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New Spectrum Health CEO: Personalized Health Critical to Vision

Analysis  |  By Philip Betbeze  
   July 20, 2018

Tina Freese Decker rose through the ranks to lead the health system where she started her career. Now she takes over for an 18-year veteran.

Digital tools and access are means to an end for Spectrum Health's new CEO, Tina Freese Decker, who was named the Grand Rapids, Michigan health system's CEO on Tuesday. Freese Decker, who has been with Spectrum since 2002 in a variety of roles, was most recently executive vice president and chief operating officer of the 12-hospital, $6 billion (revenue) health system.

She'll start September 1 succeeding Richard Breon, who has led the system for 18 of its 20 years of existence, and who will retire August 31.

While she plans to develop a so-called 2030 vision plan with the system's board, other leaders, physicians, and employees, her initial goal for the health system is to further develop a philosophy of personalized health.

"I'm thrilled," she says. "I know this organization and I know our community, so I can move at a nimble pace. And because I’m connected with other organizations throughout the country, I know what the industry is facing, so I can be open to new strategies."

In a conversation about her new responsibilities, Freese Decker elaborated on what she's excited to bring forward in her tenure as the integrated delivery system's top leader:

  • The pieces are there:
    "I’ve been here 16 years in a variety of roles in strategy and operations. My goal has always been to lead a health system, and I really appreciate the opportunity that being an integrated health system presents."
  • Digital and virtual a means to an end:
    "Digital and virtual health interactions are really important because they feed a larger strategy of personalized health. We want to provide a convenient, high-quality, and affordable experience for individuals. Access points that are more convenient enable that personalized health approach."
  • Diversity of ideas feed effective strategy:
    "I plan to have listening tours and connect with all our sites to help enhance our culture of trust and transparency. I want input from the board, the community, physicians, nurses, and employees. I have some ideas for our 2030 vision, but I want this to be a process so all of us together are driving toward those goals. I'll continue rounding. It's important to be visible and engaged with our team and the people we serve, so we know the strategies we work on will actually make a difference."
  • Innovation acceleration:
    "We all know disruption is at our doorstep—accelerating [innovation's] pace and strategic growth opportunities are critical—and we have to make sure we’re empowering physicians and team members to engage in that process. Change is not an indictment of the past. Our approach needs to be more collaborative because we can create win-wins with partners. I want to see more of that to help solve the challenge of social determinants of health."
  • Mentors will be a resource:
    "Rick (Breon) is staying in Grand Rapids. He’s one of my mentors and will always be available for a phone call. I’ve seen his approach close up and that's helped me develop my own approach as a leader. Another key mentor is John Mosely (EVP, Special Projects at Spectrum), who's very different from Rick. What’s most important to me is distilling the focus to a partnership strategy and win-win solutions. I've also learned a lot from my parents. My dad owns a small business and his perseverance and loyalty is awesome, and my mother is so creative and dedicated. From her, I got a great model for working with people."

In her previous roles, all at Spectrum, Freese Decker led:

  • A $300 million transformation of Spectrum's care model, including an Epic installation
  • An operational efficiency project in operations across 12 hospitals and nearly 200 service sites
  • An integration of Spectrum Health’s business entities: Priority Health (health plan), its medical group and hospital group
  • A culture change by encouraging leaders and employees to embrace a spirit of curiosity and pursue innovation, and trust that they are supported
  • A virtual medicine strategy and implementation of MedNow (telehealth)


Philip Betbeze is the senior leadership editor at HealthLeaders.

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