An interview with Patrick Blair, President and CEO, InnovAge
Patrick Blair is close to completing his first year as President and CEO of InnovAge. He sat down with us to chat about his experience and hear his perspective on what it takes to succeed in today’s uncertain climate.
Can you talk about what drew you to the role at InnovAge?
It’s a real opportunity to have an impact on people’s lives. With PACE, I feel a moral responsibility to bring the model to more seniors across the country. Our main priority is to help the company get back on track and achieve its original mission to increase awareness and access to PACE for seniors. We have a great group of employees very focused on supporting the population. I want to do everything I can to make it a great place to work and a great place to deliver on that.
Can you talk about the changes happening in the organization when you came on board?
When I joined, they had just been through some very detailed audits in our Sacramento and Colorado markets. As a result, the company was sanctioned in those markets, which meant they were prohibited from enrolling new participants but could continue to serve existing participants. Think about it as a very significant regulatory action taken against the company. All my time with the company has been about helping them navigate through the audits, which are still going on – helping the organization process the implications of it and establish priorities to get us through it.
There can be certain amount of anxiety when a new CEO comes in if team members are worried about possible structural or cultural changes. What do you think is key to helping employees navigate through the transition?
New leaders always create uncertainty since it signifies change. Especially in this case, because the organization had a challenging situation it was trying to solve. It almost magnifies the anxiety of a new leader joining. I’ve focused on trying to extinguish the anxiety by being clear about goals that feel achievable but aspirational, creating clarity around leadership competencies and values, and being consistent in how I make decisions, so our culture is one of high performing individuals with really big hearts. I’ve been there almost 9 months so it’s still a work in progress.
What would you say are some qualities today’s leaders must have to thrive in a post-pandemic world? And how has your own perspective changed as a result of the last few years?
You need to have unlimited reservoirs of grounded optimism. That’s key. But it’s also really important in the context of broad societal challenges that impact everyone that you need to be empathetic to what your teams are going through in their personal lives. It’s helped me understand that everyone is dealing with a different set of issues – and you need to carry that sensitivity forward in work interactions, so you don’t exacerbate those stressors in people’s lives. For me, that means always maintaining your poise, and assuming positive intent.
In environments that are very uncertain leaders need to be very action-oriented. You have to make quick decisions – don’t let perfect get in the way of good. Very few decisions are irreversible. Mostly, leaders need to focus on their peers, being empathetic, learn quickly, and learn from their mistakes.
There’s a real art and science in ensuring teams are high-functioning and you have strong organizational health. It’s important for organizations to be nimble, move quickly, and be able to adapt to daily changes. When things are coming at you 100 miles an hour, you really do need to have a deep understanding of the business, of the key levers, and you need to be thinking end-to-end, to really understand how your decisions can impact the participant [patient] experience.
Can you share one of your proudest accomplishments or proudest moments as you near the end of your first year?
We’ve attracted high caliber talent to the company in many roles despite where we are in our journey. Sometimes for organizations in our situation, it can inhibit talent attraction. I think our mission is so powerful that we’ve attracted great people. Also our significant progress across the company on the deficiencies regulators identified. I’m proud of how our teams are coming together.
Can you share a bit about plans you’re excited for in 2023?
Chief among our plans for next year – I’m hoping to earn the resolution of these compliance concerns – getting through the audit process and being a stronger company as a result. We’re also finalizing implementation of the new EMR and expect it will have a highly positive impact on care delivery, coordination, and documentation of care. I also want to begin working on building a broader national awareness of the benefits of PACE and the role it can have in addressing America’s toughest healthcare challenge, which is our aging population.