Elizabeth Concordia

In the Arena with Elizabeth Concordia

Elizabeth B. Concordia is the President and CEO of UCHealth, a nationally recognized non-profit health system comprised of leading community hospitals and the region’s only academic medical center with a workforce of more than 26,000 employees.

How are hospitals faring at this point in the pandemic? Have the challenges changed?

Right now, hospitals are challenged for capacity. The COVID-19 vaccine has given us a lot of hope and helped reduce cases in our state, but we still have hospitals that are oversubscribed with COVID-19 patients, as well as very large numbers of other patients who need care. It’s a real challenge, and our staff members are exhausted. It’s very frustrating for them to see so many patients in the hospital who are unvaccinated. Back when COVID first started, it was very different because, at that time, there was no vaccine. But now, this is preventable. It’s important to stress that our staff members and providers are very dedicated to serving our patients and the community, and I appreciate their sacrifices.

What is your approach to working with policymakers to understand this complex industry? 

First and foremost, the most important thing that we do is take care of patients. We demonstrate through our actions that we’re completely committed to improving the lives of Coloradans. If we can align on what motivates and drives us every single day, and send that message, it creates a starting point. From there, we try to simplify and educate legislators and policymakers as to what is going on both inside and outside our facilities as we provide care, innovate, improve quality and reduce costs. There is so much misinformation that it’s a constant challenge to try to clearly articulate what is really going on in the industry, so our goal is to partner as well as help simplify and articulate reality.

Is there anything you wish the legislature understood about health care?

A lot. Some in the legislature think that hospitals are just driving up the cost of health care, and there’s not an understanding or appreciation for how complex it is to run a health care operation. 

For example, the difficulty and expense of turning on a dime to address a global pandemic while caring for all of our other patients is misunderstood. Reimbursement is convoluted, and it’s a real challenge to communicate how exactly we get paid. It is not as simple as reducing rates to lower the health care costs of patients. Lowering rates doesn’t necessarily mean that insurance companies will pass along the savings, and in-hospital care is only a small fraction of total health care costs. There are drug costs and outpatient costs to consider, and our expenses in labor costs, drug costs and supplies are constantly increasing. However, when the legislature thinks of lowering the cost of health care, they are narrowly focused on hospitals. I think it’s important to look at health care costs broadly, including the impact of preventive care and overall wellness. Keeping people healthy, and helping them avoid hospitalizations and the need for prescription medications, can help to dramatically reduce overall costs.

I understand that in several positions, you’ve been the first woman to hold the role. How has this influenced you as a leader?

I’ve always said, judge me by my outcomes. As a mother of three, I’ve made sure that the men and women who work for me have as much work-life balance as possible. When their kids are young, it’s important to go to their Halloween parades, to be there for the first day of school, and to attend their other functions. When their kids are older, I want them to feel free to take the family vacation and attend graduation. I try to understand what’s going on with the various people who work for and with me, and clearly articulate to them that I want them to be part of their families’ daily lives. I also want to make sure that I’m always advocating for women in leadership positions and making sure they get fair pay.

What is a common misconception people have about being a CEO?

People often look at CEOs as the people who make the decisions and don’t realize that it’s sometimes a very lonely role.

Rapid Fire Round:

  • Who inspires you? My mother. She is a great example of hard work, commitment to family, love for this country, and appreciation for the military.
  • What is your favorite place in Colorado? Anywhere in the mountains.
  • What are you reading? I escape to historical fiction and am currently reading I was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon.
  • What’s your favorite restaurant? I don’t have a favorite, I like variety
  • Is there anything else you would like to add? Be kind and get vaccinated!
November 10, 2021