In hospitals and health systems, Gary Stuck says it’s critical to work as a team to care for patients.

Stuck, the chief medical officer of Advocate Health, talked with Chief Healthcare Executive® in a recent interview about the new organization, which was formed by the merger of Atrium Health and Advocate Aurora Health. Advocate Health operates 67 hospitals with more than 1,000 healthcare locations, and the system employs 150,000 people.

When asked for an important lesson on leadership, Stuck said, “I think that healthcare is a team sport. There’s not one of us who can deliver for our patients.”

Stuck cited his work with Mary Beth Kingston, the chief nursing officer at Advocate Health. He described the “dyad partnership” the two of them have developed, and says it’s a model for collaboration.

“We can’t be just physician-centric, or hospital-centric,” Stuck says. “We need to work together as a team. And that’s helping everyone to feel valued on that care team, and culturally come together to deliver the best for our patients. And that feels really good to folks who work for Advocate Health, because they feel that collaborative style.”

“So I would say that’s a strong lesson, that no one area can do that. It’s a team sport of leaning in and working together in a really collaborative way,” he adds. (He talks about teamwork and leadership in this video. The story continues below.)

In order to foster that type of collaborative environment, it’s important to help all team members understand the value – and necessity – of working together.

“You don’t tolerate the Lone Rangers,” Stuck says. “People see that they can’t do it alone.”

For those who think they do it on their own, Stuck says, “You’re just fooling yourself.”

When leaders share goals around quality and safety and build a sense of collaboration, Stuck says that “is really what brings people together.”

Stuck says that collaborative approach is making a difference, even with the complexity of two large systems coming together to form one new organization. He says it’s especially important as the system looks to accelerate the move to value-based care.

Advocate Health’s accountable care organizations generated $128 million in savings through the Medicare Shared Savings Program in 2022. In that program, accountable care organizations can share in the savings they generate for Medicare. The six accountable care organizations received $69.9 million back from the Medicare program, and the system says that money was re-invested in patient care.

“We are learning so much from each other, and that scale that we have offers that opportunity to share learnings in the population health world and in value-based care,” Stuck says.

“Legacy leaders in value-based care are coming together. We’re able to learn so much from each other,” he adds. “And now … being able to apply academic learnings and the research capabilities, the future is so very, very bright for our patients. We’re very excited about it.”

Stuck says he feels fortunate to be in a collaborative environment at Advocate Health. Since the two systems merged together, he says leaders and clinicians have been sharing ideas on ways to improve health equity.

“It’s a privilege to be in a culture of a health system that does lean in for our patients that way, and it does unify us,” Stuck says.

(If you’d like to submit your lessons in leadership in healthcare, great advice you’ve received, or insights you wish you had earlier, submit an idea for our “Lessons for Leaders” series. Email Ron Southwick, senior editor of Chief Healthcare Executive: [email protected])

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