- Tech Insights
Santos Vera, Imperial Beach Community Clinic (IBCC), has over two decades of executive leadership experience in healthcare. He leads a non-profit federally qualified health center, IBCC, which has been offering healthcare services to the medically underserved and marginalized communities of San Diego County since 1971.
Reflecting on his leadership, Santos recalls a professor’s question from his graduate program; “What’s the most important trait a CEO must have?” Santos replied, “Vision, to present a vision for tomorrow” For Santos, a leader’s visionary capabilities define the organization’s direction. Likewise, character drives a leader’s ideals and principles; therefore, integrity, humility, and transparency are at the core. A growth mentality promotes team creativity and innovation. Developing a strategic organizational mentality around people and teams allows an organization to pivot and address new opportunities or obstacles. In addition, curiosity helps one learn and grow. Santos uses these attributes to develop a patient-first philosophy.
Santos noted, healthcare of today is moving at a rapid pace. There is uncertainty, ambiguity and volatility. The pandemic is a good example, it tested every healthcare leader. Leading in this crisis required calm, partnership, communication and decision-making to manage COVID-19 in our communities, says Santos. He attributes much of his success to the two mentors who coached him early in his career as an executive and clinician. In addition, Santos credits his mentors for teaching him the Servant Leadership style of leading people, a leadership philosophy that has helped him build successful teams and organizations.
Leadership requires asking the right questions and listening to your people and teams. Santos noted, Stephen R. Covey stated it best; “most people don’t listen with the intention to understand, they listen with the intention to respond”. In making organizational decisions, we need to listen to people’s opinions, consider every perspective, and use facts and quantitative analysis to allow for the best decision possible.
Leaders often face criticism and managing it can at times be difficult. Santos believes that criticism is a learning opportunity and leaders should never take criticism personally and react, but rather use self-awareness and self-management to overcome.
As a healthcare executive, one of Santos joys has been teaching tomorrow’s healthcare leaders. He believes executives should make time to mentor and coach the next generation of healthcare professionals. Santos is also part of the University of Southern California faculty where he teaches several graduate-level courses for healthcare executives. Through this venue, he challenges the young minds of tomorrow with open discussion, critical thinking and case study reviews of the most significant issues facing healthcare today.
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) has demonstrated positive benefits for patients with various chronic diseases or who are bedridden. This technology gives patients 24/7 access to their providers. Our patients like the technology, and we can now quantify health changes, says Santos.
Through market share expansion, we'll improve our care quality and patient access, and we're committed for 36 months.
When asked about competitors, Santos stated that they are not immune to competition, as Santos has two competitors a stone’s throw away. Although they supply the same healthcare services, he won't compete with them. Santos is using a "blue-ocean" strategy to increase patient access, market share, revenue, and the number of business lines it has.
We are a safety-net healthcare organization that is funded by federal and state grants under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Healthcare services provided include primary care, pediatrics, women’s health, dental, and behavioral healthcare services to the medically underserved and uninsured communities. Our patient population is often challenged with transportation issues, getting to and from the health centers. The transportation challenge is increased when these patients are referred to specialists, and oftentimes it takes 2–4 bus lines to reach the specialist. We have now contracted with a number of specialists to provide care on-site or at nearby specialist clinics, thus alleviating the patient transportation burden. One of these examples is our newest business line – chiropractic services.
In my short tenure, one of the biggest achievements was the development of our urgent care/walk-in clinic, says Santos. It was planned and implemented to be a bridge for patients needing direct same-day patient care and to address the growing number of patients with COVID-19 symptoms needing care. It has now grown to offer more health services to our patients and the rest of the community.
Historically, patient access has been an issue for our patients due to the disparate systems we have. A big project that many teams are working on right now is making a new patient scheduling system that works with other systems and is easy to use for both patients and staff.
Santos inherits an organization that has a 50-year history of providing healthcare to the community but missed a number of business line opportunities to differentiate itself from the competition. Today, our organization is built on the diversity of its people and leadership that is laser-focused on giving the poorest people in San Diego County the best care possible.
Imperial Beach Community Clinic
Since Imperial Beach Health Center first opened its doors in 1971, our mission has been to provide high quality medical care for all members of our community. As a community focused health center we are committed to being responsive to the health care needs of our area.