Why culture matters to Intermountain's Lee Boyles

Lee Boyles has served as president of Intermountain Health's Montana and Wyoming market and president of St. Vincent Regional Hospital in Billings, Mont., since March.

Mr. Boyles brings a wealth of experience to his new role. 

Most recently, he served as CEO of St. Anthony Summit Hospital in Breckenridge, Colo., part of Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health. He also previously served as president of Catholic Health Initiatives' St. Gabriel's Health in Little Falls, Minn., CHI Oakes Hospital in Oakes, N.D., and vice president of strategic development at Glendive Medical Center in Glendive, Mont. 

Mr. Boyles told Becker's he's excited about the new role, particularly St. Vincent Regional Hospital's official verification as a level 1 trauma center by the American College of Surgeons. He discussed the trauma center verification, which indicates the hospital has met ACS criteria for providing extensive trauma care, as well as physician recruitment and organizational culture.

Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: What is the biggest way your hospital has changed in the last year? 

Lee Boyles: The trauma center verification was a great accomplishment by the team here. The announcement was made in April, and it took lots of hard work from our team and our amazing physician leaders. That's one of the biggest changes for us and will positively impact us going forward, being a regional trauma center. Trauma in Montana is challenging since patients have to travel longer distances compared to urban areas. Having a team of physicians and caregivers that can handle those challenges is really exciting for us.

It's a big accomplishment that puts a stamp of approval on the level of care we've been providing. It also has a halo effect on the rest of the hospital and our region. Additionally, it will help us step up our recruitment and retention of specialists and positions needed to maintain that trauma designation. Recruiting and retaining physicians in Montana, which is still considered rural in most parts, is one of our challenges. We need to ensure we have an incredible culture and attract people to it, making sure we continue to have the specialists available to serve that trauma designation.

Q: What are the next steps you foresee for 2024, and do you anticipate any changes as a result of the trauma center verification?

LB: Our next steps involve prioritizing recruitment and supporting our physicians and providers in the best way possible. We have an incredible team, but with the nationwide shortage of physicians, we face challenges with certain specialties and subspecialties. It's important to ensure competitive compensation, support structures, and a good work-life balance for our physicians and surgeons. This trauma designation will shape the rest of this year and several years going forward.

Q: Which bonus structure do you find most effective for employees in the healthcare setting? Sign-on bonus? Retention bonus? Performance bonus?

LB: I couldn't say definitively which is most effective. I think having options depending on the specialty is important. Performance-based incentives aligned with quality, safety and patient experience outcomes are crucial. Work-life balance is also important. For instance, new physicians might prioritize student loan repayment, while those later in their career might prefer performance-based incentives. It's about being creative and meeting physicians where they are, ensuring that incentives align with their needs and ultimately benefit patients and the community.

Q: Anything additional to add?

LB:  One thing I would emphasize is the importance of culture. We have an incredible culture here, and it's palpable when you walk in. Focusing on culture makes everything else easier. Engaging caregivers and physicians positively impacts patient experience, cost effectiveness, and other areas. At the end of the day, all strategies boil down to the culture of the organization. A positive, engaged culture supports caregivers and ensures success in all areas. People are more mobile now, and they move for better opportunities. Focusing on culture is critical; it's the foundation for quality, safety and patient experience.

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