Praveen Thadani starts as Priority Health’s new president this month, moving from Humana Inc. in Chicago, where he’s worked for more than seven years. He started at Humana as Illinois market president then led strategic planning across several business lines as senior vice president of strategy, product and innovation. A veteran health insurance executive with 25 years of industry experience, Thadani succeeds Joan Budden, who retired at the end of 2020 after 12 years with Priority Health, including the last five as CEO. Thadani is expected to take on the new role in early January.
What attracted you to seek the leadership position at Priority Health?
When this opportunity arose, (there were) two major factors. One is health care is so incredibly local, and you’ve got other larger organizations that have a lot of local presence that I think Priority does. Certainly it’s a statewide plan, but its ability to be very locally oriented to the consumer in Michigan makes a massive difference.
I view Priority Health as an organization that’s very deeply involved in the community. I was really fascinated by pretty much everybody on the leadership team and their very deep appreciation for creating vibrance in the community through health care. That’s the main thing that really resonated with me and attracted me to this opportunity.
The second factor?
Its values. I’ve interacted with a lot of organizations and I’ve never seen words like ‘curiosity’ and ‘courage’ in their value statements. Priority’s ability to create really compassionate health care and thinking about how they can use collaboration, curiosity and courage differently in the community really resonated with me. I think of all the work that’s taken place already under Joan’s leadership — and she’s been a really visionary leader and did some amazing things — clearly demonstrated to me that the curiosity, courage and certainly the collaboration is there. The ability to really harness that and accelerate the momentum was very attractive.
How will your experience in strategic planning at Humana fit with your new role at Priority Health?
I think there’s a really neat fit. A lot of the work that I’ve done at Humana has been focused on not just strategic planning, but strategic execution. There’s long term or short term to that. I’ve spent a lot of time on innovation and what’s referred to as market development. As an example: What are the ideas that will resonate in certain markets (and) how do you enhance your focus on value-based care and innovation and transformation around transparency? Those are some of the key initiatives that I worked on at Humana and I think those themes really resonate inside the Michigan community and inside of Priority Health as well.
How does the COVID-19 public health crisis affect the health care industry as you transition to Priority Health?
It has created a platform for people to create a compelling vision to accelerate change in health care. It’s the silver lining, candidly, to this crisis. In a very short time, the FDA on an emergency basis was able to approve the vaccine. It’s the fastest they have ever moved. What gives me a lot of hope is that we’ll be doing more of that in the future. And as consumers begin to embrace more digital solutions, health care has been ripe for disruption for a very long time around this notion of consumerism and consumers really beginning to take more responsibility for their health and wellbeing, and providers and payers working more closely together toward value-based solutions. It’s accelerated the move toward all of those pieces.
How does it carry the industry forward?
Even if you think about the inability of consumers to visit hospitals and clinics (in the spring) and how quickly they evolved (toward adopting telehealth), I think the massive learning there is the system is very resilient and people are very resilient, and everybody has found a solution to operate despite the challenges. The challenge now for us is to continue that momentum and learn from the last nine months and apply those learnings to continue to drive more momentum. It creates a lot of opportunity.
What do you want people and employers in the marketplace to know about you?
Two things. One is that we know health care is expensive and we will absolutely do our part to make health care more affordable. To the consumers of health care, health care has been complex for a long time and we’ll continue doing our part to make it simpler day by day. That’s a journey. It’s not a destination that can be accomplished in a year or two years, but we will absolutely do our part to help because the healthier the community is and the more affordable health care is, the more vibrant the community is. That’s ultimately what I care about the most.