People who aren’t in the business often think that bigger is always better, and that it was just a matter of time before I wanted to go work for a big system. ·I have a long runway of work life left, and who knows what the future holds for me, but I can assure you that bigger isn’t always better, and the grass isn’t always greener.
An announcement a few weeks ago by one of our big-system competitors caused me to reflect on this a bit.· In an instant, it became crystal clear to me why I like working in independent community hospitals:
- We exist to serve a community.· Our community… not somebody else’s.· Our span is narrow enough - a community or a county - where we can form relationships with our community.
- I like working for a board.· I like working for our board.· I like that our board is representative of our community.· I don’t want somebody that lives somewhere else telling us what is best for our hospital and our community.
- I think it is best that the leaders of large, community assets actually reside in the community that the asset serves.· This doesn’t have to be the case, but it sure helps.
- I like the fact that the hospital belongs to a community and not a corporation.
- I like the fact that it is family and friends taking care of family and friends.
- I like that my office is actually in a hospital.· Sure we are a business…a really big business…the biggest in our county outside of Honda and Scotts Miracle-Gro, but I like that daily reminder of why we are here.· Nothing brings what we do into perspective quicker than actually hearing the Code Blue called overhead, or hearing the chimes go off when a baby is born.· My former boss, Tom Miller, who was the CEO of the Lutheran Health Network in Fort Wayne, talked about this all the time.· Even though he oversaw a system of six hospitals, he didn’t feel like a hospital administrator unless he actually came to work at a hospital…not a building downtown or in the suburbs.
- I like that our organization has a moral obligation to help and participate in all things that are important to our community—whether they are health-care related or not.· I like knowing that our success is directly tied to the community’s success, and to some degree, vice versa.
- I like the fact that we are a large economic driver for our community.· Knowing that thousands of people rely on our performance for their livelihoods is very powerful, and it raises the bar for us to continuously improve.
- I like knowing the names of most of the people that work at the hospital.· I need to do better and learn them all, but I feel that knowing as many of them as possible makes me a better leader.· Knowing them makes it personal when I have to make tough decisions.· I still need to do what is best for the hospital and the community, but we are an organization of people, and those people are critical to our success and need to be duly considered.
- I like that the profits we make are re-invested in our own organization and community.· I don’t want a handout from anyone else, and I don’t want our profits supporting a hospital in another community that we don’t have an interest in.
- I like that if I want to keep my job and my board agrees I can continue to work here without worrying about being relocated, downsized, systemized or “promoted” to some other location in Southeastern Ohio or South Dakota.· I like the consistency of leadership that our model can offer.
- I like that we have influence over all aspects of the hospital: HR, purchasing, IT, finance, managed care.· I don’t want some desk jockey on the 3rd floor downtown telling me that I hit my numbers, but did it the wrong way.· Here, we can shape our organization to be exactly what we would like it to be.
As the healthcare reform debate rages on, we’ll hear more and more about bigger being not only better, but necessary for survival.· I think, for the most part, there is some truth to that. But I would sure hate to see hospitals become just like other corporations.· Like schools, a hospital can be a focal point for a community’s identity.· It is a large community asset, and the relationship with the community is important.· Nobody is going to care more about Marysville and Union County than people that live in Marysville and Union County.
Big systems serve an important role, but community hospitals do too.· We can’t be all things to all people, and we don’t try to.· But we can be very, very good at what we do.· And if we provide great quality with great service at a price that is reasonable, I think people would rather receive care here than drive thirty minutes to receive care somewhere else.