Pull Up a Chair

A conversation with the incoming and outgoing chairmen of the IHA Board of Directors

For health care providers throughout the state and across the country, 2017 has been a year defined by constant change and uncertainty. It’s also been a year that’s highlighted more than any other in recent memory how necessary it is for health care providers to work together to fight for what is best for their patients and the communities they serve.

In December, Bob Brody, senior vice president/COO for ambulatory services at Franciscan Alliance, will complete his one-year term as chairman of IHA’s Board of Directors and pass the baton to Kreg Gruber, CEO of Beacon Health System. In this story, Brody and Gruber reflect on 2017—a year that saw IHA rise to meet the distinctive challenges of the day—and look to what the future might hold for the Association and its members.

THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC

The burgeoning opioid epidemic took center stage in Indiana in 2017.

“As Governor Holcomb took office, he declared the opioid crisis one of his five major issues,” Brody said. “IHA was prepared to assist in any way we could. Our work over this past eight or nine months has been to survey our membership, understand what resources are in place, exchange best practices and provide a great resource center for our membership to draw on in confronting the opioid dilemma in each of our communities.”

In addition to educating medical staffs across the state about new prescription guidelines and safe practices regarding opioids, IHA is working with the state to help integrate the Indiana Scheduled Prescription Electronic Collection and Tracking (INSPECT) program into electronic health record systems. Even with the progress that’s been made, the opioid crisis is far from over and will continue to be a top priority for IHA in 2018.

“The opioid dilemma will take years perhaps to defeat,” Brody said. “This issue touches everyone: our courts, our  schools, health care, first responders, our faith leaders. If we’re going to get our arms around this, much like health care reform, it will take a true collaborative effort so everybody understands what’s at risk and appreciates the ability to contribute to the remedies.”

THE HEALTH CARE REFORM BATTLE RAGES ON

Both Brody and Gruber anticipate that health care reform will continue to be an issue that IHA and its members need to be ready to address in 2018.

“The biggest challenge is certainly the turbulence and uncertainty going on in health care at the federal level,” Gruber said. “The unpredictability of the current administration and transition of leadership causes instability and makes it hard to really figure out what to expect and what’s coming.”

“We played whack-a-mole with all the ACA repeal and replace attempts this year,” Brody half-joked. “I think that everyone would acknowledge that what is in place is far from perfect, but there’s no way that reversing the field and taking health care from 20 to 30 million Americans would ever be in our national interest.”

Gruber believes IHA will continue to play a major role in coordinating statewide efforts to address health care reform in the coming year.

“IHA will continue to be a convener, facilitator and aggregator of communities across the state,” he said. “Where the power of any single health care system is defined by its geographical reach, IHA has the power to bring health care providers together and serve as a unified voice.”

TELLING THE HEALTH CARE STORY IN THE WAKE OF THE RAND REPORT

The Employer’s Forum of Indiana—a coalition of self-insured employers ranging from Eli Lilly and Cummins to Indiana University and Purdue University—recently commissioned the RAND Corp. to analyze and compare negotiated prices paid to hospitals and health systems. The study’s stated purpose is to explore what employers can do to create actionable information to promote improvements in hospital value.

The report is sure to intensify public discourse regarding hospital costs and quality of care. Hospitals across the state will need to be equipped to articulate how they have implemented specific practices to cut costs, improve patient outcomes and provide higher-quality care. In addition, constituents will need to understand that the nuances of how hospital costs are determined are difficult to capture in a single report.

“I’ve always believed health care is a local issue,” Gruber said. “Even within the state, every community is put together differently, with different dynamics, business structures and community support services. It’s hard to take a singular study approach and apply that across broad geography and even across a single state.”

Gruber believes IHA can help educate community members about the complex nature of hospital costs.

“Health care is one of those things you don’t think much about until you need it, but when you need it, you need it right now. Unfortunately, in many of those occasions, it’s a life-saving event,” he said. “To have the facilities and trained personnel to save lives at those levels comes at a significant cost. It is a challenge of how to provide the basic services at lower costs while still providing the high-level services that a community needs on specific occasions. IHA has and will continue to try to educate patients and employers about that.”

THE IMPORTANCE OF ADVOCACY

While the opioid epidemic, federal health care instability and articulating the value of health care to communities might seem like a disparate set of challenges, they point toward a common need: for IHA and its members to join together as advocates at the local, state and federal level.

“You can either make an impact or be impacted,” Gruber said, “and I’ve always preferred to be the one making the impact.”

Gruber believes the need for advocates is present at all levels of the hospital, including trustees.

“Legislators would rather hear from a board trustee than they would from a hospital administrator,” he said. “As administrators, we have an inherent bias; the trustee is the community representative, and you can translate community into the word ‘constituency’ for the legislator. That will carry way more weight than it would coming from a professional administrator.”

THE TRANSITION

As Brody wraps up his stint as chairman of the IHA Board of Directors, he is grateful for the experience—and optimistic about the future.

“It’s been an honor to be in the position to represent my colleagues across the state and all of these amazing organizations that comprise the hospital association,” Brody said. “It’s been a wonderful experience, and I look forward to helping Kreg in any way possible as he assumes his role. I know he’s going to do a great job.”

Gruber is ready for the job and eager to learn as much as he can.

“Even though I’ve maintained professional relationships across the state as an IHA member and board member, I hope to enhance those relationships and serve as a conduit of feedback and information across the state,” Gruber said. “I’m an inquisitive person, and as chairman, I’m excited about being exposed to new people and learning new things.”


Bob Brody, FACHE, is senior vice president/COO for ambulatory services at Franciscan Alliance in Mishawaka, where he’s responsible for all freestanding ambulatory services and directing the Franciscan Physician Network, which includes more than 750 physicians and nurse practitioners in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. He previously served as president/CEO of Franciscan St. Francis Health hospitals in Indianapolis, Mooresville and Carmel from 1996 to 2015. Before his career at Franciscan Alliance, Brody served in a variety of administrative leadership roles at hospitals in New Jersey, Louisiana, Texas and North Carolina. In 2016, he received the IHA Distinguished Service Award.

Kreg Gruber was named CEO of Beacon Health System in 2017. He served as Beacon’s COO from 2015 to 2017 and held the position of president of Memorial Hospital from 2006 to 2015. Prior to arriving in South Bend, Kreg served as president of Doctors Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. He also served as senior vice president/COO of Amerigard Health Services Garden City Hospital in Garden City, Michigan.

 


HOW TO ENGAGE WITH IHA

There are a number of ways for you to contribute your experience and insight to the work IHA is doing across the state. We encourage you to:

  • Join an IHA task force
  • Serve on one of IHA’s seven councils, which address topics from behavioral health to finance to workforce development
  • Attend a district meeting, where you can speak directly to your IHA representative about issues of concern
  • Support the Friends of Indiana Hospitals Political Action Committee, which represents hospital administrators, managers, physicians, trustees and others who support common-sense health care policy and want to help elect legislators who share their goals