Ask any business owner from any industry and it won’t take long to determine they share a few common challenges: the rising cost of health insurance, ever-changing regulations, and a wealth of policies and programs to choose from. Add to that the various operational, quality, and financial systems and procedures within hospitals and healthcare organizations, and it’s no wonder that business executives, physicians, and the general public are collectively shaking their heads in dismay.
But Nancy Lakier, founder and CEO of Novia Strategies, Inc., and Novia Solutions, is working to change that. She and her team work side-by-side with hospital leaders, physicians, and staff members to help health systems redesign care, reduce costs, and improve quality throughout all facets of the organization, all the while having interim leaders available to support the changes needed today.
“We believe we want employees to contribute to the success of the firm, and the firm, in turn, needs to contribute back to the employee.”
Long ago, when managed care hit the healthcare industry, there was a business aspect that began to infiltrate an industry that didn’t have a lot of business savvy previously. But Lakier, as clinician, healthcare executive, and consultant, has always embraced the business of healthcare, coupled with the passion that is needed in an ever-changing industry.
Prior to founding Novia Strategies and Novia Solutions twenty years ago, Lakier held positions as associate administrator, CNO, and a variety of internal consulting roles in hospitals and healthcare systems. Since starting Novia, she has grown it to become one of the nation’s longest-established clinician-owned healthcare consultancies, offering a wide range of consulting services. Eight years later, she established Novia Solutions, the interim management company, to fill the leadership gaps needed to support change.
Much of Lakier’s career has focused on care coordination, care redesign, integrated care delivery, productivity, pay practices, and operations improvement. In today’s healthcare environment, these are critical needs for hospitals and health systems, which seek to manage the health and wellness of entire population segments. Achieving this, while simultaneously delivering on financial and quality metrics, requires a degree of expertise that few consultants can provide. Novia also offers services in nonlabor, pharmacy, quality, and patient-safety technology, patient throughput, and surgical services.
At the time of Novia’s founding, California’s healthcare industry was undergoing substantive changes and was hit by a lot of economic challenges.
“At that time, we had a very traditional industry, but oftentimes I saw opportunities for improvement,” Lakier says. “I really love being a part of making things better. In fact, it was a perfect storm for us to say, ‘The industry and environment [are] changing, and at the end of the day, we still want to deliver excellent care, so we need to find the sweet spot of care delivery that is both high quality and efficient.’ So how can we do things differently to make sure that we are still delivering good care but less expensively?”
At that time, Lakier was working with an organization that was undergoing some significant changes. She was given the opportunity to lead those changes, reducing the dollars spent and enhancing patient-care outcome while improving patient, physician, and staff satisfaction.
“People were stimulated and motivated to take better care of patients and make sure we were delivering positive outcomes,” she says. “What we were doing in San Diego was truly at the forefront of what many health systems and hospitals were facing across the nation.” The entire team, in turn, was motivated to improve care and reduce costs.
Today Lakier and her employees embrace four key tenets throughout Novia. The first is: “Do good work.”
“At the end of the day, we want to have a successful project and a good outcome for the client,” Lakier says. “If that means we don’t make money on that project, so be it. Because it is not about making loads of money or meeting shareholders’ expectations; it is about doing good work.”
Lakier also believes in putting strong teams together that comprise complementary experts, which is the firm’s second tenet. “Not everyone has to know everything, but we have to have a good team so that the individuals on that work team are going to complement each other—because then we bring the best to the client.”
The company’s third tenet is to reward employees. “We believe we want employees to contribute to the success of the firm, and the firm, in turn, needs to contribute back to the employee,” Lakier says. Novia was honored this past year as one of Becker’s Hospital Review’s “150 Great Places to Work in Healthcare”—something Lakier credits to the first three tenets.
Lastly, Lakier’s fourth tenet is to run a successful company, so she and her team embrace the idea of being fiscally responsible.
But what has motivated Lakier in creating and maintaining one of the most successful healthcare consulting firms in the nation? Quite simply, it’s being productive and seeing positive outcomes while bringing teams together that stimulate each other.
“It really is the work we do but also the people in our firm,” she says. “We have such great people. I find that I learn from our staff every day. Because we have such strong collaboration, it is very motivating to me. And this industry means that every day is a different day.”
One of Novia’s key initiatives is something it pioneered two decades ago but one it’s currently seeking to perfect: redesigning care to reduce clinical variation and ensure the patient is getting the right resources—not too many and not too few—at the right time, in the right way.
“There are times a patient could have a procedure in an ambulatory setting, or they could be discharged instead of staying in a hospital, so it’s really about restructuring all of that and to standardize care for patient populations where appropriate,” Lakier says. “Our pioneering efforts about care redesign during the past twenty years is where my passion lies. This is what the company was founded on, and we still have tremendous substantive success in this area for our clients.”
For Lakier, the future looks bright. She sees it being about continuing to do good work and continuing to attract the best talent—all while positively impacting patient care for Novia’s clients.
“When you do good work and attract the best consultants, it is a very fertile ground,” Lakier says. “I really want to continue to grow and expand doing what we do best.”