3 Important Leaders (and Their Traits) in Healthcare

The healthcare industry constantly changes, as it's a living entity with a multitude of moving parts and complicated systems. Who are the companies and individuals at the forefront of the industry? These leaders advocate for positive changes for both healthcare professionals and patients.



IBM has long had a notable reputation for its computer technology, but that technology continues to reach ever further into healthcare. The company is in the beginning stages of developing imaging machines and software that can recognize health concerns in patients, including tumors and heart disease. This artificial intelligence movement also aims to mine medical data and share it with healthcare providers to give them deeper insights into important issues. IBM’s project, called Watson, could eventually have a significant impact on the way doctors diagnose patients and consider data.

National Transition of Care Coalition (NTOCC)

On NTOCC’s website, the organization claims, “Patient care during transitions is often rushed, responsibility is fragmented among multiple providers, and communication suffers across care settings … The focus of NTOCC is to bring together thought leaders and health care experts from various settings to address this critical issue, define solutions, and develop tools to address the gaps impacting patient care.”

The processes involved in helping patients move from one care facility to another often get overlooked. NTOCC’s work won't bring about revolutionary new treatments or ground-breaking new technology, but it is key to improving the overall quality of the healthcare industry.

Mark Bertolini, the CEO and Chairman of Aetna

Mark Bertolini, who took up leadership at Aetna in 2010, has steered the insurance company in a positive direction. Fortune magazine named him one of the World’s Greatest Leaders, noting his bold stance on the treatment of low-level workers at the company. He raised the minimum wage to $16, which seemed like a risky move. His aim was to increase employee retention, and the company’s stock increased significantly since the increase was announced.

Another reason behind the minimum wage increase was, as Fortune puts it, a desire to “boost employee engagement with customers,” a benefit that can serve as an example to other insurance companies and could potentially improve customer experience across the industry.

What is responsible for Bertolini’s success as CEO? Part of it may be his attitude. According to Healthagen, in a 2013 letter he sent to investors, he said, “At Aetna, we believe health care as an industry is primed for revolutionary disruption.” This disruption could ultimately lead to “a consumer-empowered health care system.”

What Makes an Effective Healthcare Leader?

Students of healthcare administration, as well as current administrators, can examine the above examples to learn the traits of an effective healthcare leader. IBM, NTOCC, and Mark Bertolini each seek to address different needs in the industry. What they have in common, however, is that they promote innovation and do not fear challenges.

Keeping pace with changes in healthcare can help medical facilities provide the best possible patient care. By following healthcare’s leaders in the news and on social media, blossoming healthcare executives may be able to join the movement that leads to an improved industry.

For more information please visit USC's Executive Master of Health Administration Online program.