Focused on the Patient

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David FeinbergAs he tells it, psychiatrist David Feinberg’s ascension to the C-suite was a bit of a happy accident. Now the CEO of Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, Feinberg (Certificate in Business of Medicine ’00) recounts how his first executive post was as interim CEO of UCLA Health in 2008. It was supposed to be temporary until a long-term replacement could be found.

He ended up serving as CEO of UCLA for eight years, rising to president and CEO in 2011. How did he do it? By focusing on one strategic goal: creating a world-class patient experience.

“I had a mentor who told me, ‘If you try to focus on 1,000 things, you won’t make an impact on any of them. Find one thing and make it your legacy.’ For me, that was focusing on the patient,” says Feinberg, who took the top job at Geisinger in 2015.

Feinberg shared this anecdote from his personal story, as well as other valuable insights and advice, during a visit to the Carey Business School in February. He spent the day conferring with students, faculty, and school leadership as part of Carey’s Executives in Residence (EIR) program. The EIR program invites C-suite executives from a variety of sectors and industries for one day to meet with students, guest-lecture in classrooms, and visit with leading faculty in the executives’ respective fields.

During Feinberg’s visit, Carey students studying health care met with him over lunch for an hour-long, wide-ranging discussion moderated by Associate Professor Mario Macis, an economist specializing in health care economics.

Feinberg, who earned his MD at the Chicago Medical School at the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, and his MBA from Pepperdine University, touched on several topics during the talk and subsequent Q-and-A with students. These included the value of a business education in the health care industry, how technology is disrupting medicine, and his mission to create a patient-first health care system by ensuring an excellent patient experience.

Under Feinberg, patient satisfaction scores at UCLA jumped from the 38th percentile to the 99th. At Geisinger, he has instituted a program called ProvenExperience; two calling cards of the program are refunds for dissatisfied customers, and same-day appointments. Feinberg, who makes daily rounds at Geisinger facilities, says a key part of his success is a good communications strategy.

“People want to be seen right away, and they want the straight scoop,” he says. “It’s my job to explain things to people in a way they understand.”

Feinberg also told the Carey students what he values in potential job candidates, saying, “I look for three things: integrity, passion, and humility.”

— Luke Lavoie

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