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Executive Perspectives

Executive Perspectives: James Scoggin Jr.

Lessons from COVID-19 will radically change the use of telemedicine in the future, says the CEO of Methodist Health System.
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Healthcare industry veteran James “Jim” Scoggin Jr. came out of retirement a little more than a year ago to join Methodist Health System as CEO. He runs the largest employer-based in South Dallas, with nearly 10,000 employees at its hospitals, urgent care centers, imaging centers, and other delivery sites. He began his career in 1980 with Humana. 

Have you found silver linings in these difficult times? 

I have always believed that people are intrinsically good and have tried during my life and career to look for the good in people rather than the alternative. During this pandemic, one does not have to look far to find overwhelming examples of how this good has been manifested over and over again. From donations of N-95 masks by Lowes and so many others to volunteers working tirelessly to sew cloth masks for patients and non-clinical staff. Also, the expressions of support and prayers from the communities and congregations the Methodist Health System serves. All of this has been truly inspiring.  

How are you maintaining your company culture? 

Methodist Health System has served the southern sector of Dallas and Dallas County for over 92 years. During that time, it has never wavered from its mission to improve and save lives through compassionate, quality healthcare, and over the past 12 years has expanded significantly to serve many parts of the DFW region We often refer to ourselves as the Methodist family and try to live that out as an organization in the way we treat our patients and each other.  

This COVID-19 pandemic is certainly the most unprecedented and challenging time of my 35-year healthcare career. Unprecedented in terms of duration, magnitude, and pace, not to mention the 24-hour news cycle that makes even the briefest respite from the pandemic almost impossible. Going through a period like this can call into question who we really are as individuals, an organization, and yes, as the Methodist family.

Open, honest, and timely communications are keys to maintaining a healthy culture, along with pay practices that reinforce, to the extent possible, that sense of family despite significant financial pressures caused by this pandemic. In a recent communication to the entire organization, we emphasized that “the culture is strong, and our patients need each one of us now more than ever. We need each other more than ever, and we will need all of you in the future when the COVID-19 pandemic has passed.

You know culture matters when it is not made up of platitudes but rather has become a way of life.  

What have you learned that may change your policies or strategies for the future? 

We have learned or had reinforced many things during this pandemic. The list is too long to capture in a paragraph, so I will just touch briefly on a few.  

Although not a novel concept, the type, frequency, and mediums used for communications are key. The lesson; an organization cannot over-communicate in times like these, and if it is to err in this arena, it should be on the side of transparency rather than being overly paternalistic. I think Methodist has done a good job of communicating but has certainly learned from the experience.  

Another lesson learned is to carefully document important decisions along the way. For example, our surge plan that was developed but thankfully, not required to be fully deployed, was very well done. Those learnings are now being carefully memorialized, and we believe will allow for an even more effective and timely response to the next challenge.  

All health systems have utilized telemedicine to varying degrees with plans for future expansion in this area.

The COVID-19 challenge caused, by necessity, a radical acceleration. In other words, if we were to continue serving our patients in the midst of local, state, and national orders requiring shelter from home, social distancing, and severe restrictions on elective medical procedures, other solutions had to be developed. Learnings in this area will radically change the use of telemedicine in the future.  

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