Dr. Atul Gawande, new healthcare company CEO, no stranger to senior living

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Atul Gawande, M.D., M.P.H., testifies before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in 2016.
Atul Gawande, M.D., M.P.H., testifies before the Senate Special Committee on Aging in 2016.

The name of the new CEO of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase's partnership on U.S. employee healthcare will be easily recognizable by those in the senior living industry.

Atul Gawande, M.D., M.P.H., has been appointed to the leadership role in the companies' effort to improve employee satisfaction and reduce costs, effective July 9, they announced Wednesday.

The new company will be headquartered in Boston and will operate as an independent entity that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, author of “Being Mortal” and additional books, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, said he was “thrilled” about the appointment.

“I have devoted my public health career to building scalable solutions for better healthcare delivery that are saving lives, reducing suffering and eliminating wasteful spending both in the U.S. and across the world,” he said in a statement in a press release announcing the news. “Now I have the backing of these remarkable organizations to pursue this mission with even greater impact for more than a million people, and in doing so incubate better models of care for all. This work will take time but must be done. The system is broken, and better is possible.”

Gawande was a featured speaker at the 2012 and 2015 LeadingAge annual meetings. David Gehm, who in 2015 was chairman of the LeadingAge Board of Directors, said Gawande was one of the most popular speakers in LeadingAge meeting history.

Gawande also was named Influencer of the Year by Next Avenue in 2015, the same year the then-LeadingAge CEO Larry Minnix was honored.

When Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase executives announced their partnership in January, they said it initially would focus on technology solutions that will provide U.S. employees and their families with simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.

“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy,” Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett said at the time. “Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable. Rather, we share the belief that putting our collective resources behind the country's best talent can, in time, check the rise in health costs while concurrently enhancing patient satisfaction and outcomes.”

In senior living, Gawande has been a proponent of customer satisfication through person-centered care.

In 2016, when he testified before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, he said senior living must be part of the effort to ensure that Americans with serious illnesses receive person-centered care that honors their goals, values and preferences.

“If there is any single, consistent lesson that I learned in my research for my book ‘Being Mortal,' it was that people who face serious illness or infirmity fear more than anything losing their autonomy, their ability to control the purposes and parameters of the care that they receive,” he said at the time. “Care plans and quality measures for nursing homes and other settings, however, focus almost exclusively on narrow issues of health and safety like fall prevention, management of feeding tubes, nutrition, pressure ulcers and so on. These are important, but just as, if not more important to people who need help with their needs for day-to-day living is the ability to have a say over matters like privacy, the risks they are permitted to take, when they go to bed and when they wake up, how they furnish and decorate their rooms, opportunities to pursue purposes larger than just mere existence, and who will make decisions when they cannot.”

In Focus

July 18

A truckload of charity

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The Village at Gainesville recently donated a truckload of used appliances from its residences to the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank.

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