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Departing Adventist Health CEO on the Health System's Impact, Next Steps

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman  
   August 19, 2021

Scott Reiner details his healthcare journey and how he strives to bring health and well-being to low-income countries.

Earlier this month, Scott Reiner, the CEO of Adventist Health, announced his upcoming departure from the health system. Reiner, who has led the nonprofit, faith-based system since 2014, will leave at the end of the year to establish a family foundation to focus on global health and well-being.

Well-being isn't a new focus area for Reiner. In April 2020, Adventist Health acquired Blue Zones®, an organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of communities across the globe and to transform the health system's approach to caring for the overall health and well-being of the communities it serves.

In October 2020, the West Coast-based health system announced the launch of its new Well-Being Division as a "breakthrough move to promote community well-being."

In a recent interview, Reiner shared how he strives to bring health and well-being across the globe to low-income countries with his family foundation and detailed what his healthcare career journey has looked like so far.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.

HealthLeaders: What has your healthcare career journey looked like over the years?

Scott Reiner: One of my first jobs was a nurse's aide in one of Adventist Health's hospitals in Northern California called Adventist Health St. Helena. I took a journey of completing my Bachelor's in Nursing at another Adventist Health hospital in Glendale, California, and had a chance to practice nursing for a few years.

I had opportunities shortly thereafter to progress into supervisor and manager [roles] that I had never anticipated that I would get into. I found it interesting to manage both clinical and business, and it struck a chord, so I went back to graduate school. I got a Master's in Health Administration, and then took on various responsibilities in for-profit healthcare [and] nonprofit. I did managed care contracting, ran physician groups, and then re-entered back in the hospital market in '94 or '95, and became a vice president of a hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

From there, it grew with progressive responsibilities, and I landed back in 1999 at Glendale, where I started as a nurse, as the CEO, and was there for about eight years. Then I was asked to come to the system office, little did I know at that point, as a progression for the CEO position. I [served as] COO for about four years and now I'm just finishing my eighth year as the CEO for Adventist Health.

HL: What are some of your favorite achievements and accomplishments you reached during your tenure as CEO?

Reiner: One of the greatest things I'm proud of is the amount of impact the organization has had. We established about eight years ago this idea that we wanted to double our impact, with the idea of impact being people that we can take care of, or new services we can render, or new communities that we can gain access to. Our organization is 83% government payer, so we're in some tough markets as far as socio economic levels, and so we take a lot of care of a lot of disadvantaged populations.

Over this course of time, we've doubled the number of contacts we've made, the number of patients we've seen, and revenue. We've added six new communities to our base and over 100 different clinics and access points to new services.

We've [also] moved the organization from what I call a "federation of hospitals" to an "operating model." The best part about that is we have achieved best in quality and safety for three or four years in a row now, and top quartile in operating performance. Quality and safety are important for the patient, and operating performance is important in order to sustain the income that we earn so we can send it back into our communities.

The journey we're on now is transforming the hospital system into a health company focused on well-being. It is this notion of saying "how can we improve both community and individual wellbeing?" Well-being is more than the absence of disease, it is also tackling other areas of socioeconomic conditions, access to new services, physical, mental, social, and even I'd say spiritual impact.

The pandemic has set a challenge, but I'm proud of how our system has responded. It's responded with patience and incredible resources, ingenuity, innovation in taking care of our communities.

HL: What goals do you hope to achieve for the health system by the end of the year?

Reiner: We have to do two things at once. We have to have the incredible care of our communities and the everyday care of our patients, and we have to launch our strategy, because I'm still here for the next six months and we'll continue to build the knowledge, and the energy, and understanding that the work toward well-being is what this country needs. It's what our communities need. It's not the absence of taking care of patients in the hospital, it's the addition of doing the other things that we've talked about.

HL: After you depart Adventist Health, your next chapter will be to "establish a family foundation that is focused on global health and well-being." What led you to that decision and what do you hope to accomplish with the foundation?

Reiner:  So, this has been something we've been thinking about as a family for a while. Myself and my family have been concerned about disadvantaged populations and the access they have, especially in low-income countries. My son, for example, has lived in Africa a couple different times and has a Master's in Global Public Health. My wife and I have spent quite a few times going overseas and looking into low-income countries and looking at what's not available for them.

There's enough data and financial resources in this country to fix ourselves if we wanted to. Now, that's a matter of will. I would say in some of these lower income countries, they may have great will, but they don't necessarily have all the funding to do the work.

What we're excited about with our foundation is to create a model, or work on models that exist, to improve well-being especially in rural-based communities and in low-income countries to this expression of living their best life. That is an altruistic goal, but it's a matter of improving their access to food, water, basic primary health, and basic primary education.

Then it's this idea of can you make a difference over a period of time with a community as a new model. Now we would call that community-based well-being. We're interested in trying that in a few communities outside of this country to see if in fact a model that could be replicable and approached and then caring for those communities.

For me personally, it's going to be interesting to get back to taking care of individuals. When you're running a large healthcare corporation, you do a lot of cool things at scale, but you don't always get to see the direct outcome to the individual. We're interested in getting to know those who we are directly helping.

[This is] separate from Blue Zones, but you may have an idea of a connection here. Blue Zones is a company that Adventist Health has acquired, and they became the framework for us to do well-being work. It's a proven model to change environments, change policy, and help people orient themselves toward a healthier lifestyle of well-being.

It's not the same company, but maybe we'll do some collaboration, because they're focused on the footprint of Adventist Health and North America. We're going to be in a different spot focusing on well-being in low-income countries. 

“What we're excited about with our foundation is to create a model, or work on models that exist, to improve well-being especially in rural-based communities and in low-income countries to this expression of living their best life. ”

Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.

Photo credit: Adventist health Bakersfield CA October 25 2020 / Editorial credit: Jason Taylor AG / Shutterstock.com


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