Dr. Michael Forster

Prescription to “do more with less” can cut sharply

A “state of the college” presentation to a semi-annual meeting of my advisory Dean’s Council on Friday sparked a brief but insightful discussion of the central challenge facing most service organization CEOs today – Do “more with less” in an unpredictable and constantly changing (and frequently politicized) external environment. Certainly that seems to be the prescription for both health related services and health education in an era or compressed and contracting public resources.

Successful CEOs are a tough breed, smart, inherently biased in favor of a “half-full” perspective, and energized by challenge, so their response recipe falls into the “can do” category – Embrace flexibility, inspire innovation, demand reinvention of the organization itself. What choice do we really have? Survival demands nothing less.

But CEOs are not alchemists, and one can’t help but wonder where the limits of possibility may lie. When does flexibility become spine-snapping contortion, innovation cross over to reckless and under-resourced experimentation, reinvention deteriorate into ruin?

The road to ruin fact seems to be the path Louisiana is treading right now, in fact, with massive cuts to the LSU medical system underway. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars in state spending, thousands of jobs throughout the state, painfully restricted access of indigent patients to care and medical residents’ access to patients. Gov. Bobby Jindal, wonkish deficit hawk and for-the-moment disappointed aspirant to the national political stage, has assured frightened citizens and professional and political leaders that a new breed of public-private partnerships will make up for slack in the health and mental health care systems. Thus far, however, none have emerged.

Let’s hope Mississippi finds a better way to reinvent itself than its neighbor to the west.

Dr. Michael Forster
Dr. Michael Forster

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