The Blog to Transform Advanced Care

Advancing Care through Innovation, Observation and Collaboration.

Jeff Thompson, MD, quite literally wrote the book on the leadership.  Dr. Thompson, who currently serves as executive advisor and chief executive officer emeritus of the groundbreaking Gundersen Health System, has a wealth of insight to share on how diverse groups of leaders can thrive and spur positive change through values-based leadership. A selection of case studies on this subject, as well as examples from his own experience, became Dr. Thompson’s 2017 book, Lead True.

Gundersen Health System is comprised of 7,000 staff across 60 clinics and six hospitals. In 2018, Gundersen was listed among the top five percent in the nation for Outstanding Patient Experience by Healthgrades. A major component of ensuring these outcomes, Dr. Thompson wrote in Lead True, has been developing basic and clearly stated values such as respect for individuals, compassion and excellence.

“We also made sure that the patients, families, and communities we serve knew what our values were and how we had committed to living them,” Dr. Thompson wrote. “This had to add up to tangible, practical action that went deeply into everything we did and be consistent at every level—for individuals, small teams, and the entire organization.”

Dr. Thompson comes from a background in intensive pediatric care, but he became interested in advance care planning because of a glaring need he observed among older adults.

“I got involved because it was painfully clear that in adult intensive care, there were so many patients in less than optimal settings because no one had any idea what their wishes were,” said Dr. Thompson.

As Gundersen was designing its innovative advance directive program, Respecting Choices®, Dr. Thompson guided the systems development portion of the project to ensure that the wishes and preferences being shared by patients would be honored by providers.

For Dr. Thompson, Respecting Choices® offered a chance for open and direct communication that was not afforded to him as a pediatrician.

“We spend a lot of time in pediatrics trying to figure out what’s best for the child,” Dr. Thompson explained. “In adults, you have an amazing opportunity to talk to them in a thoughtful way. It’s a luxury adults have that babies do not have.”

Respecting Choices® was developed during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s in La Crosse, Wisc. Today, over 95 percent of people who die in the city have an advance directive or similar documentation, more than triple the national average. Respecting Choices® is an internationally recognized model of advance care planning, offering a range of implementation services and training materials to enable providers to employ these communication and documentation techniques in the care they deliver. In 2016, Respecting Choices® transitioned from Gundersen to the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care.

Looking to the future, Dr. Thompson has underscored the need to identify and support the next generation of leaders in the movement to provide high-quality advanced illness care and advance care planning services. In order to do so, Dr. Thompson explained, it is important for current standard bearers to consider what is important to the leaders of tomorrow.

“They want to work for a purpose,” said Dr. Thompson. “They want consistency and they want to be able to see that what they’re doing is making a difference.”

He also emphasized the importance of allowing the next generation of innovators and influencers to build experience.

“Let’s be transparent about what’s expected and understand that young people need a chance to lead,” Dr. Thompson said.

We are proud to have Dr. Thompson join us as a master of ceremonies during our upcoming National Summit on Advanced Illness Care. For more information about the Summit, please click here. To learn more about Dr. Thompson, please click here. More information about his book, Lead True, is available here.

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