Emory restructures, eliminating campus CEOs

Another health system is doing away with campus-level CEOs. 

Emory Healthcare wants to be a "true system," not just a holding company of separate hospitals, its CEO, Joon Lee, MD, told Becker's. A "true system" — well-integrated, cohesive, accessible — cannot thrive if there are too many cooks in the kitchen. 

To become a true system, campus CEOs had to go.

The industrywide push toward integration — especially in academic healthcare — motivated Atlanta-based Emory to restructure its leadership. In October, the system created two hospital divisions: one for regional hospitals, one for university hospitals. Each division is helmed by a single regional president, reporting directly to Dr. Lee. 

At the campus level, each hospital's chief operating officer now stands at the helm, communicating up a streamlined chain of command to their regional president and Dr. Lee. 

Heather Redrick, BSN, RN, who serves in a dual capacity as COO and chief nursing officer at Emory Johns Creek (Ga.) Hospital, became the facility's leader when its former CEO retired. She sees the shift not as a structural reorganization, but as "responsible delegation," she told Becker's

"As I look at the role, I see it more as day-to-day operations, being the person who has boots on the ground," she said. "Certain responsibilities obviously have shifted to our regional presidents, as we are emphasizing more on that integrated system, but that allows me as the local leader to continue to foster that positive work environment for our direct care teams, our families, our communities, our patients." 

Since the change was implemented, Ms. Redrick has noticed a faster decision-making process; communication is more efficient when there are fewer layers to cut through. Certain operations — credentialing, for example — have moved up to the regional level, freeing up hospital leaders to zero in on patients. 

Dr. Lee also hopes the change will benefit patients by narrowing the gap between a singular community facility and the entire 11-hospital, $6 billion enterprise. 

"We want to create seamless care. Most of the patients who seek care in Johns Creek will complete all of their care there, but some people actually require coordination where more complex care may be required," Dr. Lee said. "So it's really coordinating both of those, making sure we're providing local leadership as well as consistent, service-line-oriented care." 

Of course, there are financial benefits when the salaries of several CEOs become null. Dr. Lee declined to specify exactly how much the system is saving, but said the change will allow for greater investments in the front-line workforce. 

"We've resisted the target game, if you will," Dr. Lee said. "I would say it's more of an iterative process rather than a one-and-done to say we're taking $5 million out, or $10 million out." 

As Emory moves forward, Dr. Lee hopes to strike the sweet spot between a true system's homogenous methods and a patient-oriented hospital's unique needs. 

"My challenge to my team, including Heather, is for us to continuously evaluate," Dr. Lee said. "Each of the hospitals are different. They're different sizes, they're in different communities, and the needs are different. We're trying to balance the need to become a consistent and coordinated system, yet not take a cookie-cutter approach." 

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