2008 Top Leadership Teams

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Winner: Griffin Hospital, Derby, CT: Community and Midsize Hospitals (100-499 Beds)

Teamwork Tips

  1. Get staff to see patients' point of view.
  2. Use broad-based research to design patient-friendly facility.

Griffin Hospital's senior leadership team is a close knit group—five of its members have worked together for nearly 30 years, and the others have years of service ranging from four to 25 years. Under the leadership of CEO Patrick Charmel, the executive team transformed a struggling 160-bed community hospital to a thriving and nationally recognized healthcare facility for its Planetree patient-centered care model.

Griffin Hospital is located in Connecticut's most competitive healthcare market, with Yale New Haven Hospital and six other large hospitals within a 15-mile radius. The region has also seen an influx of younger, more affluent residents who have high expectations for healthcare services. In the late 1980s, Griffin wasn't meeting that standard. It had the oldest physical plant in the state, was losing market share, and couldn't recruit or retain employees or physicians.

Senior leadership decided to transform the organization's culture into a patient-centered model that involves and empowers the entire staff. To achieve its goal, all employees attended "Griffin Days," which asked them to describe their ideal hospital experience. Now, every employee attends a two-day, overnight retreat designed to help them see the hospital from the patient's viewpoint. Vice President Bill Powanda says achieving an exceptional patient experience means moving past a "normal" work effort. "It has to start in the parking lot and end in the parking lot, and every employee has to be part of that effort," Powanda says.

Griffin also used corporate market research techniques like focus groups and community perception surveys to design its new facility to better meet patients' needs. The leadership team had to navigate a tough regulatory climate to earn approval for the facility, which features residential kitchens for patients and families, decentralized nursing stations for every four beds, and 24-hour visitation for its critical-care unit.

Although Griffin Hospital still faces the same competitive challenges, it boasts a much different profile. Admissions have grown 34% from 1999 to 2006. Its net patient revenue increased from $68 million in fiscal year 2000 to $111 million in FY 2007. And for the past nine years, it has been named by Fortune magazine as one of the 100 best places to work.

—Carrie Vaughan

Winner: Lakewood Health System, Staples, MN: Small Hospitals (Less Than 100 Beds)

Teamwork Tips

  1. Strengthen unity with physicians.
  2. Create "visioning teams" for community input.

The senior leadership team at Lakewood Health System, a 25-bed critical-access hospital, has established a culture that focuses on open communication, innovation, personalized service, and ownership and integrity. Trust has also played a key role in the success of organization—trust between the administration and physicians, the hospital and community, the trustees and senior leaders, and the executive team and employees.

Prior to 1997, the hospital and physician clinic were separate entities that were independently providing care to the community. Soon outside organizations were looking to buy the clinic. The hospital's senior leadership worked to ensure that the two organizations could work together as a team, and the hospital and clinic successfully merged in 1997. Tim Rice, president and CEO, says the merger with the physicians really advanced the team culture. "It aligned our incentives," he says. "The culture represents all of us—not just the management team but all employees and physicians--and our passion for caring for people."

When Lakewood determined that the best way to meet the needs and expectations of its community was by building a new hospital rather renovating the existing plant, it took just six months to get the physicians, trustees, employees, and the community on board.

The hospital established "visioning teams," which included employees from all areas of the facility and members of the community, that received input and ideas about what the facility should include both physically and culturally. Rice also hit the road to conduct additional community meetings and garner support for the $42 million facility. In fact, 87% of area residents were willing to take on the risk of being taxed to cover the cost of project.

However, senior leadership eliminated the need to tax the community by converting to critical-access status and increasing its net income nearly 300% from 2000 to 2007. "What's amazing is the vast array of services that this management team has developed in a town with a population of 3,200 residents," says Casey Meza, CEO of St. Mary's Hospital & Clinics and Clearwater Valley Hospital & Clinics in Idaho and a TLT judge. Lakewood offers chemotherapy, OB/GYN services, a 16-bed Alzheimer's unit, and a 10-bed inpatient senior behavioral health unit.

—Carrie Vaughan

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