The Biggest Lesson Learned by Atlantic Health CEO Brian Gragnolati: Trust Your Team

Brian Gragnolati believes in staying away from his staff. “When you give your team broad metrics and just let people go, it’s amazing the innovation I’ve seen at the bedside,” he said. Becker’s.

Mr. Gragnolati has served as president and CEO of Atlantic Health System since 2015. The Morristown, New Jersey-based network includes six hospitals and serves 11 counties in the state. He previously served as Chairman of the Board of the American Hospital Association.

In December, the health system entered into a co-membership agreement with CentraState Healthcare System. Atlantic now owns 51% of the network based in Freehold Township, New Jersey, in a partnership that will provide resources to CentraState while helping Atlantic achieve its goal of providing more value-based care.

He spoke to Becker’s on the benefits of this partnership and its priorities for the coming year.

Q: What results do you hope to see from this partnership with CentraState, and why do you think it’s a great model for other healthcare systems?

Brian Gragnolati: No. 1, this is not the typical member substitution. And so therefore, we think that from a regulatory point of view, it’s something easier to achieve. It took us less time than some of the other deals in the works. We also think it really fits those specific investments that need to be made in those markets, and that working through the entity that’s already there. It helps them help their communities, and at the same time, they have significant control there. We think it works well.

As far as we are concerned, we are able to expand our footprint and our network. In terms of our strategy of rolling out more value-driven care, it gives us the opportunity to work with a partner that we think is really compatible. This is for people who aren’t really interested or ready to get into traditional limb substitution. That’s why we think it’s different.

Q: Has your experience as president of the American Hospital Association changed your approach to leadership?

BG: The opportunity to chair the American Hospital Association was something that I think opened my eyes to the diversity of care we have in the country, from small rural hospitals to densely whether they are for-profit health systems or safety net organizations. . Traveling the country and engaging in these conversations was incredibly valuable, but for me. What he has done is reaffirm the principles that I think most healthcare executives have or should have, and that ensures that we always put our patients and our communities first, making sure that we continue to understand that we are a company of people taking care of people.

Our team members, doctors, nurses, technicians and scientists must be at the center of every decision we make, and we must do everything in our power to empower them to do what it’s necessary.

It also reinforced that we’re in a business that has tough business models, and we need to make sure we have the best talent to help us on this journey.

Has it changed my approach to leadership? Probably not. But it alerted me to the differences in this country and the importance of staying true to our core values.

Q: What are your top two priorities as CEO of Atlantic Health System this year?

BG: Obviously, we are still in a pandemic. If CEOs don’t have “coexisting with COVID” at the top of their list, let me know. It would be a good place to live. The pandemic is still top of our list and right now we are in another wave here in the major markets of New York and New Jersey. We just peaked and are starting to descend. It’s a good sign.

The other priority that we have is to make sure that we have this pipeline of team members coming in because this big resignation has affected healthcare in a pretty big way, and we have to do everything as organizations health care to ensure that we have the right environment for people to continue to practice and serve their communities, but also that we continue our innovation efforts in recruiting and retaining members of the team. Over the past two-plus years of this pandemic, we have seen many people leave healthcare organizations due to the overwhelming burden placed on them. I still believe that health care is the greatest profession in the world, and we just need to work harder –– not just here at Atlantic, but across the country –– to replenish our ranks.

Q: Describe the most difficult decision you had to make as CEO and why it was so difficult.

BG: I’ve been a CEO for a long time and you have to make hundreds of extremely difficult decisions. What I have tried to do throughout my career when faced with a complicated or difficult decision is to ask three questions: How does this affect our patient? How does this affect our team members? How does this affect our numbers? And I ask these questions in this order. Therefore, whenever I am faced with a difficult decision, I pass it through this screen.

I will use the pandemic as an example. At the start of this pandemic, we were that hot spot. We were in that location in the New York and New Jersey areas where it started, and we were seeing our cases doubling every two to three days. What we told our team members at the time was, “We’re going to focus on two things and two things only – never closing our doors to our community and doing everything we can to protect members. of our team – and if we do that, we find out the third thing, the financial impact, later. And that really guided us through what I think will be the most difficult two years of my career.

Q: What has been the most important lesson you have learned as CEO during this pandemic?

BG: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to trust your team because, I have to tell you, when you give your team broad parameters and just let people go – it’s amazing the innovation that I saw at the bedside.

I’m going to give you an example. When we received ventilators from federal stock, some of the plastic tubes, because they had been in storage for so long, were rotten, and the connectors were rotten, and the supply chain was not working at that time . Our biomedical engineers used 3D printers to fabricate the coupling mechanisms we needed to make these ventilators work. This is just one example. I can give you hundreds, but again, if you allow people who know what they do to do what they do best and not get in their way, I think it’s This is where the magic happens, especially in times of crisis like this – and I couldn’t be more proud of our team here at Atlantic.

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