Baptist Health System: Shane Spees, President and CEO

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In the face of healthcare reform, tightening costs and coordinating independent and hospital-employed physicians, healthcare systems are seeking innovative ways to provide care and create a positive environment for employees. Baptist Health System in Birmingham, Alabama, chose to use the organization’s mission and values to reinvigorate the process of providing care, improving quality indicators as well as finances.

“As a longstanding, faith-based organization, we have a rich history and strong mission,” said Shane Spees, President and CEO. “I made an effort to meet with employees, physicians, business owners and others to get an impression of where we stood in the market and find opportunities for improvement. I noticed that we weren’t living out a strong sense of mission daily.

“As a team, leadership held focus groups to find out what our values meant to employees in the context of the workplace and performing their daily roles.”

Baptist Health System includes four hospitals, 40 physician practices, independent physician locations, as well as nine senior housing facilities. The organization’s mission incorporates its values as guidance for providing care and establishing goals: As a witness to the love of God, revealed through Jesus Christ, the Baptist Health System is committed to ministries that enhance the health, dignity and wholeness of those we serve through Integrity, Compassion, Advocacy, Resourcefulness, and Excellence.

Using this mission as a guide, Baptist went from having operating losses of around $25 million in 2007 to operating income of almost $2 million in fiscal year 2010. The System also made progress in operating and clinical quality indicators over the past three years, performing in the top 10 percent nationally in many areas. In addition, the health system has improved physician satisfaction. All this through the lowest point in America’s recession.

“We are really trying to challenge ourselves to think innovatively and differently about our approach to healthcare,” Spees said. “We have to step back and look at where we have opportunities to change the way we provide and manage healthcare. We’ve chosen to approach this as a team, which is not easy. It was a cultural shift for us as an organization.” With about 4,300 employees in the organization, redefining the working culture was no small task.

Importance of leadership and teamwork

Baptist took a team approach to developing goals and changing the culture, with the System’s mission statement as their guiding principle in all changes.

“In a team-based approach, we all understand we’re responsible for our goals,” Spees said. “We all have individual targets and objectives to reach, but we formulate our plans in a team environment. We also have critical success factors at the System level: mission, excellence and engagement. All planning we do relates to those success factors.“

Using the critical success factors, which relate back to the health system’s mission and values, keeps alignment throughout all facilities and helps balance the decision-making process. Whether it’s decisions on capital investment or services expansion, leaders can look to the success factors to ensure their decision fits within the System’s strategic plan, Spees said.

“The team-based approach has fostered a culture not just of teamwork, but also of system-wide accountability,” Spees said. “We’ve made sure our plans are aligned and cascade those targets down to individual goals and objectives for different roles throughout the system, not just across management.”

Spees said investing in leadership has also been critical to the System’s success. He said the health system began re-engineering its operating systems and human resource leadership systems, which included investing in leadership tools and coaching. With strong leadership, Baptist was able to focus on employee and physician engagement and improving the work area to meet the needs of employees and physicians.

Next steps

With the employee culture and finances improved, and quality measures on the rise, Baptist Health System is now looking toward modernization and improving technology.

“Recently we invested about $150 million in modernizing the internal workings of our hospitals,” Spees said. “That includes investments in medical technology, medical equipment, new cath labs, new operating rooms. We also recently opened a new patient tower at Shelby Baptist Medical Center, which features all private rooms and doubles our critical care capacity, which was a real need in that community.”

He also said the system just broke ground on a project at its largest hospital—Princeton Baptist–to renovate 90,000 square feet of existing space and add 60,000 square feet. The project is estimated for three years, and Spees said when complete, the hospital will have the “most modern technology in operating procedural rooms available.”

Another exciting investment for the System is in the implementation of an ambulatory electronic medical record throughout employed physician practices and independent physician practices that have chosen to contract with the System. Spees is looking forward to a future with the community’s hospital and ambulatory settings connected through this technology.

In accomplishing all this, Spees said, “It’s important to be persistent in pursuing your goals and being mindful of your organization’s overall mission. It’s not just what you accomplish, but how you accomplish it that matters.”

-by Patricia Chaney

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lauren Mott February 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Congratulations Shane Spees for being highlighted in this article. I had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Spees two weeks ago during my Shelby County Leadership Class. I was very impressed with his knowledge and after touring Shelby Baptist I was amazed at the facilities available to residents of Shelby County, AL.


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