This is a sample issue of ACHE's International Newsletter. By joining ACHE as an International Associate, you will receive this newsletter four times per year.
American College of Healthcare Executives

Summer 2013

International ACHE Profile | Feature Article | ACHE Resources | Professional Pointers | Networking

International ACHE Profile:   

Risto Miettunen, MD, PhD

Risto Miettunen, MD, PhD
CEO, Kuopio University Hospital District
Kuopio, Finland

"Although Finland's economy still has an AAA credit rating, the current euro crisis has its implications on public spending. My challenge is to find an optimal balance between the financial realities and the cost of good quality service, research and education."

Q: Tell us briefly about your background in healthcare management.
A: I transitioned to healthcare management after nearly two decades in European and global medical engineering and pharmaceutical industries as vice president of Siemens Medical Solutions and president of Orion Pharma, a Finland-based global business. I was trained as a medical doctor and radiologist with my PhD on medical physics in the 1980s, and I published 12 articles in international medical journals as author or co-author. I made an early decision to focus solely on management and left clinical practice years ago.

Throughout my healthcare management career, I've lived and worked in Germany and Switzerland in addition to my home country of Finland—basically a very international business environment. So, it was only natural for me to join ACHE as a member of the international community. Recently I was also elected to the Governing Council of the International Hospital Federation as a representative of the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities.

Q: How did you arrive at your current position?
A: This was a career advancement opportunity I was motivated to take, given my interest and experience in general management. My training as a physician also certainly played a role in focusing on healthcare.

Q: What are your primary job responsibilities?
A: As CEO, I am responsible for the overall management of the hospital district, reporting to the board of directors (nominated by local municipalities) and the University of Eastern Finland. I am in charge of the preparation and implementation of strategies approved by the board, ensuring quality care and service delivery, education and research. Kuopio University Hospital is the academic and acute-tertiary level medical center for eastern Finland, covering a population of 850,000. But we also provide secondary services, and to some extent, localized primary services for the region.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you face in your current position?
A: The Finnish total cost of healthcare as a percentage of GDP is 9 percent, which compares below the OECD average but is still a serious issue due to a rising trend. Although Finland's economy still has an AAA credit rating, the current euro crisis has its implications on public spending. My challenge is to find an optimal balance between the financial realities and the cost of good quality service, research and education.

Q: What is the biggest reward?
A: Satisfied patients, motivated staff and fulfilling the requirements for good quality care are rewards obtained through setting and reaching goals for the organization. We have a certified quality system according to ISO 9001 (quality management system requirements from the International Organization for Standardization), and we have been the most productive university hospital in Finland many years in a row.

Q: Briefly describe the overall healthcare atmosphere in the country in which you work.
A: Cost containment is an issue. The Finnish healthcare system is highly decentralized under the responsibility of municipalities and joint authorities. There will be a structural reform in the coming years, which currently is subject to highly political debate. The funding is mostly public, but there is a complementing private sector especially in occupational health and some other services.

Q: How do you see the field of healthcare management changing in the next five years?
A: I believe the system is basically going to move from standalone hospitals into integrated service networks. This will include both specialization on one side and a broader distribution of localized services at the same time. The focus of management is going to shift towards the patient.

Q: What advice can you offer for other international members?
A: Be active and share information and experience. Most of the issues we are dealing with are similar in all parts of the world that unites us and gives a broad common base for discussion.

Feature Article:   

IHF World Hospital Congress Wrap-Up

By Marisa Paulson

IHF World Hospital Congress 2013 - Oslo

Healthcare and hospital leaders from around the world flocked to Oslo, Norway, in June to attend the 38th World Hospital Congress of the International Hospital Federation, whose theme was “Future Healthcare—The Opportunities of New Technology.” Margaret Chan, MD, director-general of the World Health Organization, and Jonas Gahr Støre, Norwegian minister of Health and Care Services were among the many notable healthcare leaders who addressed how modern innovations and new technologies will affect the healthcare field.

“Healthcare systems in every nation face the same three challenges: access, quality and cost. Far too many individuals around the world do not have access to the healthcare services they need to lead a productive, happy life. When healthcare services are available, patient safety and quality of care is sometimes not as good as it could be. Finally, in many countries, like the United States, healthcare costs are far too high. The answers to these challenges are within this room,” said Thomas C. Dolan, PhD, FACHE, FASAE, IHF immediate past president, in his welcoming address. Dolan is also president emeritus of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

More than 1,000 attendees from 42 countries participated in five plenary sessions and more than 30 parallel sessions hosted by IHF member organizations such as ACHE, the American Hospital Association, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the Norwegian Hospital and Health Service Association, along with other key health and hospital associations from around the world. ACHE's session focused on the competencies and challenges of healthcare managers and was presented by Dolan, ACHE president/CEO Deborah J. Bowen, FACHE, CAE; 2013–2014 ACHE Chairman Diana L. Smalley, FACHE; and 2013–2014 ACHE Chairman-Elect Christine M. Candio, RN, FACHE.

IHF World Hospital Congress 2013 - Oslo

Besides gaining new knowledge via the sessions to take back to their respective organizations and countries, another key appeal of the World Hospital Congress for attendees was the opportunity to network. Attendees shared information with each other on the healthcare challenges and opportunities in their home countries with other attendees, and discovered potential solutions or received valuable feedback at three different social events. The conference also featured an exhibition area that further enabled networking and interaction with selected partners.

“The venue and the setting of the city of Oslo, as well as very late daytime light, have strongly contributed to an intense networking activity among World Hospital Congress participants,” says Eric de Roodenbeke, CEO, International Hospital Federation. “This was a great opportunity for participants to have an informal and friendly access to high-level leaders from around the world without the hassle of additional travel and scheduling.”

If you were unable to attend the 38th IHF World Hospital Congress, you can still watch videos of the plenary and parallel sessions and view presentation slides from many sessions by visiting IHF Oslo 2013 Videos and Presentations.

Save the date for the 39th IHF World Hospital Congress, which will be held October 6–8, 2015, in Chicago. Additional information on the event will be forthcoming.

ACHE Resources:   

Below are ACHE assessments to help you excel in your career.

ACHE's Healthcare Reform Resources offers ACHE members globally applicable solutions to delivering accountable care, meeting clinical staffing demands, advancing patient safety and developing essential leadership skills. This compilation of resources is regularly updated and features handouts from past Congress on Healthcare Leadership sessions, Healthcare Executive articles, research studies and more to help you advance your organization.


Leading a Hospital Turnaround: A Practical Guide (Health Administration Press, 2013)
No healthcare organization is immune to financial decline. Healthcare leaders must be able to recognize the warning signs of financial distress and take action to maintain or restore their organization's financial health. Author Anthony K. Jones shares what he learned while leading several successful financial turnarounds. Along with concrete tools and action plans, he provides candid advice about minimizing the fears of employees, physicians and board members. In this book, you will learn how to preserve crucial relationships while directly addressing difficult questions.

Online Member Directory

The ACHE online Member Directory can help you identify other healthcare leaders in your country and beyond with similar backgrounds or areas of interest. The directory allows you to search by geographic location, area of expertise, job level and other criteria.

Professional Pointers:   

Evaluate Employees' Poor Communication

Effective communication is critical to prevent confusion, mistakes and conflict in the workplace. What do you do when you have an employee who is a solid worker but whose communication is so poor the person causes misunderstandings and conflict? Pull the employee into your office for a feedback session. Follow these steps:

  1. Explain the purpose of the meeting. Employees with poor communication may not know they are causing problems. Be tactful and empathetic, and say to employees “I've noticed that you've had some trouble communicating with other members of the team. I'd like to talk about how we can make improvements.” Don't indicate that employees have a problem but rather a weakness they can fix.
  2. Offer specific examples. Share occasions when you observed a problem as a result of the person's communication style. Example: “During yesterday's sales meeting, you jumped from point to point and left out key information. The client was noticeably confused. Remember we had to start over to clarify everything?”
  3. Talk about how poor communication affects everyone. Example: “If we don't communicate effectively as a team, we are going to continue to battle misunderstandings, confusion, missed deadlines and errors, so it's an important skill that we all must continue to work on.“
  4. Provide employees with communication training. If feasible, send struggling employees to workshops or provide in-house training. Also offer specific tips employees can use to begin building their communication skills. Example: “I suggest you draft an outline of what you want to say so that you can reference it as you speak. That will keep you from jumping around. Also, slow down and breathe so that you don't rush through and skip over points.”
  5. Offer your support. Say: “We all have weaknesses we need to improve on, and this happens to be yours. I know with some practice you can improve in this area and bring it up to par with the outstanding work you do. Let me know what I can do to help.”

—Adapted from Communication Briefings, August 2013; / Originally written by Chris Miksen, “How to Address Poor Oral Communication Skills in an Employee Evaluation”


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