Mountain View Regional Hospital: Don Burris, CEO

by HCE Exchange on January 10, 2011

The Mountain View Regional Hospital opened in Casper, Wyoming in June of 2008. It is a 23-bed, specialty surgery hospital that is 50% physician owned. Its corporate partner is National Surgical Hospitals based in Chicago, Illinois. It began as a hospital specializing in neurosurgery, but in the short time it has been in operation the organization has also established itself as a center for orthopedic surgery, general surgery, plastic surgery, bariatric surgery, nose and throat surgery, and pain management. The hospital also has an emergency room and a total of about 150 employees.

“The physician ownership model is one that is a lot more operationally efficient,” says Don Burris, CEO. “Patient satisfaction is higher due to physician involvement at the governing level. As well, clinical outcomes are better and infection rates are lower. From an operational paradigm, physician-owned hospitals have a lot of benefits over traditional hospitals.”

Thin on Administration, Heavy on Quality

“The physicians and I pretty much work hand-in-hand to get things done, both strategically and operationally,” says Burris. “It’s not death by committee around here. If you need to get something done, this ship is easily turned.”

The physicians who built the hospital were focused on creating a healthcare facility where they could directly affect the clinical outcomes without a lot of bureaucracy. Burris says the owner-operator mentality means that folks are intrinsically invested. “You can’t just ask someone to care and to start caring right now,” he says. “Of course, we have  a beautiful facility and we have state of the art equipment. What sets us apart and gives us our competitive advantage is our people. I think that’s an advantage that you find in at least this physician-owned hospital, the direct connection between the physician and the staff which really enhances that ownership mentality and drives people to have that component of caring about what happens not just to the organization, but to the patients and families that we serve.”

The Three-Legged Stool of Healthcare

The hospital took off so successfully that Mountain View began bumping up against capacity in its first year of operation. A $2.5 million, 14-room expansion was begun and completed in 2010. Healthcare reform changed the landscape, however. The hospital is currently unable to license those beds for inpatient use. “Of course there are other ways we can utilize these rooms,” says Burris, “but ideally, the purpose of building them was to get them licensed as inpatient beds. We have hit capacity on our census numerous times and it’s very disheartening that we can not serve the needs of our community because of legislation that prohibits us from opening these beds.”

“I’ve always viewed healthcare as a three-legged stool: affordable, accessible, and quality driven,” says Burris. “What’s been done in terms of healthcare reform, specific to our facility, is that access has been addressed in terms of everyone having insurance. Simultaneously we’ve limited capacity in our facilities—specifically physician-owned facilities—that demonstrate there is a need in the community because we’re hitting capacity.”

“I think the ultimate effect is that you are going to have overcrowding in other facilities. Folks are going to be just running through the system as fast as they can and, ultimately, the quality leg of that stool is going to be impacted.”

Still Growing, None the Less

Regardless of legislative changes, Burris still sees growth in the future of Mountain View. Three of the four operating rooms are frequently running at capacity. There is continued recruitment of additional surgeons and the hospital will continue to accommodate as many patients as possible. The hoped-for inpatient rooms can be utilized as observation rooms for day-surgery patients, for instance.

“There is a lot of outpatient or same day surgeries that we can accommodate in that space, so we do still have the ability to increase our volume and accommodate the community in that way,” Burris says.

The Physician in the Healthcare Equation

“It would behoove the folks looking at healthcare optimization, instead of focusing on some of the things they view as prohibitive to physician-owned hospitals or physician involvement in hospitals, to truly take a look at the operational side, to look at the numbers and facts versus the anecdotal information. I think that’s the thing that’s left healthcare, the realization that the physician is at the center of it. It is very important that we reintroduce the physician into the healthcare equation.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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