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Q & A With Emerging Health Care Leader, Linda Alexander

Upon first meeting Detroit native, Linda Alexander, I paused for a moment to drink in her kindness, to understand her sense of selflessness and to appreciate her passion for being a change agent in the health care industry. It took me some time to fully grasp her commitment to serving others, but once I “got it,” I was inspired by her poise and grace, even under extreme pressure as a busy, working mother of three and the Chief Clinical Officer of Total Health Care. I learned from watching her in action, that she is one of the most influential, yet unsung leaders in health care today.

Linda’s goal is simple: To be a beacon of light by positively influencing modern health care to benefit people from all walks of life, especially those in underserved communities. She recently traveled to Madrid, Spain as a delegate for the TPG International Health Academy Spain Executive Trade/Study Mission. While in Madrid, she gained a greater understanding of a successful national health care model—which virtually all of Europe has—and it’s impact on the population. Her objective was to bring key insights back to the Detroit area, where she develops population health management strategies, provides perspective on care integration and is responsible for Total Health Care’s clinical operations and population health management for 120,000 members.

A sought after speaker by health care organizations around the country, Linda is constantly pushing boundaries and pursuing ways to bring greater clarity to the ever-changing American health care landscape to deliver optimum services in this era of healthcare reform.

What strikes me most about this emerging powerhouse is the woman behind the title of chief clinical officer. Her insight, compassion and commitment to serve others are what make her standout as a true influencer.

Read more about Linda Alexander in the Q & A below:

LeslieWrites: Why did you decide to pursue a career as a registered nurse and later as a health care executive?

Linda: I originally decided to go to medical school. It was actually during the orientation for med school that I realized nursing was a better option for me. My desire was to help people in a nurturing way. Nursing has been a vehicle for me to answer this calling.

LeslieWrites: Briefly describe your role as Chief Clinical Officer of Total Health Care.

Linda: As CCO, it is my responsibility to establish network partners, community support infrastructure, and organizational departments that enable Total Health Care to deliver integrated population healthcare to its members. I am in the process of implementing a technological platform to optimize productivity while promoting transparency among care teams.

LeslieWrites: Describe a typical day at the office.

Linda: One of the things that I enjoy about my work is that there is no typical day. Some days involve meetings with departments, vendors, or partners. Others may involve engaging or collaborating with state agencies to continuously improve programs offered through our state contract. What remains constant is the drive to continuously seek and deliver on opportunities to improve the health of our communities.

LeslieWrites: What's the best part about your career?

Linda: I am blessed to make a difference in someone's life every day.

LeslieWrites: What do you think your staff would tell me about you?

Linda: They would say that I expect excellence, believe in having fun in the workplace, and that we are a team...without each other we cannot be successful.

LeslieWrites: As a woman of color in a high-profile position, what are some of the biggest challenges you face?

Linda: Information flows from various circles of influence. Having access to information at the right time is always a challenge. You have to create and maintain relationships that expose you (and others to you) so that diversity of thought and ideas can thrive.

LeslieWrites: What are some of the biggest opportunities in health care today?

Linda: Opportunities are abound in healthcare today. The Affordable Care Act has brought a whirlwind of change. Change creates opportunities. One of these opportunities is to breakdown the silos of care to create an integrated continuum of care with the patient at its epicenter. This calls for reinvention of current payment and care delivery models, which has already begun by early adopters. Payers, like Total Health Care, have begun to shift from pay for service to pay for value.

LeslieWrites: Describe the most meaningful interaction you've had with a patient in your career. What made it meaningful?

Linda: Of course, meaningful interactions on this level occur most frequently with direct patient contact, rather than at an executive level. However, at the executive level you can have greater impact to improve the lives of those you touch through strategic programming. On a direct patient level, I recall a gentleman who was frequently admitted at our hospital, once every other week or so. After many failed discharges, I got involved to further assess why he kept returning to the hospital. I was able to establish a rapport with him to identify serious issues he was facing; one being that he was functionally homeless. I engaged a team of resources in the community to address his issues, many of which were not directly related to his physical condition, but affected his ability to take care of his medical needs. By addressing social determinants that interfered with his ability to self-manage his medical condition, we were able to find housing for him with support to help him stay out of the hospital. After all, no one "wants" to be in the hospital if they don't have to.  When this occurs frequently, there is usually more to the story.

LeslieWrites: You're asked to speak across the country to professionals in the medical field, including physicians, about managed care. What's the most important message you share with these audiences?

Linda: The most important message is that what we've done in the past won't work today. We must radically change how we deliver care to achieve greater outcomes for our patients. Population Health Management requires a person-centered approach to care delivery. It doesn't matter where the person is along the care continuum, his/her care should be consistent, well coordinated, and focused on the whole person.

LeslieWrites: You recently traveled to Madrid, Spain as part of the TPG International Health Academy Spain Executive Trade/Study Mission. What was that experience like and what was the biggest thing you learned about the national health care system in Spain?

Linda: Participating in this mission was a life-changing experience. Although I am fortunate enough to travel often, I never had the opportunity to learn so much about a country through the eyes of its healthcare system. From various perspectives: the citizens, government, hospital staff, leaders, and vendors.... Spain has gotten many things right.  Like us, they have opportunities to improve also. What stood out to me the most was the engagement of the citizens in the policy/decision-making about their healthcare system, and the power of the government to keep healthcare costs low.

LeslieWrites: Are there any mistakes you've made along the way in your career that you can share? If so, what would you have done differently?

Linda: I call them lessons learned and there have been many along the way! I think the greatest lesson learned has been the power of a team. Trying to accomplish objectives on your own leads to small gains, but with the strength of a team working together to achieve common goals, anything is possible.

LeslieWrites: What do you do for fun?

Linda: I enjoy spending time with my family, traveling, reading, and yoga. I also seek opportunities to laugh loudly and heartily because it's good for the soul. I am fortunate to have great friends to help in this area!

LeslieWrites: As the mom of three sons, how do you balance work and family life?

Linda: It's a juggling act every day. I don't believe it's ever balanced. For me, it’s more of a constant prioritization process. There are times when my kids need me more in a day, like when they are sick or have a big project for school. There are other times when my work is more demanding, like when I need to work late to meet a deadline or address a specific matter. I think the most important thing for my boys and me is to always communicate what is going on and let them know how much I love them. I also try to expose them to my work so that they have a sense for what I do when I am away from them—that there is a purpose.

LeslieWrites: What kind of advice do you share with young people interested in pursuing a career in medicine? In health care?

Linda: Do it! It's the best career you could ask for, if your heart is in it. You cannot get into healthcare for money or superficial reasons. This is a servant industry. If you do not want to passionately serve people; this career is not for you. On the other hand, for those who do possess the passion to serve, this can be one of the most fulfilling aspects of your life.

LeslieWrites: Linda, you and I talk a lot about social media as it relates to the health care industry. At this point in your career, do you find social media to be of value as a means of engaging with others?

Linda: Social media is definitely another medium to connect with the community. Going back to a "person-centered" approach to healthcare, social media will become an increasingly important form of communication. Establishing a Twitter handle was a growth experience for me!

LeslieWrites: What do you feel you gain from being connected to your peers via social media?

Linda: I gain a connection to their every day lives, access to share and exchange information in a split second, a portal for unfiltered feedback, and a powerful platform to deliver a message. The power of social media is indisputable.

LeslieWrites: Why do you feel it's important to use your time and talents to serve others in the community?

Linda: I believe that God has given each one of us gifts and talents for a specific purpose. Mine happens to be serving in this capacity. It is my honor to do so every day. There is something unique that I bring to the table that God placed inside of me. If I do not show up, I am not doing my part.

LeslieWrites: Who in your life influences or inspires you and why?

Linda: I am inspired by the people that I serve, my circle of friends who do amazing things in the community and their respective industries, and my family—especially my sons. Life is about responding to a greater purpose outside of yourself. The sweet spot is doing what you know you were designed to do.


You can follow Linda Alexander on Twitter:

- Twitter: @JAlex4Health

Follow Leslie on Twitter @LeslieWritesNow
Find her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LeslieWrites

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