2008 Top Leadership Teams

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Winner: Scripps Health, San Diego, CA: Large Hospitals and Health Systems (500 or More Beds)

Teamwork Tips:

  1. Focus on the middle management of the organization.
  2. Delegate decision making to business units.

When Chris Van Gorder stepped into the CEO role at Scripps Health in 2001, he had his work cut out for him. His predecessor was forced to resign after receiving five votes of no confidence by the medical staff, the health system had lost $21 million, and morale was at an all-time low.

Van Gorder constructed a new management team (mostly from within the organization), and together they instilled a culture that focused on transparency, accountability, and teamwork. "Our individual hospitals probably spent more time competing with each other than they did with the outside world," says Van Gorder.

To foster a collaborative atmosphere between the system's five acute-care hospitals and other facilities, executives focused their efforts in the middle of the organization.

They created the physician leaders cabinet, which allows doctors and administrators to discuss operational issues. They also established the Scripps Leadership Academy, which accepts 25 managers annually for a monthly daylong seminar on healthcare leadership.

The Scripps team also decentralized operations by delegating decision-making to the business units closer to the patients. Under this new structure, each business unit became accountable for its budget, quality, satisfaction rates, and physician relations. The head of each business unit is also on the executive cabinet as a corporate senior vice president, so each leader is accountable for the success of their units and the organization's systemwide goals. "Each of our campuses in a way are sets of teams, and we all have to work together as a team to make the entire system come together and grow," Van Gorder says.

The results speak for themselves. In 2006, the system posted an operating margin of $129 million. Employees who rated Scripps as a great place to work increased from 58% in 2002 to 85% in 2007. And the percentage of docs who are satisfied with Scripps hospitals rose from 78% in 2003 to 86% in 2007.

Jim Stokes, senior partner at m21partners and a judge for the program, describes Scripps' leadership as having "outstanding stability, enthusiasm, and commitment." Not only did Scripps turnaround its operations, he says, but it has "strong platforms for sustainability."

—Carrie Vaughan

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