5 thoughts from Dr. Steve Allen, CEO of Nationwide Children's Hospital

Steve Allen, MD, is CEO of Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Children's Hospital, the fourth largest pediatric hospital in the country.

Dr. Allen worked as physician and executive for 24 years at Houston-based Texas Medical Center and authored almost 100 articles and over 20 book chapters on various medical topics before coming to Nationwide in 2006. There, he has overseen various expansion projects, including a new, 12-story main hospital building and a third research building. Nationwide’s new campus totals over 2.1 million square feet, with the expansion creating more than 2,000 new jobs and generating a projected $1.3 billion in new regional economic activity.

Under his leadership, Nationwide has undertaken new community partnerships including a neighborhood revitalization project and new collaborations to combat childhood obesity. Dr. Allen also started Partners for Kids, a physician hospital organization, which has grown in the past five years to become the largest organization of its kind in the country.

Dr. Allen spoke with Becker's Hospital Review about how Nationwide has achieved its status as one of the nation's premier pediatric hospitals and his plans for the hospital's future.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What are some of Nationwide Children's long-term goals?

Dr. Steve Allen: Our long-term goals are best expressed in our new strategic plan, called Journey to Best Outcomes, which involves continuing to invest in our integrated clinical and research programs. We have some specific accelerators around quality, safety and service, behavioral health, genomics, wellness and population health. These are things we've focused on in the past, but we feel they do not only add to the industry, but also differentiate Nationwide from our colleagues.

On the uncertainty of healthcare policy

SA: Fifty percent of our patients are covered by Medicaid, so we always have to be mindful that there are going to be decisions made that are out of our control that will affect funding. And with that, it is incumbent upon us to educate our legislators on the impact of public policy on children's access to high quality care.

The AHCA, as passed by the House, is of particular concern to us. It would cut funding for children's Medicaid anywhere from $43 to $78 billion over the next decade, and that would impact the 30 million children in our country covered by Medicaid. What we do is go and meet with our legislators and convey to them the impact of their decisions on children's healthcare. Nothing is better than talking to them directly and showing them data and analysis.

On behavioral health

SA: About a year ago my board approved a very ambitious and aspirational plan to increase access for children and adolescents to behavioral health services. We just broke ground last Friday on a 400,000-square-foot behavioral health pavilion totally dedicated to trying to meet the inpatient-outpatient needs of children. Behavioral health for children and adolescents in our society is such a huge issue, and we were able to demonstrate that there is an unacceptable lack of access. We intend, as a pediatric healthcare organization, to close the gap. I think you'll begin to see more institutions integrating behavioral health with physical health, particularly in the pediatric population.

On genomics

SA: We integrated our clinical and research genomics program and have brought in some great talent to begin to realize the promise that the human genome project suggested some years ago. We all think genomics holds so much promise for transforming the way we think about human disease. I graduated from medical school 40 years ago, and I can see that by the time I'm  [retired] it will be a generational change in how it is we teach and treat human disease.

On adjusting to the cultural needs of local immigrant populations

SA: For the Somali population, and now we have a very large Nepali population, we held focus groups with them and said, 'Please tell us what's important to you. Where is it that we're doing okay but where do we have opportunities to better meet the needs of your child and your family?' And I think just being very open, receptive and reflective to what they say. It doesn't really matter what I think, it's about how they perceive it. I need to be responsive to their terms.

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