Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital: Rick Mace, CEO

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When building a hospital, planners need to focus on project managers, architectural firms and construction contractors, vendors who handle the structural aspects of the building. However, when it comes to creating the environment for that new medical facility, executives need to go beyond the bricks and mortar to find the real substance that holds a hospital together.

Rick Mace, CEO of Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, called on his 30-years of hospital management experience as he developed the philosophy that formed a strong foundation for this 300,000-square foot, 138-bed, all-private room facility that opened in Bolingbrook, Ill. in January 2008.

Management Philosophy

As CEO of a new facility, Mace focuses on a number of key initiatives, the first of which is building a culture.

“Culture trumps strategy every time,” he said. “When you bring 450 people together in a new building that they’ve never seen or worked in before, to work with people they’ve never worked with before, you have to work hard to create an operating rhythm for Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital that is unique. That’s still an ongoing process, but we’re making good headway there.”

Mace came to Bolingbrook in March 2008 from within the Adventist Sunbelt Systems network in Orlando, Fla., where he spent 20 years at Florida Hospital Medical Center. Mace served for 7 years as Executive Vice President at Kettering Medical Center prior to coming to Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital.

Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital is part of the regional Adventist Midwest Health system, which falls under the Adventist Sunbelt umbrella. Adventist Bolingbrook employs about 450 full-time equalivants, with about 135-140 of them living in Bolingbrook. The medical staff includes nearly 600 physicians.

Another focus for Mace is on giving physicians confidence that Adventist Bolingbrook is the right place to send their patients.

“You can’t run hospitals without physicians who have trust in your nursing staff and your technical staff to place their patients there,” he said. “That’s an ongoing interaction that a CEO should be involved in.”

Creating a mission that promotes both the hospital’s philosophy and fiscal responsibility is also on Mace’s agenda. As a faith-based organization and a community hospital, Adventist Bolingbrook needs to act as a good citizen, recognizing that its responsibility is to serve people, not make money.

“However, without a margin, there’s no mission,” he said. “We have to be prudent, we have to be frugal and we have to be stable. So, we expect to get paid for our services and we want to make sure we’re responding to people in a way that they understand that they’re responsible for what their insurance doesn’t cover. That’s getting harder to do, because of the economy.”

CEO Initiatives

As a new hospital, Mace is continually focusing on growth, particularly in the areas of physician recruitment and development. Adventist Bolingbrook is still recruiting physicians, as a significant number of the physicians currently on staff are also on staff at other hospitals. That creates a scenario where the hospital is really just a satellite site for some of the larger medical groups on staff.

“We’re trying to develop a more loyal component of the medical staff that uses us primarily,” he said.

One upside Mace has discovered in the current economic downturn is that people want to hold onto their jobs. With that, employee retention has not been an issue.

“The only shortage we still see is in nursing, to some degree,” he said. “However, all other clinical positions, such as pharmacists, physical therapists and technicians aren’t a problem right now.”

Mace also continually “takes the pulse” of the hospital’s patients, physicians and employees via surveys, consistently working on satisfaction scores.

Facility Design

Adventist Bolingbrook planners relied on firms such as Parsons and VOA Associates when coming up with the hospital’s “front stage, back stage” design. With this plan, the employees and support components such as food service and environmental services utilize the back stage corridors to move from room to room without being seen in the front stage, which is where nurses and other healthcare providers are seen, along with patients and their families.

Structurally, Mace said the facility incorporates state-of-the-art components such as an electronic medical record system and other technology in the areas of imaging and the operating room.

Capital Expenditures

Adventist Bolingbrook’s capital comes from its operating revenue, Mace said. With that, as long as the organization stays on budget, there is a formula regarding how much of that can be spent on capital.

“That’s why it’s important for us to continue to be profitable, and we are in 2009,” he said. “If we’re not profitable, then we’re not generating capital to replenish the enterprise.”

As a new facility, the hospital is well stocked with state-of-the-art technology. With that, the plan is to spend capital on “revenue-generating items.” For example, the addition of a second 64-slice CT scanner would eliminate challenges for the emergency department should the existing imaging tool go down for any period of time.

Quality Initiatives

As part of a corporation of individual hospitals, Adventist Bolingbrook has adopted some of the standard quality measurement principles, but is currently developing its own initiative called “Transforming Care, Transforming Lives.” Mace described this program as a strategic initiative to improve four areas: Quality, Customer Satisfaction, Physician Satisfaction and Employee Engagement.

“Those four focuses are what we’re working on with the leaders of our hospital,” he said. “Their responsibility is then to train their respective staffs on these new principles that we’re learning in this strategic process.”

Healthcare Challenges

In previous years, securing payment for services and generating margin were always a struggle.  Mace sees those challenges enhanced by the instability of the current healthcare environment and the economy.

“We really don’t know, and won’t know until it happens, what the true impact will be of whatever healthcare reform actually comes out of Congress,” he said. “We think that it will create challenges for hospitals from a standpoint of continuing to meet the need even though there is a promise that we would get paid for indigent care. That’s fine, but if you get paid less than what you’re doing it for it’s still a challenge.”

Facing economic and legislative challenges, along with the day-to-day management of a new medical facility, Mace is the type of CEO who believes in joining the troops in the trenches and working together to operate a facility that runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible, all for the benefit of its patients.

“If I have one belief, it’s in being an engaged CEO,” he said. “I need to be a part of the team that’s solving problems and removing obstacles so our caregivers can focus on the patient.”

-by Kathy Knaub-Hardy

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