How UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh's new president aims to create ultimate patient care experience

With 26 years of experience at UPMC, Mark Sevco is familiar with the Pittsburgh-based system's operations.

He previously served as COO of UPMC Pinnacle, a multihospital system in central Pennsylvania. He has also served as president of UPMC East hospital in Monroeville, Pa., and UPMC McKeesport (Pa.) hospital, where he oversaw business development, strategic planning, physician relations and administrative operations. 

He's assisted with UPMC's mergers and integrations with other Pennsylvania hospitals and the system's international efforts in China and Dubai.

And most recently, he was appointed permanent president of UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, after serving as the interim leader since January.

Here, Mr. Sevco shares his thoughts about his latest role, discusses the system's goals for the year and touches on the hospital's relationship with Pittsburgh-based insurer Highmark.

Note: The following responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: How do you feel about becoming president permanently?

Mark Sevco: I am thrilled and honored. UPMC Children's Hospital is an amazing facility that has really performed so well and has been consistently ranked as one of the top children's hospitals in the country [by U.S. News and World Report]. For me personally to jump in and work with this terrific team to roadmap how we can become the best children's hospital in the country is super exciting.

Q: How will this be different from your previous positions?

MS: This position is unique in that it is the pediatric service line for our system. But we [also] have this amazing physical footprint. This hospital was built 10 years ago, and it was a $815 million investment from UPMC. It's located in Pittsburgh, a couple miles from our academic hub, and it has allowed us to become one of the best children's hospitals from a clinical perspective but also [with] research and teaching. So, the uniqueness of UPMC Children's is what makes it different, and that's exciting. Everybody who's working in the children's environment [is] passionate about the journey to create the ultimate patient care experience. That's our goal and our team's dream to provide that for every patient and family.

Q: What is the greatest challenge you face as president?

MS: How we can respond to our growth opportunities. There's a demand for access to top children's hospitals, and there's also a demand for children who need access for specialty appointments. And pediatrics subspecialists are high in demand. So, our recruitment efforts will be bold and assertive, so we continue to recruit the best physicians to work here and look to enhance our opportunity to grow in areas, not so much in Pittsburgh where we're strong, but nationally and internationally. Because we're ranked in the top 10 in many subspecialties here [by U.S. News and World Report], there are a lot of patients who will travel here for transplants [and other services].

Q: What are your goals for 2019?

MS: We've talked about our ambition to be the best children's hospital in the country, and that doesn't mean we need to be the biggest, but in terms of impact that would be our overall ambition to be the best from a clinical, research and teaching perspective.

One area we will work hard on is listening to patients and family members [about] what we can do to transform healthcare to be more accessible. And we're going to work hard on developing the digital front-door platform for patients and family members to access our specialists if that's what they desire.

What I mean by that is we're going to work hard on providing apps where you can go online and schedule appointments to see our specialists, to dial up and talk to advanced practitioners and doctors with telemedicine. This will really help us reach out to more rural areas where access to pediatric subspecialists is a little bit more challenging. We're going to be entrepreneurial and bold in this space to provide access to children who need care from our subspecialists.

Also, we are currently one of the most wired hospitals in the country and have received many awards for our electronic medical record initiatives. We will continue to partner with our physicians to invest in technology, so we can ensure excellence in safety and quality outcomes for our patients.

Q: The UPMC system is in a legal battle over its upcoming split with Pittsburgh-based insurer Highmark. Any general thoughts on the Highmark split?

MS: UPMC Children's is proud to be part of UPMC. We are one of 40 hospitals in a network that also has a health plan. We are the only children's hospital in our network. The Highmark situation is specifically only for the adult population in Allegheny County. UPMC Children's currently has a contract with Highmark through June 2022. We are committed to having a renewal with Highmark, and our leadership, including our CEO, has made that clear being that we're the only children's hospital in southwestern Pennsylvania. We've already reached out to Highmark and want to start the dialogue to have the conversation to have a long-term contract. We're committed to continuing to work toward that.


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