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Memorial Hermann CFO Brian Dean Talks Innovation and Growth

Analysis  |  By Jack O'Brien  
   June 08, 2018

After five years at Memorial Hermann, including time spent as CEO of their flagship medical center, Dean discusses his future goals with HealthLeaders Media.  

Since joining Memorial Hermann Health System in 2013, Brian Dean served as both CFO and CEO of Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, before his promotion last month to CFO of the entire system effective this August.

Related: Memorial Hermann Names New CFO, Sets Off Chain of Promotions

Dean spoke to HealthLeaders Media about ascending to the new role, the lessons he's learned in his years at the system, and the strategies he's pursuing to further strengthen the organization's finances.

The following transcript has been lightly edited.

HLM: What are some of your top priorities as you move into this new position?

Dean: Globally speaking, the industry is in a transformational stage. Traditional models of care delivery are changing in front of our eyes every day, and it's important to understand that consumers and physicians are on the front end of that care model as it's evolving. Memorial Hermann has been on the front end of industry change for over a decade and from a quality standpoint, I think we're viewed as a forward-looking, gold standard organization.  

There are probably three key stakeholders: physicians, consumers and our employees that are critical to [that success] and engaging them around a patient journey orientation. How consumers experience Memorial Hermann is going to look different in the future, and that's not only for [the system], but I think the national landscape as well.

HLM: After five years at Memorial Hermann, what have you learned and what are you bringing to the table in your new position?

Dean: I think there's a uniqueness in my background; I came up through the finance elements and spent the past three years on the operations side as CEO of our flagship facility and the busiest trauma center in the country. Living in that world brings a new appreciation and understanding around the complexity of what we do in healthcare. You're sitting in the environment where unique things [happen], like complex problem solving which is what large academic medical centers do, it's a part of their fabric and what they thrive on. Being able to translate those experiences in the CEO capacity to broader system perspectives and the approaches to how we deal with complex issues as our industry goes through transformation are important.

HLM: What are some specific financial challenges that you've seen affecting Memorial Hermann and other health systems in southeastern Texas? What strategies do you have in mind to adequately address them for your system?

Dean: The overarching thing that we as an industry are trying to do, and it's true here in Texas, is bring value to consumers. We deliver a very high-quality product and the outcomes speak for themselves at Memorial Hermann. That's something that didn't happen overnight, that was a cultural transformation under [former CEO] Dan Wolterman's leadership and carried forward under [current CEO] Chuck [Stokes'] leadership. If you're looking at data, Houston is one of the highest-cost markets from a Medicare standpoint. Value being quality over cost, our focus is determining how we can deliver the high-quality product that we have a long track record of and continue to do that in a more efficient way. We're on a journey to take out what is about $900 million of costs from our system and putting the physicians on the front end of that because nothing happens in a hospital without a physician order.

Related: The Interview: Memorial Hermann CEO Chuck Stokes

HLM: Can you explain the Breaking New Ground initiative and what that says about Memorial Hermann with regards to pursuing opportunities that may not have been there before?

Dean: When I first came to Memorial Hermann, the academic medical center had been struggling with capacity like many teaching hospitals around the country. With our strong relationship with the [University of Texas], a growing population, and status as one of the busiest Level I trauma centers, our board was gracious enough to embrace a $700 million dollar expansion at the medical center campus. That will give us another million square feet, 17 floors, new ORs, and greater inpatient capacity. I think that's a reflection of the commitment we have to serve the community because trauma programs are expensive to operate and there are only two level one adult trauma centers in Houston servicing 7 million people. We're three to four years into the actual construction and we'll be moving into the activation phase that will cut the ribbon in January of 2020.

HLM: What gives you hope as a healthcare leader about the industry's ability to transform itself?

Dean: What gives me hope are a couple of fronts. One, I think the industry knows we have a problem and it's an affordability question. If 20% of our economy is tied up in one sector, is that the right amount? I hear people saying this is an unsustainable model, so accepting that the industry has to evolve and change is what gives me hope. You see both at the healthcare delivery level, and even outside of the sector, the embrace of innovation and new technological advances that are different from what we've seen in the last 20 years. How care will be delivered going forward, that drives towards value so that we're delivering a quality experience, a quality outcome at an efficient cost, doesn't necessarily have to involve a physical asset. There are other ways to engage patients and consumers in that way. I tag innovation in our industry as a key ingredient going forward as we evolve.

Jack O'Brien is the Content Team Lead and Finance Editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

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