Racing Ahead with Brian Holzer, M.D., CEO for Lacuna Health and President of Kindred Innovations

Dr. Brian Holzer may be one of the busiest men in healthcare. In June 2017, he was tapped by Kindred Healthcare, a national leader of long-term acute-care hospitals and rehabilitation, to lead a new division for the company called Kindred Innovations. Holzer is responsible for furthering Kindred’s portfolio of innovative post-acute care products and services, nationwide.

In the same year, Holzer also led the launch of a new company for Kindred, Lacuna Health. With a focus on addressing care gaps across the care continuum, Lacuna Health helps Kindred provide better coordinated care by leveraging human and data intelligence capabilities. Recently, Holzer spoke to CastLight Search about key considerations around innovation and leadership.

It can be difficult for leaders focused on innovation because there are often wide-open expectations and little definition for the role.  Do you think that having such a diverse background in healthcare—from clinical medicine, to biotechnology, to hospitals and managed care—helped you take on the broad based responsibilities of essentially running two organizations?

I have worked in healthcare for my entire career, but only recently gravitated to roles increasingly focused on innovation.  My passion toward innovation is a function of having a foundation of diverse healthcare experiences and a genuine curiosity about how healthcare should be versus what it is today. 

After a fairly typical post-MBA career path in the biotechnology industry, I was offered a position in 2013 to join a large regional insurance company that that had just acquired a hospital network.  I was fortunate to lead a new division focused on services outside the hospital setting and had a blank slate to create a post-acute care model before there were many established models operating nationally.  In less than two years, I had led a small team to form six companies that met a wide range of home and post-hospital needs, including home health, hospice, home infusion, home medical equipment and emergency medicine. The innovation was not in forming the companies as much as connecting the care under one patient centric model and integrating that model back into our large health system.

This, in part, led to my recruitment by Kindred to launch a newly created innovations division and subsequently the formation and spinout of Lacuna Health.   These last few years have been so much fun and I feel privileged to now lead Lacuna Health. Lacuna Health draws its name from the Latin word “gap” or “missing piece.” The name reflects our mission to fill gaps in patient engagement and care management along the care continuum in order to deliver on the promise of an integrated and positive patient experience. 

Leaders that focus on innovation or transformation always face the challenge of being in a state of change.  What do you find as the biggest challenge with your role? Do you see these challenges as universal to innovation programs or unique?

Innovation means many different things within and across various organizations. My last few roles can be best characterized as “intra-preneurship” in nature.  Driving innovation within larger, well established companies is a very different experience compared to in privately funded companies whose singular mission is innovation. Commonly, there is a natural and often healthy tension between innovation and core operations.

Further, the funding for innovation is by nature from operations.  So as larger companies wrestle with driving revenue and earnings in an increasingly complex and uncertain regulatory and reimbursement environment, it can be difficult to invest limited dollars toward innovation and away from core operations.  Ultimately, it takes commitment and foresight from executive management and I have been fortunate to work for leaders and companies committed to innovation.

Yes, surveys show us continuously that C-suite engagement has the most significant impact on the success of these new initiatives.  How do you see Lacuna Health evolving?

Since our formation in January of 2018, Lacuna Health is already delivering improved quality outcomes and customer experiences to more than 250,000 patients and caregivers annually, and will continue to forge new partnerships with hospitals, health systems, physician groups, accountable care organizations (ACOs), skilled nursing facilities, and home health providers.  And earlier this year Lacuna Health announced its acquisition of American Chronic Care LLC, an Ocala, Fla.-based company that provides chronic-care management services for physician groups, accountable-care organizations and programs sponsored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

There’s an urgent need for additional post-acute care management services supporting holistic patient transitions and operations, and providers need to take actions now or run the risk that the decisions will be made for them. The time is now for acute and post-acute care providers to consider solutions that help deliver effective care management and improve patient engagement across the continuum. We believe that Lacuna Health can be a market leader in helping fee-for-service and value-oriented organizations more effectively engage patients and their care teams who truly need intervention and/or help with longer term care planning. 

Pamela Dixon is a managing partner at CastLight Search.

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