GREENFIELD — Transplanting a family across multiple state lines to take the helm of a regional hospital would be a challenging proposition under any circumstances, but the new CEO at Hancock Regional Hospital arrived to find a number of irons already in the fire.
With a $10.4 million cancer care facility under construction for a spring 2015 opening; an ozone-based biowaste treatment facility coming online; and a collaboration that will bring a long-term acute care facility to the county, Steve Long has a lot to grasp and understand from the outset.
“That’s one of the awesome things about Hancock Regional: In addition to being a great facility, the executive team is just wonderful. They’ve got it nailed, and this is probably the best-balanced board (of trustees) I’ve ever seen,” Long said.
Board members say they are equally pleased with Long’s arrival, saying the new 48-year-old CEO is working hard to meet everyone and come up to speed.
“I don’t think we could be happier at this point,” said board chairman Jim Miller. “He’s getting along well meeting people, and I think he’s going to be a good fit.”
“He’s been busy, and we are excited about having him here,” said board member Dianne Osborne. “We had an extremely large pool of candidates, but Steve just stood out from the beginning.”
Prior to his arrival in Greenfield, Long served as president and CEO of Skiff Medical Center in Newton, Iowa, an independent, 48-bed full-service municipal hospital with an annual budget of approximately $38 million.
While there, Long developed a partnership with a medical imaging company to upgrade the hospital’s radiology department; brought the hospital’s core measure quality scores into the top 10 percent nationally; and implemented a partnership to develop a regional medical laboratory serving hospitals in central and eastern Iowa.
Before assuming that position in 2010, Long served in a variety of leadership and administrative health-care roles, including chief administrative officer of Aurora Medical Center in Two Rivers, Wisconsin; vice president of Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee; and CEO of Select Specialty Hospital in Davenport, Iowa.
Though he brings a 20-year career in a variety of health-care leadership roles, Long says the industry is currently undergoing a paradigm shift that will permanently change the way hospitals and other health-care providers generate revenue and, in fact, even the way the industry thinks about itself.
“Right now, our health-care system is a sick-care system,” Long said.
Hospitals currently generate revenue by filling beds, performing procedures and reacting episodically to patients’ needs on a fee-based volume system.
Those that handle the health-care purse strings, however, are moving toward a value-based pay system that will reward and incentivize providers for keeping people healthy.
Though the value-based destination is still years down the road, hospitals are trying to adjust now to meet the change. They will have to be capitalized and financed well for the transition, and the way institutions approach caregiving will have to shift away from relying on treatment to prevention and wellness.
“It’s my personal belief that it’s going to be all about primary care providers, case managers and navigators to help people get through the system and data to find out who is at risk so we can help them,” he said.
As the industry moves through the transition to equilibrium, hospitals will see their patient-generated revenues begin to flatten out even as the patient population grows.
In order to navigate the waters, Long said Hancock Regional will continue to strengthen its primary care physician network to emphasize wellness and prevention.
Moving forward, Long wants to maintain and strengthen the hospital’s brand as a local resource for county residents to turn for their health care and continue finding ways to meet the fundamental changes that are coming in the industry.
“It might be easy to get on the interstate and drive to Indianapolis, but it’s really important for people to use us and really think about us as a treasured resource in the community,” he said.
With significant changes coming in how hospitals generate their revenue, Long said continuing to seek new and alternative income streams away from the hospital’s core business will be crucial to bridging the shift that is coming.
And the hospital, he said, is well positioned to meet the challenge, due largely to past leadership’s ability to look into the future.
“We’re in as good a position as you could hope to be in,” he said. “And that’s primarily due to Bobby Keen and his leadership over the last 20 years.”
But Long said there is more to health care than facilities, finances, professionals, procedures, records and data.
“It’s a business, but it’s not a business,” he said. “It’s a calling. We are there for people sometimes during the worst times in their lives. They’re having a major health issue; they’re having trouble figuring it out.
“And we have the chance to help.”