That’s a wrap on our latest Moments Move Us season! Tune in and reflect on key learnings.
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New Podcast Episode: Reflecting on Lessons in Authenticity, Vulnerability, and Curiosity from Healthcare Leaders with Rebecca Coren
What you’ll learn:
At the heart of every healthcare leader lies a passion for listening. True listening serves as the connection between a patient-provider relationship.
It’s more than the exchange of words; it embraces emotions, fears, and hopes that patients hold.
In this episode, Don Antonucci, CEO of Providence Health Plan, dives deep into the topic.
He shares that when healthcare providers take the time to truly listen, a beautiful connection forms—a bridge between clinical expertise and the lived experiences of patients. This connection opens the door for trust, understanding, and partnership.
“The reasons I made the move to Providence Health Plan:
“We all know that with COVID and so many massive changes going on in healthcare, the other thing coming from a health plan perspective that’s really interesting for me is that, while I thought I knew what providers might be going through and how things were happening, to be really close to it and understand things from the perspective of a provider. Honestly, we talk about things, for example, like mental health, which is really important; it gives you a deeper appreciation about, ‘What about our providers and our nurses and our caregivers, and what about their mental health and behavioral health, and how does that then impact patients and members?’ Things like that—it just gives you a very different seat than if you’re a step removed.”
“Some of the best businesses in the world that are consumer-focused, they’re pragmatic, and they put themselves in the shoes of their customers. In the case of healthcare, I think sometimes we miss those opportunities.
One of the things I’ve tried to do from a health plan perspective is really try to—if there’s a product or a service or a benefit—put myself into the shoes of the member. If there’s a communication that we’re putting out, reading it as if you’re reading it for yourself or a family member. What’s interesting, when you actually do that, sometimes you’re like, ‘That makes no sense.’ So, part of what I’m trying to do, as it relates to the Providence and the provider side, is make sure that I’m getting into the field, trying to understand the workflow, understand how the providers are thinking and feeling about what’s happening and how they’re able to serve their patients . . .”
“We had somebody going through an experience in that system where there were some benefit design limitations around them getting one of their children through some mental health, behavioral health services, and there were some challenges with approvals, and calls going back and forth with the health plan. What we try to look at is, there are certain things that were done. You could say, ‘Hey, that was done correctly with how the design was set.’ But the question that I always ask in situations like that is, ‘Where can we infuse more empathy? Where could we have helped this person navigate?’ Because when you start to listen and learn more, they weren’t only dealing with that issue, but there were a bunch of other things occurring for that person. From a health plan perspective, ‘How could we have stepped in and just really helped ease the way for that member?’”
“I’m a big fan of Tom Peters, who’s written many different business books, and he talks about the importance of listening. But I would also say that I talk a lot about, from a leadership perspective, what I call the ‘three Cs’ of leadership: caring, communication, and curiosity. When it comes to listening and it comes to people that I’ve worked for in the past who have made me better, and where I felt seen and heard—it’s the people that are listening. They’re caring for me, about who I am—not just about what the opportunity at hand is, or what my business function is, or what I’m doing. And they’re curious about me with that caring. So, listening is a great way, just across the board, to really understand people.
Listening is not just words. You’re picking up certain things from words, but it’s also looking at another person—really understanding where they’re coming from, what’s the body language. I would say listening has been just transformative, and it’s one of those things that I pay close attention to because I’m not perfect at it. I don’t know anybody is. But the better and better you can get at truly listening and paying attention to those signals . . . and also, as a leader, putting systems and processes and sort of a listening ecosystem into place, then you’re going to be much more successful because people will feel cared for. They’ll feel seen and they’ll know that you’re really curious about who they are and how they want to grow.”
“Some of the listening ecosystem things that I do are, one, I do pay attention to the survey results, that we do a pulse survey once a year, and then we do an annual survey. And by listening, I go through hundreds and hundreds of comments that come in those surveys—what’s working, what’s not working. I read every single one and I read them multiple times to really get a sense and understand that. But two, then I put things in place. Like, I started a Tuesday Tea with Don. Especially with the pandemic, we couldn’t get together in person; I would do a video hour-long meeting with our caregivers, about eight to ten of them, and would continue to do those, where literally I would just say, ‘Here’s a little bit about what we’re doing, what’s working well, and then what’s not working. What could be better?’ And just zip it, listen, and really absorb where people are coming from. That was with people on the frontlines, that was with leadership. You start to get different threads of information, and it’s so valuable because then you get examples, you get specific stories of what people are going through, and they also feel heard. Sometimes you can actually take something and address it. Sometimes it’s just that, ‘Hey, I want to feel heard,’ because maybe it’s something the organization has been talking about forever or it just hasn’t changed, and you can at least then begin to name it and call it out. And that actually is the key to really transform an organization, because now they feel heard, and they understand that you understand where they’re coming from.”
“I had been involved with the American Heart Association in Oregon, where I’ve been living for about thirteen years, when I first came into Oregon. One, they’re just a great organization, but two, for me, the real reason I’m involved is their focus on health equity as it relates to heart health. What’s really interesting to me is, we all know somebody that’s had heart disease or we know a friend or someone that has been affected by heart disease. The research that goes into how they go about making sure there’s equitable access to education, to services as it relates to heart health, was really the thing that got me deeply involved. So not only is Providence Health Plan involved, I’m personally involved. I’m leading their executives with Heart Challenge this year and I’ll be the chair of their walk next year for the Oregon Southwest Washington Heart Walk. And it’s just an incredible organization.”
“I was always on the go. I’d be the person that would absolutely wake up and within five minutes was checking my email and then starting to get into the workday. I totally flipped the script on that over the pandemic. What worked was, I’ll do a bit of meditation first thing in the morning. And then I’ve got a trip coming up to Italy that I’m looking forward to, so I use an app called Duolingo. I’ll do five minutes or so of learning Italian, which is fun. This is all before looking at work or email. Then I’ll do a little bit of reading from a book, and now I’ve gotten into audible for books and I started that to start my day. And then it’s things like I make sure I get outside, I’m exercising, I’m walking. Simple things for me, like I don’t sit during the day, I use a standing desk. And the reason I institute all those things is because when the pandemic hit, I found myself sitting or on video all the time and I realized this is just not sustainable. So, for me, as part of my mental health, those are the things I focused on. And then the last one I would say is really focusing on sleep quality. Sleep has been a game-changer as well. I know those are all things people know, but for me, it’s just that discipline and the focus on those things has made a world of difference.”
“When you’re not feeling great and you miss a good night of sleep or something, you just now are more in tune with your body and go, ‘Wow. That doesn’t feel good.’ Like I’m operating at 70 percent versus 100 percent. So for me, it was really just that self-awareness and paying attention to it, plus looking at the research and hearing the same things that you’ve talked about and realize, ‘Wow, I feel really good when I can get the sleep, the exercise, even breath work’ (I know that comes through some of the meditation). But it’s interesting to note some things that earlier in my career I would just work through, and, ‘Hey, it’s a badge of honor.’ But you realize sometimes, ‘go slow to go fast.’ Or I love the term ‘slow is smooth, smooth is fast.’ By just slowing down a little bit, that energy that you have—it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint—can be really helpful.”
“While there’s always opportunities to do better and invest in technologies and operations, we never want to lose the character of who we are, because that exists out there already. People feel the difference. People know that we care. And that’s something that you really can’t replace, and so want to make sure that we’re strengthening that. As we’re beginning to set up the health plan to scale in other marketplaces, I think about it as the analogy of a house. The health plan is a 39-year-old house inside of 165-year-old Providence. Now it’s time to actually take a look at the house. And there’s going to be an order to things that you do. If there’s a hole in the roof, you’ve got to fix that before you change out the floors. Or if there’s something wrong with the foundation, you’re probably going to look there first. However, you never want to lose the character of that house, because we do have something really special here. So, when I say being intentional as we’re modernizing that house, all to deliver on our promise, we want to make sure that there’s a rhythm to it and that we’re never losing that character of who we are because that is very valuable in the market.”
“We’ve got to create environments and ease for our own providers and our own caregivers. And there’s so many great things out there, like the technology that exists, that can make that easier. But it only makes it easier if you actually are really intentional about ‘What does that provider journey look like and experience look like? Is it truly making things easier or is it having them move around from one thing to the next and making things more complicated?’ Those are the real tough questions and the areas that we really have to make some significant improvements in.”
“The only way to scale in healthcare from a health plan perspective—and I would also say from a provider delivery system—is, you really have to understand the needs of that local market. Rural is different than urban, and I’ve worked in many different marketplaces and they’re all so different. Southern California is different than Northern California. But that also makes it very exciting. And again, back to that promise—to know, care for, ease the way of our members—it’s also the communities, and the only way to do that is to really listen and understand those communities.”
“It’s easy for me to talk about things like our promise to know, care for, ease the way of our members, for example. But to actually do that takes listening, takes empathy, putting yourself truly in the member or the patient or the provider’s shoes and going, ‘Alright, what can we do that makes things better or easier?’ And I think the excuses start to go away for the healthcare industry. We know that healthcare is also a very complicated industry. But I look at the technology now that’s available and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is amazing! How do we use some of this? But in a way that’s in service to that promise of making things better and easier.’”
“I do love the book by Simon Sinek, Start with Why, and he talks about [how] every organization knows what they do, some know how they do it in some differentiated way, and very few know their why. We know our why, and that’s our promise. But the key part of the book is start with why. And that’s not always easy. So we are really always going back and starting there.”
“We want healthcare that works and that’s affordable and accessible and is high quality.”
Explore transformative stories from healthcare executives as they share impactful moments of human connection from their professional journeys.