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Q&A with Geisinger CEO and president Dr. Jaewon Ryu, who will be CEO of the new Risant Health

How being acquired by Kaiser affects Geisinger's autonomy, capital, health plan expansion and its ability to make healthcare easier.

Susan Morse, Executive Editor

Geisinger CEO and president Dr. Jaewon Ryu will become CEO of the new Risant Health.

Photo: Courtesy Geisinger

In April, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals announced the formation of a new nonprofit organization, Risant Health, and its first acquisition, Geisinger Health.

Dr. Jaewon Ryu, president and CEO of Geisinger Health, will transition from his current role to that of CEO of Risant Health when the deal closes. Healthcare Finance News interviewed Dr. Ryu to get his perspective on what Risant Health can do for Geisinger, and for healthcare.

Healthcare Finance News: How does belonging to Risant Health help Geisinger in a way Geisinger couldn't do on its own?

Dr. Jaewon Ryu: As part of our strategic planning work that we had started over four years ago, we were looking at ways that we might accelerate our goal – to make better health easier for the communities we serve. While we know we could achieve this on our own, being part of Risant Health enables us to be able to get there faster.

In addition to accelerating our ability to deliver on our mission and carrying forth the vision of our founder Abigail Geisinger, we're also excited to have a broader impact in healthcare. Through Risant Health, we see an opportunity to further enhance our model and add to the suite of Risant Health capabilities so that more communities can benefit.

HFN: Does Geisinger gain expertise from Kaiser and any of the health systems that join Risant? Will it be sharing its own expertise?

Dr. Ryu: This path with Kaiser Permanente through Risant Health presented a great way to join with a fellow nonprofit, mission-aligned organization that is like-minded and focused on improving health outcomes, affordability and access. Kaiser Permanente has been a best-in-class organization of this approach for quite some time, often viewed as the gold standard in value-based care, with operations across eight states and the District of Columbia, 39 hospitals, and top-notch physician groups. And Geisinger has been similarly committed to advancing innovation and value-based care models, partnering with other payers and other physician groups and health systems to do so. Together, we can make high-quality, equitable, evidence-based care available to many more communities across the country.

As the first health system to become part of Risant Health, Geisinger will participate in building out the organization's strategy, platform of capabilities and operational model. Working with Kaiser Permanente and connecting with like-minded health systems through Risant Health will allow us to be a part of the solution for the industry's challenges in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.

HFN: What about technology and AI gains?

Dr. Ryu: Geisinger's approach to care delivery stays preserved and will be enhanced through investments in key areas like digital platforms, provider enablement tools, data/analytics and insights, and patient and member engagement tools.

Geisinger clinical teams will benefit from investments in digital technologies that improve the provider and patient experience, continue to build on innovating our care models, deliver more data and analytics to support best practice optimization and provide more physician enablement tools.

HFN: Does Geisinger lose any of its autonomy?

Dr. Ryu: The Risant Health operating model is designed to support local ownership over operations and regional strategy and preserve strong community engagement. When the transaction closes, Geisinger will continue to work with other health plans, health systems and independent providers.

Geisinger patients and members will continue to access and receive care just as they do today. Our name and mission, and what communities expect from us is preserved.

The Geisinger board will continue to provide guidance on our strategies.

HFN: Financially, how does being acquired by Risant help Geisinger?

Dr. Ryu: Being part of Risant Health will allow Geisinger to access capital required to accelerate its charitable mission and strategy. Geisinger can also expand its impact to other communities across Pennsylvania and beyond, including offering Geisinger's health plan to national and multistate accounts.

As part of Risant Health, Geisinger will continue making major investments in our facilities, digital, automation and consumer tools to keep our communities healthy and allow us to expand our impact to communities across Pennsylvania.

HFN: Have other health systems expressed an interest in joining Risant Health?

Dr. Ryu: Because the deal is still subject to approval, Geisinger has not been involved in conversations with other systems who may be interested in joining Risant Health.

Geisinger is excited to be the first system in Risant Health and to have the ability to help shape the model, drawing on our experience and expertise in value-based care capabilities and solutions. We are hopeful that in addition to Geisinger, Risant Health will grow its impact by acquiring and connecting a portfolio of like-minded, nonprofit, value-oriented, community-based health systems anchored in their respective communities. 

HFN: Are there any other comments you'd like to make?

Dr. Ryu: Please note that the transaction is subject to state and federal regulatory review and will close when that process is complete. In the meantime, we are excited for this path that lies ahead, and what it will mean for our communities.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
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