Becker’s 11th Annual Meeting: 4 Questions with Peter Banko, President and Chief Executive Officer at Centura Health

Peter Banko serves as President and Chief Executive Officer for Centura Health. 

On May 26th, Peter will serve on the keynote panel “What’s the Best Thing Your System Has Done in the Last 12 Months? How Did you Do It?” at Becker’s Hospital Review 11th Annual Meeting. As part of an ongoing series, Becker’s is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place on May 24-26, 2021 in Chicago.

To learn more about the conference and Peter’s session, click here.

Question: What, if anything, should hospitals be doing now given economists’ projections of a forthcoming economic downturn?

Peter Banko: Create elasticity across growth, operations, and the balance sheet. Corporations on the S&P 500 that create long-term value with revenue growth (“where to win” moves around services and geography, and mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures) are six to 12 times more sustainable and successful. Recession-proof companies aggressively tackle cost variability (reducing costs in a focused manner around the cost of services, general costs, and administrative costs) well before the recession hits and then continuing through the recession (without damaging the long-term vitality of the core business). Finally, the survivors leverage the benefits of a strong cash position and significantly lower debt-to-equity.

Q: What’s one lesson you learned early in your career that has helped you lead in healthcare?

PB: Sometimes people surprise us. It was the mid-1990s and I was a director supporting the COO of a system in New Jersey with business process reengineering. Our team was right in the midst of initiatives across the entire enterprise and we were working most days well into the night. There was a gentleman who cleaned my office every evening and I always struck up a conversation with him, mostly idle chatter. After several weeks, I happened to ask the right question and it took off from there. He was a professional gambler in Las Vegas. He worked at the hospital for the health insurance for his family and to meet different people. When pressed, he was making into the seven figures doing his weekend “work”. He taught me about always putting your family first, finding your passion in life, the importance of faith in work, and managing risk across any business endeavor.

Q: Where do you go for inspiration and fresh ideas?

PB: I only need to look to our 21,000 caregivers for inspiration and fresh ideas. We have the most incredible people who are individually and collectively on a mission to build whole-person care and flourishing communities. There is no substitute for getting in a room and building community, so we formally “advance” each year distinctly with key members of the Centura community – community board members, key physician partners, and all leadership. In particular, we created two groups in the last year – both a Nursing Advisory Council and Diversity and Inclusion Council – reporting directly to me to work on the issues that matter for the largest part of our workforce (nursing) and across our entire workforce.

Q: What do you see as the most exciting opportunity in healthcare right now?

PB: We are witnessing a very unique dynamic playing itself out in health care discussions in the midst of this 2020 election cycle, President Trump’s Executive Order on price and quality transparency, and, specifically, in the governor’s office and legislature right here in Colorado. The most exciting opportunity in all this is to give our consumers want they really want right now from “the system” – affordability and transparency. Where is that going to come from? The White House? The legislative and regulatory process? CVS or Walmart or Berkshire Hathaway? Health systems have the unique opportunity to “cop to the charge” that health care is just too expensive. And then, work with physicians, health plans, pharmaceutical manufacturers, medical device companies, and consumers to make health care more practically affordable for the consumer and transparent like the rest of our “shopping” lives.

“What’s one lesson you learned early in your career that has helped you lead in healthcare?
The greatest lessons I learned in healthcare were three things on my first day of medical school: “listen to your patients they will tell you what is wrong, don’t be over-enamored with technology, and give every patient something for their time of need”. More true today!

What do you see as the most exciting opportunity in healthcare right now?
With society’s obsession with technology, now is the time to harness cutting edge technology to facilitate the human interaction, not replace it.

Healthcare has had calls for disruption, innovation and transformation for years now. Do you feel we are seeing that change? Why or why not?
As the saying goes, “One person’s innovation is another person’s disruption”. Transformation may be the most over-used word in healthcare today. True transformation (dramatic change) will come from a grass roots movement (outside the corporate walls) and led by synthetical thinkers who by doing what is best for patients will find it is best for business.”

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