Meet Dennis Murphy

New CEO of IU Health Tackles Hoosier Health

Along with running an academic medical system that has a physicians’ network, an insurance arm and 30,000 employees, the new CEO of Indiana University Health is taking on a big external challenge: figuring out effective population health strategies.

Dennis Murphy, who replaced longtime CEO Daniel F. Evans, Jr. on May 1, takes over at IU Health as the issue of population health management in Indiana and other states moves beyond the talking and planning stages into implementation.

A veteran hospital administrator who worked at three notable academic medical centers before joining IU Health in 2013, Murphy is not only unfazed by the challenge of improving the health of all Hoosiers — he’s looking forward to it.

Murphy, 52, said he moved to Indiana from his previous job in Chicago knowing Indiana ranked low in many key health measures. He also knows that reversing those unhealthy numbers is a mission that falls into the laps of big hospital systems like IU Health.

“Indiana is a great state to live in and do business. But the health of Hoosiers just isn’t what it should be,” Murphy said.

“We believe we have a responsibility to help make the citizens of this state healthier.”

Indiana ranked 41st in 2015 in the overall health of its citizens, according to America’s Health Rankings. Indiana came in 44th place for obesity and smoking, 42nd place for cancer deaths and 39th place for cardiovascular deaths.

Just weeks into his new job, Murphy began talking up the need for IU Health to help coordinate statewide population health initiatives. He addressed the subject at a community issues briefing in Indianapolis in mid-May and has started discussions with other health care officials.

HIS HOPE?

Murphy said he wants to help mount joint population health initiatives in Indiana with other hospital groups, state government, trade associations and other partners with a stake in Hoosier health. The IHA’s smoking cessation efforts are a prime example of how to get IU Health and its partners involved in these efforts.

“Over a 10-year time frame, we would like to demonstrably improve those health metrics for the state,” he said. “We do that directly through the care we provide in our facilities, our physicians and all of our care teams. But I think we also must do that in partnership with others.”

It helps, said Murphy, that hospitals in the competitive central Indiana market are more inclined to collaborate than they previously were.

“There is less competitive spirit at a fever pitch and more willingness to cooperate. Hospitals have put their swords down and said, ‘OK, we’re not going to fight on the issue of improving the health outcomes in our state.’”

Indiana Hospital Association President Doug Leonard agrees. “Hospitals in central Indiana, and elsewhere around the state, are focusing on population health measures. Many are starting community programs of their own and most realize population health programs can be more powerful when multiple players, including government, become partners in the effort.”

Murphy has one population health concern he’d like to tackle first: infant mortality (where Indiana ranks an abysmal 36th among the states.)

“We believe infant mortality is profoundly important and something we can get our hands around to save young lives,” he said.

IU Health hopes to involve Riley Children’s Health in a statewide effort to educate parents in infant safety, including initiatives to reduce sudden infant death syndrome and other threats to babies. Done in concert with other hospitals and health care organizations, such efforts can quickly make inroads in the state’s all-too-high infant mortality rate, Murphy said.

IU Health is also approaching population health management through its insurance plans. The health system is working with Arlington, Va.-based Evolent Health to try to manage the health of high-risk individuals among its own employees and in its Medicare Advantage and commercial insurance plans. The goal: to keep people out of the hospital by improving their health through a host of measures. This includes creating a continuum of care among patients, plan members and the public to better control chronic diseases and improve lifestyles through regular exercise, stopping smoking and eating healthful foods.

Challenging public health metrics aside, Murphy notes that Indiana providers should want to embrace population health programs for another reason: to cope with current and coming federal policies tying Medicare and Medicaid payments to patient outcomes. Providers realize that the healthier their service-area population becomes, the better outcomes their patients will enjoy when they undergo surgeries or receive other care.

Murphy is convinced that hospitals, doctors and other providers must embrace the population health model.

“I think all of the economic incentives point long-term to moving down that pathway. As I talk to our clinicians and other providers, they like the model. They like to be able to provide more services to patients with complex conditions, and they need wrap-around services, like social workers and behavioral health specialists.”

It’s a virtuous circle, Murphy said, which he wants to help Indiana put into practice.

GET TO KNOW DENNIS MURPHY

Position: President and CEO, Indiana University Health; Joined IU Health in 2013 as COO, named president in 2015 and CEO May 1.

Previous employment: Executive VP/COO at Northwestern Memorial Healthcare 2000-2013; VP ambulatory services and financial planning at University of Chicago Hospitals 1999-2000; administrator of the Department of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital 1989-1999.

Education: Master’s in health administration, Duke University; BA political science and pre-medicine, University of Notre Dame; attended St. Lawrence Seminary High School in Wisconsin with plans to be a Catholic priest.

Personal: Grew up in Chicago; lives in Hamilton County with wife Kristy and three children. He is an avid runner and enjoys traveling with his family to visit relatives in western Ireland.

Volunteer Causes: Murphy is active with the American Lung Association, serving as chair of this year’s Evening of Promise Gala. Several of his loved ones died relatively young from lung diseases. He’s also a board member for Starfish Alliance, which mentors economically disadvantaged high school students in Marion County to help them prepare for college.