Stephen C. Reynolds, President and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation
Stephen C. Reynolds, President and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation

Stephen C. Reynolds, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation
Today’s healthcare leaders have an increasing responsibility to adjust and be more efficient in the rapidly changing world of healthcare delivery. Memphis Medical News is beginning a “Leaders in Healthcare” series to give leaders, from hospital CEOs to practice managers to department heads, a forum to express their strategy and vision for evolving with the industry now and into the future.

Baptist Memorial Hospital opened in downtown Memphis nearly 100 years ago, in 1912. Since then it has grown into one of the largest integrated health systems in the U.S. and the largest in the tri-state area. President and CEO, Stephen C. Reynolds has served since 1994, but he’s been in the Baptist system in one form or another for 37 years, since he began working in the laundry room of Baptist Little Rock, amid the encouragement of his mother who volunteered there. He has seen the system advance through the years, garnering national recognition, and has long been involved in local and national collaborations to discover new ways for improving care, and ultimately progress the Baptist system.

What are some of the key areas of the Baptist organization close to your heart?

One thing I’m particularly interested in is our residential hospice that is in development right now on the campus at Baptist Collierville. It (offers) a home-like setting in the latter stages of life. (MMN: The new 24-bed residential Baptist Trinity Hospice and bereavement center at Baptist Collierville broke ground this fall. Baptist has raised $10 million of the $12 needed.) That is something very near and dear to me personally and my wife and we’re supporting it in a significant way because we’ve both been advantaged by the hospice services in our home. But I also realize that for some people (in home) is not the best. We’ve examined this nationwide and have come up with some wonderful modifications.

There are many challenges facing healthcare today – manpower issues, financial concerns, as well as the growing burden of caring for chronic conditions. How are you handling these challenges

Health manpower is a challenge for all healthcare institutions in this community. We have actions underway to address it (by) investing in colleges. We are moving the college of nursing from Jackson to Oxford. We are not just limiting our support to the Baptist college. We support many universities across all states (big and small).

We’re in an environment where half of our patients are Medicare patients, and a large percentage Medicaid, which means we have to be more efficient or reduce services that we normally offer.

A statement made a long time ago by a hospital CEO in Chattanooga (says it best), “In order to have a mission, you have to have a margin.” That is important. We have to try to make sure that we’re being smart about the care we deliver, and we realize we have to have a margin in order to continue that mission.

A larger thing important to me is our focus on quality of care, and that is really making a difference in people’s lives and being accountable to patient’s, their families, all the people who pay for care. We want to measure ourselves against other good healthcare providers in the country and say, “What are you doing to make it better?” It really requires a team effort to do that.

You often speak of the importance of collaboration in healthcare. Why is collaboration so important and what are some ways Baptist collaborates locally and nationally?

Locally, one of the outstanding examples is our efforts to prepare for disasters. In this community, all the hospitals have come together - since 1971 or before – to conduct community wide disaster drills. Another good collaboration is the patient helicopter transfer program. Instead of having competing helicopter services, we all came together – Baptist, Methodist, the MED – and own the helicopter service. We gave land to the Memphis Bioworks Foundation. This is an asset. We want to be a part of what is developed there. We support surgery centers (such as) the Hamilton Eye Institute, a collaboration between Baptist, Methodist and UT. We sponsor labs and collaborate in the research community. We work in our different states – Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee – to collaborate on how we can improve care of the less fortunate, and improve distribution.

It think it’s important to listen to the people we serve, and listen to the people who provide us direction – boards and community leaders, federal and state governments.

Broader view collaboration in healthcare is important across the country. This is where we really do sit around the table and say, “What are you doing that works? What does work?” I’ve been involved with a number of groups to try to develop more efficient ways to provide healthcare and how to improve quality of care. I am the chairman of the Healthcare Institute, a think tank of 25 CEOs of major healthcare organizations who come together twice a year to improve care. That gives me the opportunity to sit with CEOs from Cedars Sinai, Baylor Health Systems, and many other outstanding healthcare organizations, where we share ideas.

How is Baptist moving forward in the technology age?

As we look at the expense of this great technology, we do work with physicians and other clinical leaders to say, “What can we do to make things better for our patients, and what does equipment cost and what is the return?” We’re really on the verge of having some great improvements in automation, features that will be available to improve our ability to communicate what physician and other clinical staff members prescribe for patient care. This is a pretty dramatic change and we’ve tried not to be a pioneer in the change but a fast follower, and learn from other organizations, their successes and failures. We are in the process of doing things – it will take longer than we thought. We’ve made an enormous investment in the Baptist clinical documentation program.

One of the things we’ve done to help patients understand the financial side of healthcare, we’ve put an online service in place, like an estimator. This would be good if you’re buying a home or car, but healthcare is so complex. We tried to remove some of the complexity out of this so that you could understand what your insurance covers, what your out-of-pocket expense is so you can plan.

The country is in a time when public reporting and pay-for-performance are restructuring the shape of healthcare. What will the next generation of healthcare leaders have to face?

I put the Unites States leagues ahead of any other health system in the world. I think we will get there (with pay-for-performance) and we are trying to prepare for that. I think that’s a worthy goal. Some look at (public reporting) as a challenge. I see it as an opportunity for us to help the general population better understand what healthcare is all about. I see in the future, we’re going to move more to the corporations and say, “Here’s a menu, and here’s what we perceive to be quality healthcare organizations, hospitals and physicians – you choose.” Some people fear that, but we do not. People deserve to know more about their care and we need to do a better job of communicating that.