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5 Hospital CEOs Who Get It

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, October 13, 2010

Hospital CEOs have been getting a lot of bad press lately—and not necessarily ill-deserved. In fact, HealthLeaders Media Editor John Commins chronicled the personal faux pas of several hospital leaders in his September column, Executives Gone Wild: Paying the Price for Personal Conduct. But for every CEO who tarnishes his or her hospital's name, there are hundreds who should be hailed for their dedication to healthcare . Here's a look at five chief executives who are going beyond the call of duty to improve patient and employee satisfaction.

Cindy Kreutz, President and CEO, Spalding Rehabilitation Hospital, Denver, CO
When a colleague asked Kreutz to compete in a sprint triathlon, Kreutz thought the idea was crazy.

"I consider myself a recreational athlete so I'm not in awful shape, but I thought I couldn't do it," she said in the October issue of HealthLeaders magazine. (She may be the only executive to have graced the Personalities page wearing spandex, by the way.)

But Kreutz did compete, and for the past six years she's been trying to convince hospital employees to participate with her. Last year, she upped the ante by offering to pay the $100 registration fee for each entrant. The first year, 27 people signed up. This year, the number increased to 32.

"We're a rehab hospital, so you see really catastrophic things every day that happen to people," she said. "Our motto is 'Rebuilding Lives, Renewing Hope,' and you never know when the ability to be active might be taken away from you. My goal is [for] people to enjoy and live a healthy lifestyle."

It's commendable that Kreutz paid the triathlon entry fee out of her own pocket, but it's her demonstrated interest in the health and happiness of her employees that really counts.

Jim Dague, CEO, Goshen (IN) General Hospital
Dague is another hospital CEO who knows how to put his money where his mouth is—or rather, his buzzer where his hair is. The 143-bed hospital exec told his employees that if they found a way to shave$3.5 million off the budget, he'd do the same to his head.

Hospital employees submitted more than 4,500 cost-saving ideas, including renegotiating contracts, receiving grants, or changing materials. One worker suggested changing the type of napkin used on patient trays, which saved $4,000, and switching from disposable paper gowns to cloth gowns in the GI department, which saved $22,000.

Employees wound up cutting more than $7 million from the budget.

"And so I've got no choice but to live out my word," Dague told the local NBC affiliate in January. "In the last year, when our community has been besieged by economic conditions, we've kept it outside the hospital."

It may have started off as a simple gesture, but Dague's bet certainly got employees involved in cost saving initiatives to the hospital's benefit. A $7 dollar haircut in exchange for $7 million in savings? Not a bad return on investment.

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4 comments on "5 Hospital CEOs Who Get It"


Todd (10/20/2010 at 4:11 PM)
pmckenney, I would suggest not accepting Medicare or Medicaid as a way reduce cost. By not accepting loss leader patients, the hospital can reduce what it charges private payers and INCREASE revenue! See what the Mayo Clinic is doing in Arizona.

pmckenney (10/15/2010 at 6:25 PM)
Commenter "Bluetooth" appears to have missed the entire point of this article. The CEO's were not trying to "attack the heart of the problem with the health care crisis" - and they deserve commendation for trying to address customer service and staff/patient satisfaction. As for healthcare costs, I'd appreciate Bluetooth's suggestions on how hospital CEO's might dramatically reduce charges for tests and services - while still making payroll and maintaining facilities. Hospitals must improve efficiency, increase safety and quality and become transparent about costs. However, until our payment systems are radically reformed, most hospitals are at the mercy of Medicare/Medicaid and large commercial insurers. Innovations such as ACO's hold promise, but must be designed well and piloted to see if they will work outside of highly-integrated systems such as Geisinger or Kaiser.

bluetooth (10/14/2010 at 6:28 PM)
Arranging the Chairs on the Deck of the Titanic. Yawn. No, these CEOs really DON'T get it, despite their babledom as reported here. Until the cost of care comes down, we aren't really attacking the heart of the problem with the healthcare crisis – IT'S THE COST OF CARE, STUPID!! We'll know they "get it" when we see dramatic reduction in fees, from bandages, to MRIs, to per-day charges.