The Class of 2017 profiles the women and men who joined the AHA board this year.


Innovations and adaptations toward value-based care, and appreciating the differences in the hospital field, are key to strengthening the delivery of health care, says AHA board member James Leonard, M.D.

Leonard speaks from experience. He has seen major changes as president and CEO of the Urbana, Ill.-based Carle Health System.

After joining The Carle Foundation as its head in 2000, Leonard was chosen to lead the system when it vertically integrated, joining together a level one trauma center hospital and multispecialty physician group, among other entities. In addition, Carle is the only system in Illinois that owns a health plan, which dates back nearly 30 years.

Carle also is working on an innovative partnership with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to establish the first college of medicine in the world that will focus on the intersection of engineering, technology and big data with health care.  Leonard expects it will revolutionize medical and biomedical education and the delivery of care. To listen to a brief podcast on the partnership, click here.

In helping more hospitals to innovate and continue the move toward value-based care, Leonard believes the AHA can help its members better understand what that means and identify the goal posts in terms of expectations.

“We know the social determinants of health impact readmissions rates, but how far should hospitals get into housing and food discussions?” he asks. “And how do they look at it more broadly and partner with others where that is their primary expertise?”

Leonard says health care is like education was many years ago, when it just was about reading, writing and arithmetic. Today, it’s also about things like feeding students breakfast, lunch and dinner and running after-school programs.

“It’s going to be a real challenge, how we find our way with that,” he says. “We have to be very honest and open about what’s driving a lot of the measurements that get held out as belonging to hospitals but are impacted by a lot different factors. Those drivers are critically important to where we are and where we’re going.”

Leonard sees redefining the “H” as standing for the bigger sense of health care and community. For Carle the term “community” is broad and encompasses the region - hundreds of miles in every direction. In those large regions, he stressed the importance of clinical safety nets like Carle taking the time to listen to smaller communities and encourage their sense of ownership by working collaboratively toward improved health. And it’s not just about trying to support everyone financially.

“It’s all of us treating each other with respect and working toward the solutions that are best for each community and region,” says  Leonard. “And they’ll all be different. That’s one of the exciting things and also one of the challenges.”

While Leonard recognizes that there are significant differences between AHA members, he hopes they can learn from and appreciate their differences, and remember the major threads that hold them together, including the goal of the Triple Aim.

“One of the things about health care delivery I’ve found as we move forward with our health plan is that you can’t predict where some of the solutions are going to come from,” says Leonard. “That broad set of inputs from different types of hospitals, with AHA acting as a clearinghouse for everyone, really has great value.”

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