How one of Virginia's few independent health systems stays strong, avoids mergers

Nestled in the semi-rural region of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Augusta Health serves 120,000 residents in its primary service area, with another 100,000 residents in the adjacent counties. The health system is independent, community-owned, locally governed and one of just a few independent health systems left in Virginia, Mary Mannix, CEO of Augusta Health, told Becker's.

The following article is based on a podcast published by Becker's Hospital Review.

Fishersville, Va.-based Augusta Health generates about $430 million in net revenue annually, with 225 beds, 12,000 admissions each year and 35 clinic sites throughout the surrounding community, Ms. Mannix said.

For the 13-year health system CEO, being one of the few successful independent health systems is a source of pride. 

"There's a lot of consolidation going on in healthcare and in large healthcare systems," Ms. Mannix said. "A lot of emphasis is being placed on scale. We're obviously a smaller, independent health system, and it's worked incredibly well for the community because we have such a high accountability level to the community, not to the corporate office, but to the people that live in the community."

One factor that ensures the health system focuses on community impact is that all 15 members of the board of directors live in the area, she said.

"I feel a tremendous sense of pride that we're able to be successful in this community ownership model, and quite frankly, not being part of a larger system," she said.

As a community-owned health system, Augusta Health is required to actively engage with the community. Since Augusta Health is integrated into the community, leaders are able to build relationships with local residents and businesses. 

 "It's more of an outward focus, versus a system focus or a corporate office focus," she said.

In addition to being the CEO of Augusta Health, Ms. Mannix is on the board of directors for the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association and is affiliated with several other professional hospital-centered organizations.

In these organizations, Augusta Health is among health system giants in Virginia, such as Lynchburg-based Centra Health and Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic. Yet, when they assemble together, it is an even playing field and there isn't pressure to be acquired by a larger health system, she said.

"I feel like when we come together as an association, we are all bonded by more macro goals versus local or regional competition," Ms. Mannix said. "I feel like we're all very professional. We are very much in touch with the things that unite us to make Virginia the healthiest state in the United States, and to advance the mission of our respective organizations to improve the health of our communities."

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

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