EDITOR’S NOTE: Today’s post is the last in a current series of blogs that John has written over the past several months regarding small-rural community hospitals. These organizations are one of his passions in healthcare. John’s experience supporting community hospitals dates to his work at Affiliated Hospitals, part of Hermann Hospital in Houston, which helped those facilities survive as locally owned institutions. In addition to his work as a marketing consultant and recruiter, John also served as interim CEO for hospitals in Port Lavaca, Edna, Hallettsville and Jacksboro.
The challenges are significant – a shifting regulatory climate, a decline in reimbursement, and the reshuffling of the business model from one that relied on inpatient admissions to a new paradigm built around population health management. And the pay is not that great either.
A good board is one that is devoted to ensuring that their hospital thrives in these new market conditions. The members are passionate advocates for quality, safety and best-in-class service, while making the hospital a trusted healthcare resource that local residents will use. They understand the importance of operating a hospital that is respected and financially viable to the community’s long-term economic viability.
More than anything else, truly savvy board members know full well that the rural community hospitals that did fail, died not the result of one bad business event, but a thousand cuts — poor decisions, weak leadership, strategic mistakes and a steady loss of public support.
A local retail businessman who serves on the hospital board but fails to make the connection between the community’s overall economic health and his local business — whether it is a bakery, drug store, dry cleaners or hardware store — is, in reality, an enabler. Without pouring 100 percent of their civic service passion into making the hospital better and more successful, they are enabling the daily, weekly or monthly cuts that, over time, will result in closure.
In my 20 years of working with rural and community hospital board members as an executive recruiter and consultant, I have made a list of five characteristics of the best-in-class governing boards:
- They Set Priorities – They put the community’s needs first, believing that the hospital and its medical staff are central to building and sustaining a strong and healthy community. They pay great attention to quality of care, patient safety and satisfaction data.
- They Value Education – They have a thirst for education so that they can make the best decisions possible for their community. They never, ever use the excuse that they are not healthcare experts.
- They Are Prudent But Not Cheap — They are conservative fiscally but they are not cheap. They recognize that investing in personnel — top executives, managers and physicians — as well as the latest in technology and diagnostic equipment is central to building and sustaining the public’s trust.
- They Do Not Look For The Easy Way Out — They are not stampeded into decisions by fast fads like mergers or strategic affiliations that can create a false sense of urgency and misguided options that are more about a larger health system’s priorities than the needs of the local community. They know once they give up ownership, the community loses control.
- They Work As A Team — They check their egos at the door. They understand that good governance requires teamwork, passion, shared values and a common purpose.
Sometimes civic leaders complain that their town does not afford them any advantages in recruiting top talent. Sonora, Texas continues to prove that theory is wrong.