We introduce our new podcast by sitting down with Chief Executive Officer Gerard Colman and Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Jody Prather, MD. The leaders reflect on the past year and reveal expansion plans for 2020 and beyond.
Colman also shares what he feels is more crucial than the bottom line, the importance of staff development, and how he starts and ends each workday.
Dr. Prather discusses new services the health system is investing in, explains what the terms “access” and “ambulatory” mean for patients, and speaks to his love for sports.
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Kerri: Hey, guys, we’ve got a great episode for you today. I’m Kerri, the host of the new HealthTalks NOW podcast brought to you by Baptist Health. As we embark on 2020 we’re taking a few moments to sit down with Baptist Health System CEO Gerard Colman and Dr. Jody Prather, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, to not only reflect on where we’ve come but to discuss where we’re going. I think what you’ll hear over this episode are some aggressive goals and plans, but our commitment to you, our patient, to provide care and service to go beyond what is expected. Hope you enjoy.
Kerri: We are here with a special guest today, Gerard Colman, Chief Executive Officer of Baptist Health. And as we framed out this podcast, we looked at a playoff of I think the most obvious of the 2020 marketing scheme that any optometrist would jump at, is a 2020 vision. Before we look forward and plan for the new year, it’s a good time to reflect, so we wanted to take an opportunity to interview both yourself and Dr. Jody Prather for this episode. Will you first share with us, do you have any New Year’s resolutions that you can tell our listeners?
Gerard Colman: Yeah, that’s a great question. I usually don’t fulfill the obligation of a resolution. They’re loose at best, and I think this year the resolution I’ll probably come up with is to try to eat more healthy because I have a challenge with that.
Gerard Colman: I love French fries like everybody else and I’ll try I think to keep it to no deep-fried foods will probably be my resolution for this year. And I’ll do my best to keep it, but as I said, usually after a couple of months I’ll slip right back.
Kerri: That’s hard to do in Kentucky.
Gerard Colman: It is, it is, especially around where I live. So it’s going to be difficult, especially with kids and they love their Chick-fil-A and fast food, which is all delicious, so that’d be fun for me.
Kerri: It’s been two years or so that you’ve lived in this region after moving here from Milwaukee. What’s your impression of Kentucky and Southern Indiana?
Gerard Colman: You know, I got to say for me and my family, we love it here. It’s amazing. The impression I have is that it’s a very warm and welcoming community and it’s very genuine. People ask you how your day is going. They really mean it and they really want to know, “Well, how is your day going?” It’s such an incredible experience.
Gerard Colman: There’s so much to do here. And the weather is pretty spectacular too after those very cold and long Wisconsin winters. The weather here has been delightful, and we’ve actually enjoyed a lot of touring around the state and seeing a lot of Southern Indiana and a lot of Kentucky. Part of it because we’re statewide, so it’s an opportunity to go all the way from Paducah to Corbin to Lexington and Richmond and all the sites throughout the Commonwealth.
Gerard Colman: And then Southern Indiana of course, and all the great things, the walking bridge across the river and having a slice of pizza on the other side and coming back and spending a lot of time downtown. There’s lots to do in Louisville – lots to do in Lexington too. And we enjoy the sports scene, and really excited about the soccer stadium being built. So there’s a lot going on there, and we’ve just really enjoyed it. The impression is really positive. I couldn’t be more pleased with how everything’s going.
Kerri: Sure, that’s right, and that’s how I met you, was at the soccer game, about a coin toss for Louisville City soccer.
Gerard Colman: That’s right, yes.
Kerri: And some of the rounding that we’ve done too. Meeting clinicians has been a treat as well.
Gerard Colman: Absolutely.
Kerri: Well, we’d love to learn a little bit more about you. Would you share your morning routine with us?
Gerard Colman: It’s kind of boring, actually. I don’t lead an exciting outside of work life. Every morning I get up pretty much and I’ll go for a run or a long walk with the dog, and sometimes if I just go on the run and not take the long walk, I get the sad puppy eyes from my dog and get guilted into it anyway. So that’s pretty much the morning for me.
Gerard Colman: And then I wake up the kids. That’s my job. I wake up the kids for school, and then I’m out of the house pretty early. The minute I know they’re out of bed… Because you got to make sure teenagers are actually physically moving before you leave the room or leave the home. And once they’re up and moving, then I get in the car and I come to work. I’m one of those early office people. I like to come in early because you get your day started without the phone ringing off the hook or tons of emails. It really helps you get situated. So I like to get situated for the day early.
Kerri: Okay. Well, what’s the most rewarding part of your day?
Gerard Colman: Besides deleting emails? Spam emails that is, not work-related.
Gerard Colman: I think the most rewarding part is the interactions with people both in and out of the office. I’ve truly valued our size and scope and the fact that we have people that work both in and outside of offices, so to be able to interact with people all the time everywhere that work for Baptist Health, are part of our Baptist Health mission and our lives. They don’t have to necessarily be part of the care team, but there are people in the community that really love Baptist, what we do in our mission, and they really love to talk to people from Baptist. We’re the best ambassadors for ourselves, but the better ambassadors are the patients that we’ve had and family members, who their families have been patients of ours. It’s just amazing to talk to those people outside. So that’s the most rewarding part of my day.
Gerard Colman: That and talking to clinicians that are super excited to be part of the mission and really want us to forward our growth, but in areas where it’s needed, you know what I mean? So it’s not growth for growth’s sake, it’s growth that’s purposeful and meaningful to the communities that we serve, and everyone gravitates to that mission, so I really like that.
Kerri: Great. Well, I do want to ask you a few questions about growth, but before we get into that, what’s the last thing you do before you leave the office?
Gerard Colman: I probably check out with Lauren, my assistant. She actually spends more time at night there than I do. We have a great schedule. I’m an early person, she’s the late person, so we have a great overlap. I probably spend some time with her every afternoon going through what we have to finish up for the day and then what’s on the docket for the next day. Then of course, I always love deleting those last final spam emails. It’s always a great thing for everybody, right?
Kerri: Sure. Well, how do you unwind on weekends?
Gerard Colman: I used to… If this was 15 years ago before the kids were teenagers and really actively involved, I’d say I loved woodwork, believe it or not. I just loved building things with my hands, and it was a great escape. And there was always something to do around the house, of course, to fix.
Kerri: No doubt.
Gerard Colman: Or fidget with. But now that the kids are older, we’re so busy and consumed with their lives that there’s really not a lot we do other than drive our children around or be involved in what they’re involved in. So it’s as far as hobbies, I’d say my hobby’s from the past and I can’t wait to get back to them in the future when the kids are off to college, when that is, and we’ll get back into that. And other than that, I still have my same morning routine. Get up and go for a run with the dog or walk the dog and take a run, as I said earlier. So that’s pretty much where the weekend goes with me.
Kerri: Okay. What do you consider the greatest accomplishment at Baptist Health for 2019?
…there’s a lot of things we as a health system should be really proud of. By and large, we could look at the numbers and be so grateful. The way people gravitated around the mission was really inspirational this year. It’s really about our patient quality, our service, and our patient satisfaction that have all climbed in the right direction.
Gerard Colman: I would say there’s a lot of things that I think we as a health system should be really proud of and the caregivers should be really proud of. I think by and large we could look at the numbers and be so grateful. The way people gravitated around the mission was really inspirational this year, and you can see it in the numbers. And I’m not talking about financial numbers all the time. I think that’s a misgivings about my position. But it’s really about our patient quality and our service and our patient satisfaction have all really climbed in the right direction.
Gerard Colman: And that’s as important, if not more important than the bottom line of a company, especially a healthcare company. That’s what we do. What are we here for? It’s for our patients. So to say that those numbers are heading in the right direction and having people gravitate to that and take that so seriously, be so committed to that. And then with that, the financial numbers have followed. So we’ve really seen a tremendous 360 on the performance that I think we’re all really proud of.
Kerri: Great. Well, we’ve certainly been in the news a lot for the Hardin Memorial Hospital and the anticipated presence that we’ll have in that region and Elizabethtown. Can you tell us more about the impact that we’ll make and access that we’ll be able to provide to Elizabethtown?
Gerard Colman: Absolutely. So in Elizabethtown itself, as you know, we’ve been in that region of our Commonwealth for several… I’m going to say two decades, working with Hardin Memorial Hospital, helping them, working with them, working with the county. And now that we’re going to be acquiring the hospital and all of the facilities around it by the end of this year, by the end of, sorry, 2020, we’ll be able to have specific and significant investments in community, one of them being a comprehensive cancer center that we’re really proud of, medical office building.
Gerard Colman: We’re going to be doing a lot to improve the facilities in Hardin County as well as significant investments in their electronic medical record, which is really important for us for continuum of care. So making sure that patients that are come to us all the time throughout their lives, that we can actually have a record that’s electronic that we can say that, “Oh, Mrs. Jones or Mr. Smith, that you’ve been here before and we understand that you’re on this medication and you’re under this treatment,” and we can really provide outstanding care because we can see all that past medical history. In the current medical environment, if you don’t have electronic medical record or maybe one that’s not up to current standards, you don’t have that ability.
Gerard Colman: So it’s really going to improve access for patients and patient care, everything from scheduling an appointment all the way to the actual delivery of care, and we’re really excited about that. Hardin’s really excited. And that’s just a minimal investment. We’re thinking we’re going to be spending over $250 million in a very relatively short period of time in the Hardin community on health care facilities for the improvement of access.
Kerri: Great. And that number is significantly higher considering the strategic capital in the communities with all of our hospitals.
Gerard Colman: Oh, absolutely.
Kerri: We’ll be making an impact in Louisville as well as Lexington. Do you want to tell us a little more about those projects?
Gerard Colman: Sure. There’s a lot going on across the Commonwealth and in Southern Indiana. There’s lots of work here in Louisville. We’re significantly investing in our orthopedics. We’re going to be expanding our cardiac programs. And here at Baptist Health Louisville, we’re going to be adding significant number of observation meds and we’re going to be investing in our staff and our care teams, and we’re really going to be building a state of the art education center, which I think is going to really benefit our employees, all of our caregivers actually when we go through it, and it’s also going to be an impact on the community.
Gerard Colman: So it’s going to stay there, because we have to make an investment in our caregivers, because when they graduate college and they come to work and they’re awesome, but we have to invest in a continuing because healthcare changes so rapidly and it’s so important for us to invest in our community and our future, regardless of whether they stay with Baptist Health, which we want everyone to stay with us forever, obviously. But even if they go to other peer organizations in the community that are healthcare providers, how do I lose from that? How do we lose from that? I think it’s inspirational, and I think our peers do the same thing. They really want to provide outstanding continuing education so that we have the strong compassionate healthcare in the Commonwealth so that we’re really improving the population and their outcomes.
Kerri: Yeah. That just goes to show a rising tide lifts all ships.
Gerard Colman: Absolutely.
Kerri: Bettering the life of the Kentuckians and those in Southern Indiana. I know we’re going to be expanding the emergency room department in La Grange as well as making some improvements to Floyd, but there’s a massive overhaul that’s going on in Hamburg at Baptist Health Lexington, with a project that’s estimated at 250 million as well. Can you tell me about that project?
Gerard Colman: Absolutely. We’re really excited. We have a hospital president that’s been in our Lexington market for many years, Bill Sisson. He is a visionary and very strategic, and he bought the land in Hamburg way back, more than 10 years ago when that was almost an outpost of Lexington. We’ve had that land for some time and now we’re going to be significantly investing in the infrastructure and a facility, and that’s going to be a significant Healthplex for us at Baptist Health. So really excited to be out there. We’re still in the design phase, but we are estimating 250 plus million, and operating rooms, endoscopy suites, primary care, women’s health services. It is going to be a full suite ambulatory care center for Baptist Health system in Hamburg, Kentucky, which is going to be significant for us to be on that I-75 corridor, and we’re really excited about it.
Kerri: Great. Well, thank you for joining me today for this podcast.
Gerard Colman: Thanks, Kerri. It was great to see you again.
Kerri: You too.
Gerard Colman: Bye-bye.
Kerri: Good morning, Dr. Prather.
Dr. Jody Prather: Good morning, Kerri. How are you today?
Kerri: Great, how are you?
Dr. Jody Prather: Doing great.
Kerri: Good. We are continuing the conversation that we started, and we wanted to continue it with you as our Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer, taking this time as a 2020 vision to reflect back on where we were and some forward-thinking of where we’re going this next year. But first, we want our listeners to learn a little bit more about you. What’s the last thing you do before you start your journey home? What’s the last thing you do for you leave the office?
Dr. Jody Prather: It really depends. I mean, sometimes unfortunately because of just the nature of how busy we are and how much we have going on, I’m walking out the door on the phone to apologize for the switchover to Bluetooth as I go, as the car picks it up. So it really varies. A lot of times I’m walking out the door on a call. Sometimes it’s just signing off the computer so the IT people don’t get aggravated at me that I’ve left my computer accessible for days on end. But I think it varies for the most part.
Kerri: Okay. Well, how do you unwind on weekends?
Dr. Jody Prather: I love sports, so I tend to take a little time and veg out and watch whatever sport’s on. As you know, I’m a U of L fan, so if they’re in, I’ll watch that. My son still participates in a lot of sports. It’s funny to say, it seems like a lot of my relaxation revolves around sporting events, whether it be my son’s or U of L or something on television, for the most part. I do try to get on the treadmill, exercise, somewhat. I find that like a lot of folks, the stress goes better if you work in the least a little time in that regard.
Kerri: No doubt.
Dr. Jody Prather: And my wife and I, we love going out to eat. Even though we live in Elizabethtown, come to Louisville a fair amount to be with friends or dine out. So I guess nothing too creative, but that’s how I spend most of my weekends if I can, if I get the opportunity.
Kerri: Yeah, it sounds great. Well, you began your career in private practice as I understand, in family medicine in Elizabethtown. Do you miss clinical aspects of medicine, treating patients?
Dr. Jody Prather: I do. I grew up wanting to be a doctor, so to speak. And so when you want to do that and you’re trained, you spend so much time working towards that goal, you know, premed in college and four years of medical school and then residency, it’s not something you just turn off. So I still think of myself as a physician. I’ve been… And obviously you may dive into this some. I’ve been an administrator since about 2010 in a few different roles. When I was at Hardin I tried to work clinically part-time still. Just one, to keep me grounded, keep the skill set, and plus because I enjoyed it.
Dr. Jody Prather: This job now with Baptist, and I know we’ll talk about, is so big, so much going on, that I really wouldn’t… I would cheat one side or the other, so to speak, if I tried to spend a day or two in a clinic. In other words, I wouldn’t have enough time to really give the patients what they needed and/or wouldn’t have the time to maybe give the Baptist system what it needed. So I’ve opted not to practice, but yeah, I do miss it. If I could wave a magic wand and there was enough time in the day, I’d probably still do some clinic as well as what I’m doing relative to a strategy and growth and marketing and development.
Kerri: I can understand that. Well, how has that background strengthened you as an administrator overseeing the strategic initiatives?
Dr. Jody Prather: Well, I think it’s awfully important, personally. I always say, and I really do try to bring it back to the patient at the end. Certainly, the business development aspect of what I do is important and making sure that there are successful business plans and making sure we’re focused on growth. It’s part of the core job description of what I do. But with that, I tell people and laugh about it sometimes, Kerri, that I still view everything through the lens as a physician. And I think for the most part that’s a benefit, because at the end of the day I think if we do the right thing for the patient, the rest of it takes care of itself, generally. So I guess that’s how I’d frame that up.
Kerri: Yeah, absolutely. Access is a word that I’ve heard you use over the last several months. It’s a focus point for you. Will you expand on that goal for us as a system in having access points for our patients?
Dr. Jody Prather: Yeah. Well, I definitely think relative to both growth, and again, just some of the concepts I was alluding to. When we look at the growth of the system from a business aspect, but also the ability to provide the best service to our patients, having the right kind of ways that they can access our system, our providers, our other services, obviously our hospitals. When we talk about access, largely it’s what we would say is ambulatory, and I think most listeners would understand what ambulatory means. It’s the non-inpatient side of things where healthcare is going more and more. So I think it’s brutally important both for the financial as well as the clinical success of our organization to make sure we have the right access opportunities, access strategies, both for existing patients, but it also then the more access you have, the more opportunity you have to grow the organization.
Dr. Jody Prather: I tell people all the time, a health system these days, the metaphor I use is like a funnel. So in other words, it’s a very small number of patients that you contact who will ever end up in beds in your hospital, and really it’s our job if at all possible to keep them from being there. That’s part of what we want to do, but that’s really the bottom of the funnel. And to keep our beds full, that’s great. We want to provide good care in the hospital, but to do that, because fewer and fewer people are in the hospital, you really have to create a big funnel at the top of folks who touch your system, and that happens through virtual care now with Telehealth. That happens through digital health with what you and Kevin Smith and your all’s team do, interacting with folks in different ways than we used to. But also goes back to the old brick and mortar, having physician offices and urgent care clinics and EDS and those kinds of things in the right place too.
Kerri: Sure, absolutely. Well, one thing, as we expand our organization, as you just mentioned, we’re going to expand the footprint into Elizabethtown. And as Baptist Health expects to invest in strategic capital into the communities we serve, I want to hear more about our footprint at Hardin Memorial Hospital and Elizabethtown.
Dr. Jody Prather: Sure. Well, Hardin Memorial, I’m biased. I was born in that hospital and I practiced there and still live at Elizabethtown, so naturally, my bias will show. I’d say it’s a pretty great place and I think it’s going to be… The cliche now is a win-win. I think it’s going to be a real win-win for Hardin Memorial, for that community, but also for Baptist Health, because it’s a first-class hospital in a growing area.
Dr. Jody Prather: So there are multiple initiatives, as you can imagine. Hardin Memorial in and of itself is a huge organization. It’s really a mini health system, and as we’re integrating that into Baptist, there’s layer upon layer of things that are going on, but not least of which it speaks to what Baptist views the opportunity for Hardin as that early on we’re going to be investing within the first three years a couple hundred million dollars to not only install the right EHR that’s going to integrate it immediately with Baptist, which we think, from my standpoint, from the other leadership standpoint, is brutally important.
Dr. Jody Prather: To really become part of the family, so to speak, and function with the right transitions of patient care, to have the right data, just to help build the whole portfolio to go on the Epic EHR early is important. That’s an investment that’s probably not as sexy, so to speak, as some of the capital spin we’re going to do relative to buildings. And so what we’re going to partner with Hardin to do is invest in a new cancer center, which is going to be a regional cancer center to rival anything in the state, an ambulatory care center with new operating rooms and medical office space and diagnostic centers. And when folks show up there… And it’s going to be adjacent to the campus connected to the hospital, so it’s really going to create a whole new aspect of care in that entire region that they haven’t had before.
Kerri: Sure. That’s a great location as well.
Dr. Jody Prather: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, Elizabethtown’s growing and benefits from a lot of things, but not least of which it’s positioned between interstates, so I-65, Western Kentucky Parkway, Bluegrass Parkway. But there’s other pros it has in its column, so to speak, but it’s really become its own little center of commerce for that region and has a really booming industrial park secondary to its access with roads. So there’s a lot going on there, and we want to be able to provide the right kind of patient care for those patients in that growing population.
Kerri: Sure. Let’s hear what we’re doing at Baptist Health Louisville next.
Dr. Jody Prather: Well, one thing that we became focused on early on, so coming back to the strategy is, we really want Louisville to become more of a referral center for the entire region than it already is. Louisville is really the biggest hospital in the state. You look at different metrics, but in general, it’s the largest hospital in the state by most metrics anyway at this point. And even with that, given the growth that we’ve had in the system, it doesn’t have enough capacity, believe it or not.
Dr. Jody Prather: So as we said, we want, with the network and the access points that we keep growing, we want Baptist Louisville to be able to serve those patients for higher and higher levels of care with the physicians we have at a flagship campus, so to speak, in Louisville. We recognize that we were at capacity, and where we were really at capacity, because there are fewer people in beds, but there are just as many needing certain services, procedures, diagnostics, we recognize that the platform we really need to be working on was two things. One is short stay, because that builds capacity in the hospital. There’s fewer and fewer people staying in hospitals long term. That does happen, but more people, it’s a short stay. You go to the emergency room, maybe you’ve had an event, maybe you haven’t. You need to be watched, and if you have a dedicated unit for those kinds of things, or even short-stay surgery, just overnight to monitor, it can be more efficient and a better experience for the patient as well, which we’re always focused on.
Dr. Jody Prather: On top of that, we’re adding significant capacity both in operating rooms. We’re building an orthopedic center of excellence, which is going to give extra orthopedic capacity, but also more efficiencies and better patient experience. We’re adding on with cardiovascular capabilities as far as cardiac catheterization labs and hybrid ORs, both for cardiology as well as for neurosurgery.
Dr. Jody Prather: I’ll go ahead and anticipate a question. A hybrid OR really, for folks who don’t know, is a traditional… It’s built like a traditional OR, so you can keep the right kind of sterile processes, but it has all the imaging and diagnostics, where that way in the middle of surgeries the physician can be doing radiology at that time to be able to take the right kind of x-rays intraoperatively and never break sterile field.
Dr. Jody Prather: It’s really where a lot of upper-level procedures, especially vascular type procedures, are headed. Louisville already has the hybrid capacity, but we’re adding to that, trying to prepare for what the next 10, 20 years of healthcare looks like, which I think those kinds of modalities will be even more important.
Kerri: That’s fantastic. That last project I wanted to touch on was Baptist Health Lexington and our expansion of the Hamburg project. Can you touch on that?
Dr. Jody Prather: I absolutely can. The whole project is going to be phased. I could see very easily over the next 10 to 15 years there being many more services than we’re even starting with. That’s one of the things we’re looking at. But initially we’re going to make a $250 million investment in that campus to build a state of the art ambulatory center that will have a surgery center, a cancer center, physician office space, a women’s center, diagnostics, and about everything you would need to take care of patients besides just beds. And because we’ll have an ED there, people will be able to stay as long as they need to, but certainly if they need to be admitted, then we’ll take the step of getting them to Baptist Lexington and the quality inpatient experience people are used to there. But we think that it’s really going to change the care of that region to have that kind of facility, that kind of investment setting. It’s such a great access point, and we’re really excited about that.
Kerri: And that’s slated to open in 2023?
Dr. Jody Prather: That’s correct. I have to do my math backward on how long it’ll take, but that’s really what we’re targeting right now, is 2023. We’re working through the construction plan, for lack of a better term, blueprint process, now. We hope by the end of the year to start construction, so it could move a little quicker, but by 2023 is fair.
Kerri: Okay. Well, we’ll keep everyone updated on that project. Thank you for sitting down with us this morning.
Dr. Jody Prather: No, absolutely enjoyed it, and I’m excited about what’s going on with Baptist. It’s a good time to be a part of Baptist Health. They’re some great people! Coming back to what you asked me, how I come at this with the physician, is the reason I’m most proud to be part of Baptist is the way Baptist had been successful over the years is just providing really great patient care with a lot of good nurses and physicians and support staff on a daily basis, just doing the right thing for the patient, so that makes it much easier to try to do strategy.
Kerri: Sure. Thank you very much, Jody.
Dr. Jody Prather: Thanks, Kerri. I appreciate your time.
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