, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Carle Health

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“Notes from the Field” is a special newsroom feature, highlighting industry professionals working to transform healthcare. In this edition, we spoke with Matt Kolb, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Carle Health.

1. What is one thing you’ve learned in the past year?

The past year has been a busy one for Carle Health. Not only is Carle emerging from the pandemic like most healthcare organizations, but we’ve also experienced a time of tremendous growth as an organization over the past several years. I think the pace of that growth has reminded me of the value and importance of clear communication. Communication is such an important skill in general, but especially for leaders. In times of change and lots of fast-paced activity, it’s essential that team members feel informed, supported, and understood – it’s hard to overstate the importance of effective communication in making that possible.

2. What inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare? 
Serving others is the core of healthcare.  I was drawn to that mission, and even though I don’t provide direct patient care, I support and serve those that do.  That purpose is incredibly motivating.  I feel very fortunate to work in healthcare.

3. What do you see as the biggest opportunity to improve healthcare?
What we do in healthcare is so important, and we should always – even when we’re exceptional at something – be looking for ways to improve.  I think access to care will continue to be a challenge across the country for various reasons and will take the best creative ideas of our industry to solve.  I think we also need to be sure we continue to expect high performance and support our clinical teams in really defining, measuring, and advocating for high-quality clinical outcomes that are objectively measurable.  

4. What is the greatest challenge facing healthcare?
The financing of healthcare is under great pressure. Our national expenditure in healthcare continues to increase, and as a country, we need to slow that growth. At the same time, many healthcare providers are experiencing unsustainable trends in expense categories, declining reimbursement, and value-based care models that are still maturing. Working through these challenges in the coming years will not always be easy, but it’s critical work. I believe healthcare attracts dedicated, committed, and brilliant people, so I am confident that great organizations will work through these challenges successfully, but it will require a real team effort.

5. How do you envision technology playing a role in addressing this challenge in healthcare? 
I think technology has always been transformative in healthcare. I expect major innovation to change the types of care and treatments available and how people access care. And not just AI, which is a hot topic right now – but also in the types of medications available to treat disease, new tools for procedural care, innovations in medical imaging, and technology-enabled automation that we can’t envision yet. That’s part of why Carle Health partnered with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to create the world’s first engineering-based medical school – for the specific purpose of training future physician innovators.

6. Can you recommend one best practice you’ve employed to ensure data accessibility and data literacy across your organization?
We’ve made meaningful investments in our data analytics and performance improvement capabilities over the past few years. Part of that effort has included focusing on making information and data more readily available to our team members – “self-service.” That has required education and training and is certainly a work in progress. It starts to become a cultural feature as people become more comfortable. I’ve certainly noticed an increase in data-driven decision-making, debate, and discussion, which is so good to see and really important. We make hard decisions in healthcare, and we must ground those in facts and data, not anecdotes or history.

7. What trends or issues concerning healthcare technology, data, and analytics are you watching and why?
As I mentioned, technology has always been transformative when applied to healthcare. Any tools, technology, or capabilities that can be proven to improve patient access, clinical treatment options, and outcomes of care, help enhance patient experience, improve efficiency of operations, or address equity gaps. I’d welcome all of it. It needs to be proven and supported by a reasonable economic model, but the possibilities are tremendous, and that’s pretty exciting.

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