“I’ll never forget the day. I stood up in front of a room like this with 400 physicians and I said, ‘We change, or we die.’” A new CEO at Virginia Mason Health System 18 years ago, Gary Kaplan had already been with the organization for a couple of decades. “It was very challenging to take a new look from a new perspective and to build on a foundation that had been created over 80 years, and of which I was very proud,” he says. “But also, I had come to the realization that we needed to change. The trajectory needed to change. How to do that respectfully and lead large-scale change was the job in front of us.”

A willingness to challenge existing paradigms started with Virginia Mason’s board, who asked the health system’s leaders, “Who is your customer?” As would be expected, they answered, “our patients.” But the board replied, “It doesn’t look that way.”….more