Mentors around every corner: Holly Potter and Diane Gage-Lofgren

Authentically yours, Diane Gage-Lofgren (View on Flickr.com)

In this decade, someone once said to me, “health care executives are not supposed to be on social media. The risk is too great.” To which I said, “that’s funny, Diane Gage-Lofgren (@DianeLofgren) tweets me all the time.”

In the decade before this one, someone once said in a room of leaders, “How does a health system decide how and when to be visible in the social media space? To which Holly Potter (@htpotter) said, ‘we used to have time to think about that, now we don’t'”

And here I, and a whole generation of doctors, nurses, patients, and health care leaders are, a product of their transformation(s).

As the story is told (and documented on social media, of course, (see: Presentation: Driving Total Health with Health IT and Health 2.0 (HIMSS 2010 – Atlanta) | Ted Eytan, MD), Holly and I had parallel epiphanies based on very different experiences in different (but aligned) organizations.

We came to the same conclusion, which was that our success in changing health care was going to be predicated not on telling people how perfect we are, but on letting people know what we were doing and listening as part of a dialogue.

Diane came into my life as a co-executive sponsor of the effort that supported the renaissance of Kaiser Permanente’s image at the same time it was undergoing a technology and quality renaissance. The outcome of this work is clear, Kaiser Permanente now has 9.3 million members and has the most #1 quality ratings of any health plan in the United States, and the place where I work, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health (@KPTotalHealth) in Washington, DC, regularly receives visitors from all of the world who ask, “how?”

Patients included, Holly Potter (View on Flickr.com)

During Diane and Holly’s tenure, our organization became very facile with telling stories, and not on behalf of our members, with our members. Two very tangible places are the Kaiser Permanente Newscenter, which has now been re-imagined as KPShare, as well as the Kaiser Permanente Care Stories blog.

Diane brought me in to host my very first panel of Kaiser Permanente members, to speak to her organization at their all hands meeting. I still remember that day and the things they told me, especially “Of course you can mention my name in your blog, we WANT people to know what good health care is.” (see: Bringing the Patient Experience to Life : Focus on Patient Stories (Presentation) | Ted Eytan, MD).

Official ‘Patients Included’ badge View on Flickr.com

This led to even more “patients included” experiences that were not just fun, they meant something to everyone involved (see: What member / patient engagement looks like #iRetreatKP | Ted Eytan, MD). Talk about paving the way / making an imprint. Now we’re doing a lot more than bringing members to meetings, we’re involving then the way we design health care, which is a dream come true.

Holly and her team set a new pace for communication with stakeholders. Although she or her team have never (ever) told me what to write on this blog, they have kept a watchful eye over me, in the way I want to be watched – to make sure our members are supported and protected. It’s just the kind of wisdom and judgement that a physician should have in the social media space. Most physicians in the US/world don’t have this. I and my colleagues are lucky.

Humble beginnings, Diane Gage-Lofgren View on Flickr.com

Holly Potter, Setting up a new place to talk about health, in Washington, DC, 2011

Both Diane and Holly have supported myself and other nurses and doctors in connecting with patients and members wherever they are, in whatever venue they are, to further the cause of human-centricity in health and health care.

The most famous of these is of course Regina Holliday (@ReginaHolliday), who, thanks to them has an interview, done by me, memorialized in the Library of Congress (see: It’s here! The Regina Holliday interviewed by Ted Eytan StoryCorps Interview (audio) | Ted Eytan, MD).

There are a lot of other connections I have made with patients, members, that are not famous, but that were made on social media, that allowed a type of listening (by me and the health system) that was previously impossible in health care. The details of those connections will never be published here, but wow, they have been meaningful. They’ve changed my life.

Have you met or known a senior executive, at the top level of an organization, who always takes the time to acknowledge your work, say thanks in messages and in person, over and above what you expect from a senior executive? That’s Diane, who by the way is an accomplished and pretty excellent writer. In my opinion, she’s quite natural in social media as well. If I am considered as good as her, I am in good shape :).

Many gifts from Holly, this is just icing (View on Flickr.com)

Holly has, in her executive role, also set a high bar for engagement, as I referred to at the beginning of this post, by opening up new worlds and people to the health care system, who our country is just learning is and should be in the business of “health.”  Her imprint continues to this day, when people say to me things like, “actually, there is no other health system in this (health) space. Just Kaiser Permanente.”

I just learned that Diane has accepted the role of Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications for Sharp HealthCare. 

Remember the 20th Century, when career transitions were considered abnormal and health care was opaque on top of that? It resulted in a lot of lost wisdom and innovation for the improvement of health. That’s not the century we’re in now, career transitions do happen, we can learn that there are better ways to do things, and we can want to know about them because our leaders tell us this is the right thing to do. Diane and Holly certainly helped create this new reality.

Thank you!

4 thoughts on “Mentors around every corner: Holly Potter and Diane Gage-Lofgren”

  1. Great going away gift for Diane –

    One lesson that many People (docs included) in DC never seem to master is to make eye contact with the person in front of you and not always be scanning over their shoulder for someone more “important” – both Holly and Diane always make the space to be heard.

  2. Ted, thanks for sharing your thoughts on these incredibly talented people. I’ll miss them — and ever so lucky to have you and your thinking in my life.
    Alix

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