Becker's CEO + CFO Roundtable 2019: 4 Questions with Katherine Bunting, President and Chief Executive Officer at Fairfield Memorial Hospital

Katherine Bunting serves as President and Chief Executive Officer at Fairfield Memorial Hospital.

On November 12th, Katherine will serve on the panel "Building a Sustainable Business Model for Community Hospitals" at Becker's 8th Annual CEO + CFO Roundtable. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference, which will take place November 11-13, 2019 in Chicago.

To learn more about the conference and Katherine's session, click here.

Question: What is the single most important thing you need to do in your role? (Ie: What do you have to be great at?)

Katherine Bunting: It is my firm belief that each person on our Healthcare team including myself as CEO, must be great at building relationships. There must be an established relationship or building new relationships in order to have trust, respect and engagement between every person on our Healthcare Team and our patients. Our patients and their caregivers must have faith in our services in order for them to give us an opportunity to give treatment and engage the patient to be compliant with said treatment. Through relationship building, we can gain engagement of our patients, our colleagues and our community at large. Thus, population healthcare can be accomplished.

Q: If you acquired $10 million dollars with no strings attached today, how would you invest or spend it?

KB: The first issue that the money would positively impact would be establishing a broader outreach for our community to receive care in their hometown hospital without the need to travel to tertiary facilities for certain types of care. So I would look towards specialty recruitment such as Orthopedic Surgeons, Endocrinologists, Psychiatrists as well as opening off-site clinics in the towns surrounding our community hospital and rotate the specialists to those clinics. I would be remiss if I did not include the recruitment of professionals to join our healthcare teams such as Physical Therapists, Pharmacists, Registered Nurses, and various mid-level providers. The existing funds would be to enhance the building of new space for both primary care access and mental health services. Rural hospitals find difficulty with funding new building projects, yet the rural areas are the most likely to require more space allocation for services that were never intended to be offered in the rural setting, but now have a growing need for these services.

Q: There is a lot to improve upon in healthcare. Of the many issues that hold your attention, what is the one you consider exceptionally imperative and urgent?

KB: Speaking from a rural perspective, I find the lack of mental health care to be one of the most imperative needs. There is an insurgence of IOP (Intense Outpatient Psychiatric) programs taking off in the rural areas. As well as, Behavioral Health Counseling programs. However, there is a severe shortage of Psychiatrists and other Medical Providers who feel confident in treating the vast mental health diagnoses that are not limited to the metropolitan areas. The evidence is overwhelming when you see recurrent emergency department visits that simply need a strong mental health footprint in the rural area to aid those seeking mental health treatment.

Q: Healthcare leaders today need skills and talents that span beyond those emphasized during formal training and higher education. What is one specific competency that you learned or sharpened in real life?

KB: My three A's: Acceptance of diversity, Adaptability to the ever convulsive changes in Healthcare and Awakening to the abilities of teamwork in decision making.

Hospital leaders face increasing demands on their time and must continually prioritize where to
focus their efforts and energy. As I partner with hospital leaders, it’s important to assess the impact
and benefits of projects to help prioritize initiatives.
For example, everyone is paying attention to the rise in specialty drug costs. Yet often there is little a
hospital can do to lower their specialty drug spend. However, there are substantial cost savings
possible through an improved reimbursement strategy and medication utilization-based projects.
Not only would prioritizing these initiatives drive meaningful results, they also are within the
hospital’s span of control.
In addition, I find that hospital leaders can overlook the pharmacy in performance improvement
initiatives, so it is an ongoing education and advocacy about the pharmacy’s potential impact. The
pharmacy should be a center of innovation for a hospital – and innovation is key to expanding
services and improving care.

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