Lisa Miller is an industry expert in healthcare and is the CEO and founder of VIE Healthcare Consulting. She is a trusted advisor to hospital leaders on operational strategies within margin improvement, process improvements, technology/telehealth, the patient experience, and growth opportunities. Since founding VIE in 1999, Miller and her team have achieved over $785 million in non-salary cost savings and revenue improvements for clients globally.
She is committed to empowering hospital leaders to achieve their boldest vision and has created the healthcare sector’s only cost savings strategy methodology that is proven to extract unnecessary costs. Miller has further developed patented technology for healthcare financial improvement within purchased services in addition to a technology that dramatically increases patient satisfaction through front-line feedback and insights.
Miller has extensive hospital operations experience and a consistent record of achieving financial and operational performance improvements for both small and large organizations with annual operating budgets from $25 million to $11 billion. For more than 22 years, Miller and her team have provided cost reduction services and have worked closely with the executive leadership.
In 2019 she was awarded a patent; Invoice Analytics System, which extracts, reconciles, and analyzes transactional spend data for purchased services and provides line item insights and analytics into this challenging category of spending for hospitals and all organizations.
Miller was inducted into the Million Dollar Consulting Hall of Fame®️ where inductees are regarded by peers as being among the world leaders in consulting, as evidenced by empirical accomplishments in client results, professional contributions, and intellectual property.
She hosts The Healthcare Leadership Experience, which is a podcast that empowers healthcare leaders to optimize their careers and healthcare organizations.
Miller received a BS degree in Business Administration from Eastern University in Pennsylvania and a Masters in Healthcare Administration from Seton Hall University in New Jersey. She is a member of the National Honor Society for Healthcare Administration — Upsilon Phi Delta and her book The Entrepreneurial Hospital is being published by Taylor & Francis in 2022.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I started working in healthcare sales right after I graduated college. I was working in operating rooms helping physicians and clinicians learn about the company I worked for and their tools. My role was to help them understand where there is waste, and where we can extricate unnecessary costs. I represented a large multinational company, selling products and becoming more and more familiar with how everything worked in the industry. It was an excellent opportunity to help hospitals manage their costs and waste while providing them with insights into saving 30 to 40 percent in expenses. The operating room, in particular, has the highest cost, and this is where I was able to apply myself and my knowledge in cost-effective solutions for hospital leaders. Essentially, my background working in hospitals and operating rooms directly led me to see those more significant opportunities in the healthcare industry, and VIE Healthcare Consulting was born from that.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
In 2008 there were five to six of us at VIE, and we did an excellent job at hospitals. We were becoming known on a larger scale as the company that specialized in reducing non-medical costs. It was then that a large academic center asked us to present what we could offer, and we were up against some of the largest consulting firms in the industry. We ended up beating all those companies, and they chose VIE. This was a massive milestone for me, as I never thought that we could do that, being such a small firm at the time. When you have those wins, you become motivated, and it opens up doors. We began working at larger systems, and the company was genuinely able to take off. We had our doubts initially because we thought they’d choose larger corporations. Still, I learned quickly that places like these academic centers prefer boutique companies as we can provide more detailed work catered solely to them. I’ve learned that if you are small but have expertise in a very niche area, it doesn’t matter what the size of the organization is. They might prefer you, so never downplay yourself.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I was first starting, I believed that giving people big titles accompanied by an above-average salary was smart. I thought this would help promote exceptional performance. This was probably the biggest mistake I made, as I never understood that giving someone a title does not mean that they will live up to it. A title isnt the vehicle to getting a high-performing person; it is more about who they are and their work ethic, rather than their job title.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Definitely my mom. When I started VIE, she was my first non-paid employee for a long time, and she was my back-office support. She kept my books, maintained my billing, did my accounting, and everything in between. She truly helped to keep me organized on the back end, so I could run my business and achieve the success I have today. I will always be grateful for her, as she had a full-time job and worked at our church, but she still found time, and she helped me so much. Helping me was her third job. She was so dedicated. I remember times when she maintained my fax machines at 2 AM to make sure I could rest for the day ahead of me. Her support helped me succeed and become who I am today.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high-stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I’m a big believer in walking, so I like to take walks and clear my mind if I have something stressful coming up. Walking allows me to think through scenarios and plan everything. It activates my mind and body, and it’s a moment for myself, by myself. It allows me to think differently and clearly. I like to walk, think and sometimes spend some time taking notes and getting prepped for what’s coming.
As you know, the United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality, and inclusion. This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so essential for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
I think it’s so important to have diversity and inclusivity in all organizations. One of my key points in the healthcare industry, in particular, is that patients and employees alike, want to see people that look like them in positions of leadership. This includes people of color and more women, as these essential groups of people contribute so much to society and understand perspectives that might be overlooked. It is necessary to align with people of diverse backgrounds and make sure they are heard and feel seen. Diversity adds different perspectives, which always makes a better leadership team, translating to a better organization. Our diverse styles are all unique and can provide a makeup where we all learn from eachother. For example, I was on a school board in my town, and we have a large Hispanic community; it was basically a 50–50 split, and while I’m of Spanish descent, I am not engaged in the same culture as the community. I wanted to give up my board seat to enable them to have a diverse set of board members, so the kids and parents can resonate with someone on the board. The parents and their comfortability, was important to me, to listen, collaborate, observe, and understand. You can’t assume; you need that representation.
As a business leader, can you please share a few steps we must take to create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society truly? Kindly share a story or example for each.
We have to look around and understand who is on our boards. We need more women and people of color on boards. We need to assess where we are and notice the pain points; we need diversity and an understanding of how to provide more for the community. You want to put people in successful positions and continue that pathway, so it’s not just a moment of success but rather a continuous eye on where we are and whether or not we are constantly evolving through our boards. Its skill development and support. We have to be able to have a goal and deliver on the mission. The vast majority of people need to have these conversations and understand the vision. It can be a complex assessment, and people might be closed off to these things, but challenging conversations are critical. It will make people uncomfortable, but thats okay. We have to provide the skills, support, and training, have the vision and have this pathway to grow our diversity and inclusion.
Okay, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words, can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?
The executive will set the course for where the focus is and where the resources go, which is an essential part of any organization. Further, they should support the growth of their team. Executives must look around and provide insights, care, and observation skills to help the team grow. This is how we can achieve success and improvement for organizations. It’s essential to provide resources that enable growth.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?
Sometimes people may think it’s a great title and comes with perks, but it’s more than a title. At times, there comes an aura that it’s all about the CEO, which is not valid. It’s more about the company, the employees, and the clients/consumers. It’s less about the CEO and more about the culture and what can be achieved with an effective leader.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I would say negotiations. Negotiations are a massive part of any business. Women are often undermined in the negotiation process because there are so many stereotypes attached to women and specific behaviors. These stereotypes hold us back, as they promote false stipulations that women cannot negotiate as a man can; it almost has an inverse effect. For example, if a woman is a hard-headed negotiator, she is perceived as aggressive. Still, if she is softer with her approach to negotiations, it means she cannot negotiate successfully because she cannot support her claims. In some instances, women get evaluated and judged by men and even women alike, which tend to hold us back rather than build us up. Negotiations are just a good context for this, but it happens in so many cases. It’s a balance of being assertive but understanding that we aren’t judged the same way as men are. Women face so many judgments, and we always have to think about these things, and we need to break that barrier down slowly. It needs to start with more women supporting one another and working collectively to disassemble patriarchal standards set by society that only serve men and bring down women. Simple business skills, like negotiations, should never have such strong judgments and character biases attached to them. It’s an equal playing field, and often that is forgotten.
What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?
I thought my job would be more focused on working with clients and creating new offerings while creating the vision, but it ended up being everything, to put it simply. I find that I do everything from A to Z, including but not limited to marketing, sales, managing my team, managing clients, and setting the standard of what VIE is. It’s never clean-cut, but being a leader comes with challenges, and I am always up for a challenge.
Do you think everyone is cut out to be an executive? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive? Can you explain what you mean?
I dont think everyone can be an executive because some people simply don’t want to be, and they dont want that responsibility. Some people like to be led and work best on plans, and we need people that way too. Good character traits of an executive include being self-motivated, driven, and having the ability not to innovate and bring a project from concept to completion promptly. Further, being a good communicator, that is collaborative and knows the importance of partnerships always wins. As an executive, you need to work well with others; it’s not about you. It’s about the business. You have to be comfortable with uncomfortable moments, and you have to learn to have hard conversations. A crucial skill is knowing how to navigate through tough times. People who don’t like taking ownership should avoid executive positions because it’s not always smooth sailing. You need to be willing to do what it takes for your business and team, regardless of the circumstances.
What advice would you give to other women leaders to help their team to thrive?
Women have to have more conversations with other women about helping eachother and climbing the ladder to success together. Women need to support and collaborate because we are in this fight against inequality together. How do we help eachother in careers? As team members, how can we support and be better women team platters for eachother? Specific skills can be developed together to help one another thrive.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
In my world, those who have worked with me have genuinely benefited from me, especially my team members. I support their growth, and I push them and challenge them to be better each day. I help them with thought leadership, education, professional development. I always ask myself how I can help them influence the world through VIE and what we do. This is what I strive to do. I like to help them accomplish more than they think they can, and I want to impact the people I work with and help them thrive. I additionally always support my community, through VIE, by helping schools, churches, and organizations that stand for something bigger.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- I didn’t need to be an expert, but I would have to learn all aspects of the business. I knew that asking questions is always a good thing and can help you navigate being a new business owner.
- You need to take your time hiring and be quick to fire — be diligent in recognizing when someone isn’t a proper fit because there’s a point at which trying and hoping doesn’t change a situation, but rather it will hold you and your business back entirely.
- Measuring and monitoring metrics is essential. Metrics speak volumes as to how your business is performing. They may not always be pleasant, but they showcase pain points and help you better understand where resources need to be allocated.
- Business is a thinking game, and you need to dedicate time to thinking about solutions. I wish I had known this earlier on. I always encourage brainstorming sessions and meetings where ideas can be bounced around to promote more diligent solutions to problems.
- You can have the best product or service, but marketing and positioning skills are essential. The best simply isnt enough for success. You need to do more than be the best, and you need to show people why and how you are the best and convince them to choose you over your competitors. A lot of work goes into this, and it is crucial for business owners to realize this early on.
You are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most good for the most significant number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The movement would be around more significant access to healthcare. I am a big believer in healthcare being every single human’s birthright. The movement I’d start would work towards simplifying healthcare through easy access, support, affordability.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is 10% of what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.” — John Maxwell.
It’s relevant because each day, we are all given challenges, and some are very difficult. However, we decide on how we will react — and what we can learn from it. Change is to be expected, but growth is our responsibility. We can decide on the meaning and reaction — and life can change immediately.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? They might just see this if we tag them.
Barbara Corcoran is such a fantastic entrepreneur — intelligent, gritty, triumphant and has given women the ability to hear and even model her own story of starting her business and now being a force for good.