3 questions with Lloyd Dean and Kevin Lofton, CEOs of the new CommonSpirit Health

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As of February 1, there's a new name in healthcare: CommonSpirit Health. The $29 billion Chicago-based system, formed by the merger of Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives, is jointly led by two CEOs who believe everyone deserves access to affordable, quality healthcare.

Becker's Hospital Review caught up with Kevin Lofton, CEO of CHI, and Lloyd Dean, CEO of Dignity, the day the 142-hospital merger was finalized. Read on to learn about the work that lies ahead of them, their thoughts on rebranding strategies, and how they feel this merger of health systems will differ from those that came before:

Question: This merger has been months in the making and involved hard work from each of you and your teams. But here you are — CEOs of a new faith-based system with a presence in 21 states. So, what's next? What kind of work do you have in front of you come Monday?

Kevin Lofton: One of the benefits of the amount of time we've had to plan the organization is that we are in a good place to start day one. A big part is now that we are officially one organization, we can begin the integration work we've spent time planning. We are excited that we are taking talent from two great organizations and putting it together. One of the key things is the formal integration work, and parallel with that is for us to formally begin to formulate the mission, vision and values of CommonSpirit Health and create what we know will be an exciting period for our organizations to come together.

Lloyd Dean: This has been an exciting journey for us, but a lot has transpired. We want to make sure we reinforce to our more than 150,000 employees, communities we serve and nation at large why CommonSpirit Health is now in existence. We want to reiterate that, in this country, we still face significant health challenges and very large healthcare challenges. That is part of the reason we came together — to do everything we can in an innovative way to improve the health of millions in this country.

We believe everyone deserves access to affordable, quality healthcare. Our goal is to create healthier communities and improve how, where and when we deliver health services. In the end, we want to ensure we are reflecting the opportunities we have in the communities we serve. We want to use these combined resources to be a positive force for change.

Q: The merger of Dignity Health and CHI is already in a league of its own given its scale and size. But aside from that, how do you want this merger to stand apart and be different from other hospital mergers? 

LD: We want to approach healthcare in our communities in a holistic way. We often talk about the healthcare aspect, or the delivery or provider aspect, but we are united in our understanding that it is a much bigger picture than that. We have to partner with others in our community. We have to understand the role that mental health plays in a community within the health spectrum. We have to understand housing. We have to understand the inequities and ethnicity factors that need to be addressed. We want to look at the totality of determinants of health and what impacts healthcare.

KL: By coming together, we'll be able to share learnings from the two organizations. One relates to a project CHI has had with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which basically looks at how providing assistance affects the social determinants of good health. That is another example of how we are actualizing what we are saying in our mission and vision statements.

Q: Organizations rebrand for different reasons and in different ways. You have systems that rebrand every facility and others that reject rebranding, noting that signage is not what will make for healthier patients. What are your philosophies about rebranding?

KL: We will be branding the CommonSpirit Health name on national scale, with a lot of the innovation and things Lloyd and I talked about. At the same time, we recognize healthcare is local and we don’t — for the foreseeable future — see that we would change names at the local level. We are taking a "house of brands" approach. The local names of Dignity and CHI hospitals — local people know and trust those names. Given the priorities we have, we don't see ourselves making investments in changing signage and things like that. As CommonSpirit is recognized on its own, that question could be revisited. But for now, it is a house of brands approach.

Q: Any closing thoughts?

LD: We think we can make a difference in this country. When you look at the expertise and best practices of both of our ministries, we think if we can combine those and scale those best practices, in the end we will be able to create better patient experience by taking healthcare where consumers want it, when they want it and in formats that meet the needs of their communities. We think we have just a phenomenal cadre of clinicians and other providers who are all motivated to go that journey with us.

KL: Given the challenges our country currently faces, we are excited to improve the health of the millions we are privileged to serve and expand healthcare beyond traditional healthcare settings. Innovation is a big part of what we are about — looking for different modalities to bring healthcare to more remote communities we serve and make sure the care is personal and convenient to those in need. The basis of our faith-based ministry is not only built on providing high quality and efficient care, but also doing it in a manner that takes care of the whole person and makes it convenient for them.

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