Once described by Forbes Magazine as “The Man Who Would Save Healthcare,” Dr. John Kenagy knows healthcare as a physician, healthcare executive, scholar, advisor and, perhaps most importantly, a patient once deeply immersed in the healthcare system. As a critically-injured patient with a broken neck, Dr. Kenagy discovered that his recovery depended on the efforts of individuals working in a broken system. Determined to make a difference, he became a healthcare executive, but quickly discovered he was inundated with big, chronic problems that defied solution while physicians and staff struggled with the multitude of small problems that kept patients from getting what they needed.

Ultimately he tackled the problem as a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Business School, where he studied transformational, disruptive innovation and highly adaptable organizations. Companies like Toyota, Intel and Southwest showed him that it’s the ability to solve small problems first that makes it possible to manage complex, dynamic, unpredictable work — like the work of getting patients exactly what they need at continually lower cost. Dr. Kenagy’s formula for saving healthcare one problem at a time is termed “Adaptive Design.” Its key is developing people to improve their small part of the organization every day, empowering them to problem-solve when their patients don’t get what they need, and holding them accountable to change.

Dr. Kenagy is Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington. He was formerly a Visiting Scholar at Harvard Business School and Adjunct Professor of Pharmacy and Therapeutics at the University of Pittsburgh. He continues to write, speak, advise and teach, dividing his time between Longview, Washington; Belmont, Massachusetts and the rest of the world.

Recipient of the 2011 ACHE James A. Hamilton Book of the Year award.

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Designed to Adapt: Leading Healthcare in Challenging Times
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