AAPL Opens Spring Summit: A Time for ‘Courage’ in Leadership

By Andy Smith | AAPL
May 3, 2019

Association CEO Dr. Peter Angood encourages attendees to “embrace” their leadership as the gathering begins with keynotes by Drs. David Asch and J.D. Polk.

WASHINGTON, D.C. − As Peter Angood, MD, FRCS(C), FACS, MCCM, president and CEO of the American Association for Physician Leadership, often likes to say, at some level all physicians are leaders.

Leadership, however, doesn’t always come easily.

Often, it takes courage, especially in the face of continuous changes to the health care industry and the disruptors that come with it.

It is that courage to lead that is the theme of AAPL’s Spring Summit, which began Friday at the JW Marriott Washington, D.C.

“This is an important time to have that courage,” Angood told a packed house of physician leaders in the hotel ballroom Friday morning, “not only for us as individuals but also for our organizations, our groups, our practices as well as our families that go through this journey because health care is complicated, and our position in health care is very complicated.

“I still continue to believe that at some level all physicians are leaders,” he continued. “Society expects that of our profession, and so we have a responsibility to be leaders regardless of what our position is or what we do.”

In this complexity, he said, the patient-physician relationship remains the primary driver of health care.

“Yes, there are all sorts of disciplines around that,” Angood said, “and that will continue to evolve. We certainly are embracing multi-disciplinary team-based care. We’ve begun to approach interprofessional leadership in all of this and collaborate heavily with other disciplines, but it’s still that patient-physician relationship” around which all health care revolves.

asch keynote

David Asch, MD, MBA, executive director of Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, speaks on behavioral decision-making during his keynote. | Andy Smith/AAPL

Angood encouraged his audience to “embrace this leadership, embrace the responsibilities that we have, and certainly continue to move along with us as we embrace the opportunity to create the change in health care.”

In addition to several featured speakers, the three-day Summit marks the second-year return of the Vanguard group and the high-level thought-leadership speakers and discussions it inspires, as well as the Wellness Academy and a variety of Spring Institute continuous education courses.

Among Friday’s opening-day presentations:

MORNING KEYNOTE: David Asch, MD, MBA, executive director of Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, spoke about behavioral decision-making and, for example, that incentivizing employees to stop smoking by offering $750 was less successful than penalizing them $650 if they didn’t quit.

Or that offering employees $1.40 a day if they logged 700 steps was less successful than giving them $45 a month and subtracting $1.40 for every day they failed to achieve that 700-step threshold.

The math was the same, Asch said – they made the same for every 7,000-step day – but the results were dramatically different.

In short, behavior is less influenced by the incentive of money – unless it means having it taken away.

Behavior is also influenced by what other people think. One hospital was frustrated by its inability to get staff members to wash their hands. Then they put a picture of eyes over the sinks – and hand-washing doubled.

“There really are two directions of social influence,” he said. “The first is based on the fact that we fundamentally care what others think of us. We are always on our best behavior when we know others are watching. The other direction is that as much as we like to think of ourselves as individuals, we fundamentally model ourselves based on everyone else’s behavior.”

VANGUARD: Decision-making as it pertains to artificial intelligence vs. humans was debated in Vanguard, where it was concluded that each was susceptible to mistakes but that there is a “higher evidentiary standard for machines” than humans – that “we freak out when a machine makes a mistake,” Asch said, “but we don’t freak out when humans make mistakes, and we do it all the time.”

As it applies to health care, AAPL board member Mark Lester said, “the thing the physician brings, in addition to the human connection that’s so important, is clinical judgment, which is its own kind of learning. We’re continually learning in the practice of medicine and are our own set of learning algorithms. We bring that judgment and AI acts as a really refined manual to help our clinical judgment with patients – and in medicine and health, nothing can replace the clinical judgement of the physician.”

LUNCH KEYNOTE:  J.D. Polk, the chief health and medical officer for NASA, said health care has benefitted greatly from many of the products and processes that have resulted over the years from the space agency. Like health care, NASA is constantly adjusting and adapting to change.

“When I was in medical school,” said Polk, DO, MS, MMM, CPE, FACOEP, FAsMA, “the half-life of medicine was five years. It can’t be that way anymore because (the pace of) technology has changed. The half-life of technology today is 2.4 years. By the time you get your iPhone out of the box, the iPhone 11 is being developed and will come out 2.4 years from now – and that changes constantly.”

As a result, he says,we’re almost all the time playing catch-up.”

Andy Smith is a staff writer for the American Association for Physician Leadership.


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