Spotlight On: Jennifer DeCubellis, CEO, Hennepin Healthcare

Spotlight On: Jennifer DeCubellis, CEO, Hennepin Healthcare

2023-01-10T10:34:58-05:00January 10th, 2023|Economy, Healthcare, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Spotlight On|

3 min read January 2023 Hennepin Healthcare is an integrated system of care that offers primary and specialty care, homecare, hospice and rehabilitation with a nationally recognized adult and pediatric trauma care center. Invest: spoke with CEO Jennifer DeCubellis about the system’s recent milestones, strategies to mitigate workforce challenges, how the system addresses affordability and Hennepin Healthcare’s priorities going forward.

What has the landscape and focus for Hennepin Healthcare looked like in the past year?

I took over as CEO two weeks before COVID started to impact operations and it has been a wild couple of years. Our whole system is focused on the vitality of everybody’s health and wellness. We’re investing in community, health and wellness and innovation. We provide statewide services and we’re the largest trauma center in the region and there has been a great deal of trauma these past few years. We’re focused on violence reduction, prevention, and response. We’re transforming the system of healthcare and making sure everybody has access to care. 

What strategies does Hennepin Healthcare use to mitigate workforce challenges and recruit and retain talent?

It’s a challenge and an opportunity for us to look at healthcare differently. Healthcare is a highly regulated system that drives how we staff. COVID taught us that we can be nimble in terms of responding to the health needs of our community. We’re applying those lessons today. Workforce challenges helped us realize that rules and regulations need to change. For example, making sure our nurses are truly used according to their licensure; that they’re operating with support from other team members who can do the tasks that don’t require nursing is essential. 

We’re also creating pathways to support more people entering healthcare fields. Minnesota is a top healthcare state but as soon as you sort by race, we’re at the bottom of the nation. Seventy percent of the people we serve are people of color and that should also be our target for the representation of our employees. Hennepin Healthcare has taken this on as the safety-net health system serving Minnesota. We can and must do better. Our Talent Garden Program is one effort that we’ve implemented to invest in youth. We’ve brought in hundreds of young people for full-day learning events. It’s about making sure our young people see themselves in healthcare, and it’s experiential. We create excitement among young people, provide mentorships and set up internships. We’re also creating career pathways. For instance, an immigrant mom with a mental health background didn’t have the ability to get licensed but she wanted to go back to work. We’ve connected her into our psychiatric department to get her on that career pathway and provide the supervision to licensure here. 

Are there any updates regarding supply chain constraints?

The supply chain disruptions have improved but continue to be a challenge. The hospitals are all at full capacity in our community.  We were really creative in the early years of COVID with how we sourced supplies ourselves and worked with local businesses. It’s now about staying ahead of what’s getting low. Minnesota has been unique during COVID. The CEOs of the large health systems came together almost every couple of days to see who needed what. There was less competition and more support for each other.  

What technological innovations does the system have underway?

Telehealth was instrumental during COVID. Many of our patients needed to take public transportation at a time when we didn’t want them on public transportation, such as high-risk moms. We gave them the tools and equipment to access care virtually. We also saw it in mental health and addiction. We have a strong footprint for mental health and addiction medicine at Hennepin Healthcare. We had individuals who were leveraging us as a system. Our ability to provide them with medications by mail was helpful. We also do group visits. It’s all about the better use of our healthcare resources and access to our community with fewer barriers. We’re now taking that a step further to innovate and do more home monitoring. It’s also about getting them home from the hospital sooner, with faster recovery and better family supports. Minneapolis is a hub for Medical Alley, which is all about medical startups and technologies. As a teaching and research hospital, our ability to leverage those new technologies into the future gives us the potential to bring them in-house. We’re also beginning to plan a full campus redevelopment. It’s a smarter investment for easy access to prevention and wellness.

How does the system help with affordability?

Sixty percent of our population are people on public programs. Most health systems have 30% of people on public programs and 70% on commercial or self-pay mechanisms. We’re the opposite. We’re a safety-net health system and we won’t turn anyone away. People still receive top-notch care even without benefits or insurance. Innovation reduces costs. Leveraging technology, changing our team infrastructure to make sure everybody is working top of licensure, and getting people home faster all help us to reduce costs. We need to make sure we change the rules and regulations that can get in the way. Through our research capabilities, we are able to investigate and demonstrate smarter care and a better investment with lower costs.

What are your near-term priorities for Hennepin Healthcare?

Our priority is to make sure that we continue to have the capacity to respond to trauma across the state. We have the specializations we need to thrive as healthcare continues to change. We’ll need to stay focused on why we’re essential in the Midwest region. We’re also investing in wellness and ambulatory care. Keeping people well is what our community needs most. We need to manage the trauma capacity and make health access easier to reduce disparities. We sort and study our clinical outcomes by race and ethnicity so we can respond. White people have better outcomes. It’s not a resource or ability issue. The real focus is to invest in wellness that is culturally responsive to the communities we serve. We need to close the gap and drive the health inequities out of healthcare to realize health for everyone. 

The exciting part is that we are creating a campus that supports our plan to rebuild healthcare for the future. It also frees up space for the community to create an ecosystem for healthcare. How we invest in the community that we serve is important.

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