As a result of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) scandal, there is now an opportunity to drive a broad strategy for operational improvement and transparency within the department. A new secretary would undoubtedly need experience as a CEO but also established connections to the industry’s most respected, influential players who could help drum up political support for any new initiatives.
Yesterday, the Obama administration reportedly approached Delos “Toby” M. Cosgrove M.D., president and chief executive officer of Cleveland Clinic, a $6.2 billion healthcare system with facilities in the United States, Canada and Abu Dhabi, to fill the VA role. Since joining the Clinic in 1975 as a cardiovascular surgeon, Cosgrove has moved up within the organization to CEO, where he has reorganized key clinical services into specialized institutes and expanded the franchise globally.
He also has experience rallying a community around healthcare modernization. Locally, Cleveland’s Global Center for Health Innovation is an ambitious public/private project that Cosgrove helped champion. The center opened in 2013 and contains year-round technology exhibits, much like a perpetual tradeshow floor. In the four-story building, health IT end users can test technology products and services, connect with vendors through video chat services and watch demos. The overarching theme is the collaborative advancement of technology.
And Cosgrove has a military background as well, serving as a surgeon in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam era and earning a Bronze Star.
It’s not surprising Obama would consider him as a candidate, but Cosgrove is now 73 years old and possibly ready to retire from 50-hour-a-week responsibilities. The VA job would require a long-term commitment if the administration is hoping to transform its problems with patient wait times and generally poor management. While Cosgrove could clearly do the job, the bigger question is whether he wants to.
PHOTO: Courtesy of the Global Center for Health Innovation