An Appointment With: Northwell Health President and CEO, Michael J. Dowling
1. Growth has been a big part of Northwell Health’s success over the past years. How do we plan to continue to grow in 2018?
Everybody wants a piece of the health care space, from Google and Amazon to IBM Watson and other tech companies looking to disrupt the status quo. More recent examples include the purchase by Optum of the DaVita Medical Group, and CVS’ proposed acquisition of Aetna.
As New York’s largest health care provider, we’re not going to stand still. There are ongoing opportunities for Northwell to pursue new, innovative partnerships. Most of the traditional consumer transaction companies trying to gain a foothold in our industry are not providers of care, so they will need to be connected to hospitals and health systems that are firmly established in major metropolitan areas. Their goal, like ours, is to improve the continuum of care and make the delivery system as seamless as possible, so there could be synergies and opportunities in the year ahead to pursue ventures that will enable us to compete more effectively in this rapidly changing environment.
2. How will we push the boundaries and be Truly Innovative in 2018?
This era of consumerism forces everybody – including traditional providers – to think about doing things differently. I’m a big believer that competition is good. It’s disrupting. It can give you headaches and lead to sleepless nights, but it’s good because it forces you to work harder and get better. It forces organizations to be more efficient, more productive and more creative. These types of disruptions are occurring in all industries, not just health care. To that end, we continue to look to our employees for innovative ideas on how to do their jobs better, invest in startups that are trying to bring exciting new technologies to market and partner with other organizations to enhance what we’re already doing well.
3. What is your top goal this year for Northwell Health?
Northwell Health will continue to expand its ambulatory network, and focus on ways to further enhance the patient experience. As noted earlier, we will continue to pursue innovative partnerships with other companies within and outside of health care. In keeping with our mission to improve the health of the communities we serve, we will also enhance our efforts in the disease prevention arena by strengthening our focus on promoting health and wellness. We’ll also continue to leverage new technologies that help improve access to care and our ability to monitor patients’ progress by maximizing our use of artificial or automated intelligence and telemedicine. Another important focus will be on strengthening customer loyalty by connecting with people early in their lives, and then meeting or exceeding their expectations during every encounter we have with them thereafter.
As many of you already know, I was at Mather Hospital in Port Jefferson last month when they signed an agreement to join Northwell. It was a happy moment for everyone involved. They represent the 23rd hospital in our health system. Mather has a history and tradition of excellence that we’re proud to be associated with. And we bring to them an array of services and expertise they can leverage to help complement their offerings to Suffolk County residents. We are stronger together. We’ll work hard in 2018 to continue to strengthen that value proposition for our customers.
4. If you could give advice to someone interested in joining the Northwell Health family as an employee, what would it be?
Have a curious mind and a belief in the concept of lifelong learning. Your education doesn’t end when you get a degree. Continue to educate yourself on a daily basis. Next, work hard and always try to do the right thing. Always have a sense of humility about your contributions to the organization. Having a positive attitude is one of most important attributes of any employee, as is perseverance. All of us are going to have bad days from time to time. Never give up when times are tough. And lastly, don’t be afraid to fail. As Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
5. What inspired you to get into health care?
Long before I joined the health system in 1995, I spent more than 20 years working in many different jobs within health and human services, so transitioning into a health care organization seemed like a natural transition. While quite a few people are aware of my background working as director of health, education and human services for former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and as a professor of social policy at Fordham University, I previously worked as an administrator in the Rockland County (NY) Department of Social Services, as a social policy consultant and analyst for the Columbia University School of Social Work, the New York State Communities Aid Association, the National Urban League and the United Church of Christ, and earlier as a caseworker in New York City schools.
In terms of inspiration, certainly my upbringing in a poor, rural area of Ireland was a major factor in why I decided to pursue a career in health and human services. I’ve always been driven by a desire to do the right thing and by the benefits I thought I could deliver to the community-at-large. For me, it has never been about personal benefits, but the whole idea of purpose: do well and do good for others.
6. How do you stay focused and motivated year after year?
By continually pursuing new ideas that help me become a better leader and help the organization become more successful. While a lot of people think stress is bad, it pushes you to be more innovative. To be successful in any leadership position, you have to be a little bit unhappy and always searching for ways of doing your job better. As a former athlete, I always draw a parallel to sports. The only way to become good at any sport is to push yourself to the limit. There’s a big gap between our capabilities and our current level of performance. No matter how good you think you are, you can always get better. Having that personal drive and never being satisfied helps you grow, develop and exceed expectations.
7. How did you ring in the New Year?
Reading a good book. Here’s a list of my most-recent list of recommended reading.