CEO David Dill shares how being a national health system, having a strong organizational culture, and maintaining ongoing partnerships successfully guided LifePoint through the past year.
When the pandemic hit last year, LifePoint Health, a national health system with 89 hospitals across 29 states, was well-equipped to persevere through the worst of the pandemic.
By implementing system-wide communication measures, as well as instituting the strategic sharing of data, supplies, and staff, LifePoint was able to move resources to where they were needed most.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the Brentwood, Tennessee-based health system has also continued to operate with its mission in the forefront: Making Communities Healthier.
"We like to think of ourselves as the leader in the delivery of community-based healthcare," David Dill, CEO of LifePoint Health, said during a recent interview with HealthLeaders. "Community hospitals are such an important part of the backbone of the delivery system and it's never been more obvious than what we have lived through over the course of the last year."
Dill shares how being a national health system, having a strong organizational culture, and maintaining ongoing partnerships successfully guided LifePoint through the past year.
This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
HealthLeaders: What are some of the noteworthy lessons you learned from the pandemic?
David Dill: [The first lesson highlights] the benefits of being a system. We're relying on each other. That is something that is unique about our company and proved to be valuable.
The importance of partnerships is [lesson] number two. I cannot overemphasize how important partnerships are to our company. As evidence and research were changing, we were in constant contact with our partners to help take the most relevant and useful information, distill it in a [useful] manner and disseminate it out to our hospitals. That reliance on and importance of partnerships was emphasized throughout the pandemic.
[The final lesson] was the importance of culture. Our company's shared mission, vision, values, and guiding principles became a unifier during the pandemic. We focused on protecting our patients, protecting our people, and being the leaders in our communities.
Our mission statement is "making communities healthier." The mission statement and the culture of an organization will either get you through tough times, or it will be exposed in tough times. Our culture not only got us to this place but will be what leads us out of this pandemic.
HL: How has the pandemic affected quality initiatives across LifePoint Health facilities, and will these initiatives look different moving forward?
Dill: I am extremely proud that we were able to not only maintain our quality agenda, and the quality improvements that we had seen coming into the pandemic, but we were able to advance those.
[The pandemic] was a big pivot for us and took a significant amount of our time, but there's still quality to be delivered. Providing quality care at the bedside is our top priority and we have a strong foundation in a culture of quality and patient safety.
Our quality program [has] a strong foundation that we can build on. [Through] that continued focus on quality using the lens of our National Quality Program, we were able to advance that agenda even in the face of the pandemic. Our ability to maintain the improvement has reinforced the importance of standardization and evidence-based care. I wish we could move quicker in some of these areas, but we have made a lot of progress and will continue to make more progress. It's vitally important that we create more standardization and evidence-based care as we move forward.
Our National Quality Program is the framework that we use that ensures consistent, high standards of quality and care across the organization. That's important — it's not just a hospital in a certain geographic area, but at [a nationwide] scale. While [our] tactics may evolve as new evidence and leading practices emerge, we can use that framework to spread out that knowledge at scale and implement it.
[Moving forward,] I don't think it will look dramatically different, other than technology will change, evidence will change, research will change. We have strong clinical partnerships with academic medical centers around the country. In fact, we'll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of our Duke/LifePoint partnership. That partnership was founded on developing a quality program that we could spread out across the organization. Since we launched that with Duke, we have other academic medical center partners with Emory University, the University of Washington, Billings Clinic, and other nonprofit partners.
HL: What did the coordination of supplies, including PPE, ventilators, and staff look like between LifePoint's hospitals during the pandemic?
Dill: One of the benefits of our company, and one of the strengths that we add to the communities that we serve, is we're a system. We have insights and we have scale across  states.
We had some hospitals early on that were seeing few patients, and then we had a couple of early hotspots where we had to make sure that they had ample supply chain. That involved moving some equipment between different states and different facilities. Having an operational function that's centralized is vital and proved critical to our response.
Through our supply chain efforts early on in this pandemic, we created a new warehouse in Tennessee so that while product was being shipped to our hospitals, we were able to go out into the market and secure additional product and warehouse that. We still have some of those supplies in a warehouse that we'll continue to store up.
In April, we were also invited to participate in a meeting at the White House with [President Trump,] where we, alongside other leading health systems, developed a dynamic ventilator program and a virtual inventory of ventilators. The thought process was that [our country] probably has enough ventilators, they're just in the wrong place. So, if we have unused ventilators, we can loan those to the federal government, which can move those to strategic locations with the promise on the backend that [the ventilators] would move back to our hospitals when we needed them.
We were also able to move staff around. It's hard to take care of patients if you don't have nurses and skilled technicians in the right place at the right time. We had caregivers in certain parts of our country that raised their hand to say, "We have capacity here. We're not filling up with patients yet. I know there are other hospitals in need, I'm willing to get on a plane, leave my family, and go help."
HL: What initiatives will be implemented in 2021 to fulfill LifePoint's mission?
Dill: We are focused on continuing to further build our platform for the delivery of community-based care.
We'll continue to extend the mission and the footprint of the company through partnerships, joint ventures, and additional hospitals being added to the system. One area that I think you'll see us pivot to in a big way is around digital health. It has been on our roadmap for several years and COVID significantly accelerated that roadmap.
Some of the capabilities that we are bringing to the table for patients and for our communities across the country is integrated online scheduling tools for both in-person and telehealth visits. We're deploying this technology in our hospitals with on-demand telehealth services, virtual check-in, virtual waiting room options for on-site care to enhance safety, and a patient portal that provides 24-hour access to all their information.
Between growing in every one of our markets through digital health, connecting with patients a different way, and growing the footprint of hospitals, we're going to come out of this pandemic.
Our history shows that we know how to be good partners in these communities and will stay committed to our mission of making communities healthier.
“The mission statement and the culture of an organization will either get you through tough times, or it will be exposed in tough times.”
— David Dill, CEO, LifePoint Health
Melanie Blackman is the strategy editor at HealthLeaders, an HCPro brand.
Photo credit: LifePoint Health North Alabama Medical Center in Florence, Alabama. Photo courtesy of LifePoint Health
LifePoint Health utilizes a National Quality Program as the framework to ensure consistent, high standards of quality and care across the nation.
CEO David Dill said that being a large health system, relying on partnerships, and having a strong culture were some of the main drivers for remaining successful during the pandemic.