Friday, January 30th. That’s the day I will retire from OSF Saint Francis Medical Center after a 34-year career—17 as president and CEO. I announced my retirement in June, but agreed to stay until my replacement was picked and settled. Now that the transition’s nearly complete, it’s time for a few reflections.
No Mission, No Margin
I have always appreciated working for a ministry where the guiding philosophy is contrary to conventional wisdom. Many healthcare organizations subscribe to the “no margin, no mission” view of the world. For the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, it’s the exact opposite: “no mission, no margin.” It’s a commitment on which our Sisters never waver, and it has guided my decisions every day.
Now, some days I leaned on that guidance extra-hard. I’ve seen OSF Saint Francis through many financial changes: from the prospective payment system to DRG reimbursements, through the Balanced Budget Act, and now, all of the changes with the Affordable Care Act. All of these forced us to change the way we do business while continuing to provide the highest level of patient care. I’ll admit, at times it wasn’t easy, but it was necessary, and we continued to be successful.
Healthcare is the most regulated industry in the country, with new regulations and standards put in place on a yearly basis, it seems. And under the Affordable Care Act, the goal is to keep patients healthy and out of the hospital. All of this combined brings deep concerns that hospitals across the country will continue to close due to decreasing operating margins and more costly rules and regulations. It’s no longer about volume; it’s about value. OSF HealthCare is continuously working to create that value, regardless of the reform or regulation. Healthcare costs must be reduced while improving the patient experience.
I was fortunate to be CEO during an era of tremendous growth in healthcare technology. As expensive as some of that technology was—and is—it’s actually helped reduce the cost to patients. We installed the first lithotripter, a non-surgical way to dissolve kidney stones, in Illinois in 1985. Patients would go home after just two or three days and be back to work in a week, versus the typical six-to-eight week layoff. The Sisters continue to support our physicians with cutting-edge technology, as we now have three da Vinci surgical robots and new CT and MRI diagnostic tools, with a new intraoperative MRI coming this spring—very exciting stuff that will continue to benefit our patients.
I have been grateful to be part of a team that established tertiary and quaternary services at OSF Saint Francis, including a Level I trauma center; Children’s Hospital of Illinois; the Life Flight medical air ambulance; exclusive cyber and Gamma knife technology and Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) to treat various forms of cancer; organ transplant services; and the Jump Trading Simulation and Education Center.
Developing a business model of market differentiation means we are much more than a tri-county hospital. We reach 34 counties and touch the lives of 2.1 million people who now don’t have to travel to Chicago, St. Louis or Indianapolis for highly unique sub-specialty medical care—it’s right here in their own backyard. Without this value-added proposition, OSF Saint Francis would not have enjoyed the growth—and expansion of services—that it has. There would have been no Gerlach or Milestone buildings or the Center for Health – Route 91. We couldn’t have justified that expansion without the development of regional relationships and subsequent growth.
OSF Saint Francis and Children’s Hospital are well-positioned as the flagships of the OSF HealthCare Ministry, now at 10 hospitals (and counting). I am excited so many facilities want to join our mission, which, in turn, allows smaller hospitals the viability and sustainability to continue to serve their communities.
I am proud of the positive impact OSF Saint Francis has had and continues to have on the Peoria-area economy. Not only have we provided major construction projects (well over $600 million) for the building trades, the Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates that every visitor from outside the area spends about $137 per day while in Peoria. With one third of our patients coming from outside the Tri-County Area, the annual impact is about $8 to $9 million a year if each of those patients has just one visitor, and we know it’s most often more than that.
The Next Chapter
Looking back, I have no regrets—it’s been a great experience. I do wish I had paid more attention to the possibility of allocating more dollars to research in conjunction with the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. We train more than 200 doctors a year at OSF Saint Francis, and while research opportunities exist, it could and should be more. The Jump Sim Center will help fill that need.
I will miss coming to and leaving work every day knowing that I have been part of a team that makes a difference in people’s lives, particularly the sick and injured. Our Sisters never made a promise to be successful; they made a promise to be faithful, to serve all who come to them in need. With $134 million in uncompensated care last year, I think we’re fulfilling that mission.
I look forward to spending time with my wife, Cathy, our four children and 14 grandchildren. We’re one of those families that looks forward to spending time together, and I am looking forward to having more time to do things at a leisurely pace.
My last day in the office will be Friday, January 30th. I will walk out the doors of OSF Saint Francis and move on to the next chapter of my life.
I am not a goodbye guy. To me, it’s about the memories you make—and have made—along the way. There are no goodbyes to memories. iBi