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Dr. Eyal Zimlichman

Dr. Eyal Zimlichman serves as the Chief Transformation Officer and Chief Innovation Officer at Sheba Medical Center, the largest medical center in the Middle East. He is an internal medicine physician, healthcare executive, and researcher dedicated to advancing healthcare quality, patient engagement, and safety.  

Dr. Zimlichman's contributions to healthcare, policy, and research are voluminous. A prolific researcher and author, Dr. Zimlichman has published over 130 peer-reviewed articles. He is a graduate of the Harvard School of Public Health's Executive Health Care Management program and he earned his MD from the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel.

A Journey through Medicine, Business & Innovation

Dr. Zimlichman’s journey into medicine began at a young age and was deeply inspired by his father, who was also an internist. This early influence was instrumental in shaping his desire to pursue a career in healthcare. Unlike the typical path in Israel, where individuals usually serve in the military before attending medical school, Dr. Zimlichman transitioned directly from high school to medical school. Recognizing the urgent need for doctors, the military permits a select number of students to complete their medical education first and then serve as doctors during their military service.

Following medical school, Dr. Zimlichman spent eight years serving as a doctor in the Israeli army, where he was exposed to a variety of administrative and managerial responsibilities. This pivotal experience ignited his interest in healthcare administration and brought to light critical issues such as quality and patient safety. Dr. Zimlichman became deeply passionate about these areas, especially after discovering that approximately 25% of hospitalizations result in some form of patient harm. Following military service, his dedication ultimately led him to Boston, where he pursued advanced studies at the Harvard School of Public Health and worked at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Partners HealthCare, the network for Harvard hospitals.

After spending five years in Boston, guiding strategic care redesign initiatives and serving as an advisor for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, Dr. Zimlichman returned to Israel to serve as the Chief Quality Officer at Sheba Medical Center. His contributions led to rapid promotion and he was appointed as the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Innovation Officer in 2016. It was during this period that he began to see strong parallels between quality improvement and innovation. Both fields require a mindset that is not content with the status quo and is constantly seeking ways to improve and solve problems. Sitting at the nexus of these domains provided Dr. Zimlichman with the ideal vantage point for transforming global health.

Launching ARC (Accelerate, Redesign, Collaborate)

As Dr. Zimlichman reflects, “healthcare is a train that's on a track towards a brick wall. The pessimists say impact will happen in five years and the optimists say 15. But, everybody agrees that we're on the train. We need transformation to avoid this and to really change the trajectory.” Recognizing the urgent need for transformation to alter this trajectory, ARC (Accelerate, Redesign, Collaborate) was initially conceived by Dr. Zimlichman and Dr. Yitshak Kreiss (Sheba's newly appointed CEO) in 2017 with the ambitious vision of transforming healthcare globally. Initially, the idea seemed audacious, aiming not merely to innovate for profit, or novelty, but to address the critical, unsolved challenges facing the healthcare industry.

The official launch of ARC occurred towards the end of 2019, right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The timing proved fortuitous, as the pandemic provided a critical opportunity for ARC to demonstrate its value and rapidly scale its operations. "COVID happened to be a very good opportunity for ARC to prove itself and has really helped us to scale up," Dr. Zimlichman explains. 

From the outset, Dr. Zimlichman envisioned ARC as a platform that could extend its influence beyond a single institution. This global ambition faced skepticism, as many doubted the feasibility of one hospital making a worldwide impact. However, Dr. Zimlichman and his team embraced the challenge, driven by the belief that significant change requires bold thinking and the willingness to push boundaries. Today, ARC stands as a global phenomenon with 160 partners across 20 countries.

ARC's expansive network includes startups, large industry partners, and leading healthcare systems worldwide. "We have quite a large investment arm, our own accelerator programs, our own schools, an MBA program, and an entrepreneurship school," Dr. Zimlichman elaborates. This broad network supports ARC's mission to innovate and transform healthcare delivery.

Through ARC, Dr. Zimlichman envisions creating a ripple effect that benefits multiple sectors. By spinning out new companies, attracting foreign investments, and establishing research and development centers, ARC contributes to job creation and economic vitality. These efforts also have a positive impact on education, real estate, and community infrastructure, further extending the benefits of healthcare innovation.

Dr. Zimlichman emphasizes that ARC seeks to work with healthcare systems that aspire to lead in innovation rather than merely adopting mature technologies. By collaborating with top-tier global institutions, ARC leverages the best ideas and practices to write the future of healthcare. This global perspective and selective membership enable ARC to work with the most innovative and forward-thinking organizations, ensuring a significant impact on the healthcare landscape.

ARC has established sites in major cities including Chicago, Ottawa, London, Bahrain, and is currently expanding to France, Melbourne, Montreal, and Berlin. A recent partnership with Deloitte aims to expand the ARC model globally, with plans to establish 30 to 40 new ARC sites annually.

Incubating Innovation While Sustaining Operations

Dr. Zimlichman acknowledges a fundamental challenge faced by healthcare institutions worldwide, especially those serving as partners in the ARC ecosystem: balancing operations and innovation. He notes that many institutions have razor thin margins so they focus on improving their operational efficiency and bottom line, often at the expense of pursuing innovation. While these are crucial aspects of healthcare management, Dr. Zimlichman believes that leading institutions have a larger role to play in shaping the future of healthcare.

He shares examples of transformative care delivery models implemented at Sheba. These models often do not make financial sense at the outset. For instance, bundled payment models with payers may result in financial losses in the first year. However, through continuous improvement, these models can break even in the second year and become profitable in the third. The willingness to take calculated risks and learn from the process is not common among all institutions, but it is a hallmark of Sheba's approach.

Sheba's solid financial foundation allows it to carry these risks, a luxury not available to all institutions. However, Dr. Zimlichman points out that the willingness to take risks and innovate is shared by other leading institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, Cedars-Sinai, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Brigham and Women's Hospital. These institutions strive to be at the forefront of healthcare innovation, paving the way for others to follow.

Change Management - The Key Skill for Success in a Shifting Landscape

Reflecting on his experiences, Dr. Zimlichman emphasizes that the success or failure of any initiative in healthcare hinges on effective change management. This insight was reinforced during his studies at Harvard, where he took a comprehensive course on change management. At the time, as a young doctor, he did not fully grasp its significance. However, over the years, he has come to realize that leading change within an organization is the linchpin of progress.

One of the greatest challenges in healthcare, according to Dr. Zimlichman, is changing the practices of clinicians. Clinicians, he notes, are notoriously resistant to change, a phenomenon rooted in the traditional education system of healthcare. The apprentice model, where learning is primarily based on imitating elders, has persisted in healthcare longer than in many other fields. This method, while effective in some respects, creates a rigid mindset where change is difficult to implement.

As Dr. Zimlichman explains, “the difficulty of change management in healthcare is underscored by the fact that it can take up to 30 years for a practice, even one supported by robust evidence, to become common practice.” He stresses that it is not just about generating evidence and publishing it in major journals or incorporating it into professional guidelines. The real challenge lies in the change management required to reduce this time lag from decades to days.

Hospitals of the Future

Dr. Zimlichman envisions a future where hospitals are significantly smaller and smarter, driven by the shift of many services to home-based and virtual settings. He predicts that healthcare will become decentralized, allowing patients to receive care from institutions like Sheba Medical Center while at home, work, or even on vacation. This transformation, facilitated by advancements in telemedicine and remote monitoring technologies, will enable hospitals to focus on the most severe and complex cases, using advanced data-driven technologies and automation to optimize care delivery. By decentralizing healthcare and bringing high-quality care to patients wherever they are, Dr. Zimlichman aims to revolutionize healthcare delivery, making it more accessible, efficient, and effective for all, while ensuring hospitals remain essential hubs for specialized treatment and acute care.

In addition to being smaller and more efficient, hospitals of the future will be smarter. They will be equipped to treat more severe and complex patients, focusing on the most critical cases such as complicated surgeries and severe acute conditions requiring intensive care units (ICUs). While the concept of an ICU at home may still be far off, these high-acuity environments will remain essential within hospital settings.

The shift towards decentralized care means that hospitals will handle only the most complicated cases. As a result, the number of hospital beds will decrease, necessitating a higher degree of efficiency in hospital operations. Dr. Zimlichman points out that current hospital systems are often inefficient by various metrics. Future hospitals will need to leverage data to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. Data-driven decision-making will be critical in optimizing hospital operations and patient care.

Dr. Zimlichman envisions hospitals becoming much more autonomous, relying heavily on robotics and automation. This shift will allow human healthcare providers to focus on tasks that require human expertise and compassion, while machines handle more routine or precision-based tasks. For example, robotics will lead the way in enhancing surgical precision, patient monitoring, and overall hospital efficiency.

Authoring the Pages of Healthcare Innovation 

Dr. Zimlichman's transformative journey in healthcare, marked by his unwavering commitment to quality, patient safety, and innovation, continues to shape the future of global healthcare. His vision for ARC has transcended traditional healthcare boundaries. ARC's expansive network, innovative initiatives, and impressive portfolio of partnerships exemplify his dedication to creating a lasting impact on healthcare delivery and community development. Dr. Zimlichman’s ability to navigate the complexities of clinical practice, technological innovation, and healthcare policy have positioned him as a leading figure in the quest to develop more efficient, effective, and equitable healthcare systems around the world.


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