Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital: Jim Brown, CEO

by HCE Exchange on January 24, 2012

Finding a path forward in an ever-changing environment and maintaining revenue streams is challenging for established hospitals in the United States. Imagine being a relatively new community hospital, trying to thrive in a highly competitive market.

Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital, a full-service, acute-care hospital, has been establishing its position in the competitive healthcare market of Houston, Texas. In about three years this healthcare market has grown from 300 beds to 700, but Sugar Land has been able to establish and maintain its market share in its five years of operation.

The hospital has excelled in many areas including quality and physician satisfaction. According to Jim Brown, chief executive officer of Memorial Hermann Sugar Land, the hospital has ranked in the 94th percentile nationally in physician-satisfaction scores in 2010 and 93rd in 2011.

“Our hospital’s success has shown that you don’t have to be the largest provider in a market to deliver a high level of service,” Brown said. “You just have to have a balanced approach with quality care, good outcomes, and strong physician relations.”

Growing to meet community needs

Sugar Land Hospital is a 77-bed not-for-profit facility with about $108 million in net annual revenue. It was recently named to the Thomson Reuters 100 Top Hospitals list.

Even with just five years in business, Sugar Land Hospital has expanded services,  adding invasive cardiology and growing its main service lines of orthopedics and women’s and children’s.

“As a full-service community hospital, we felt that invasive cardiology is a necessary service,” Brown said. “We are the last facility in our market to add this service and are working toward creating the right structure so that the program excels in this market.”

With an appeal to the Memorial Hermann healthcare system, Sugar Land Hospital was able to purchase two interventional labs. Brown credits much of the hospital’s prosperity to its surgical volumes, and it has added operating rooms and capacity in the women’s labor and delivery unit as well.

Future plans include expanding the hospital’s primary-care base, providing a more robust total-joint program, and creating closer alignment between primary-care providers and specialists to help increase the elective procedure volumes at the hospital. Sugar Land has recently expanded into radiation-therapy services through a joint-venture with Texas Oncology.

Starting clean and paving the way

Starting clean as a new facility has its challenges but can be an advantage, especially as many established hospitals are trying to adapt their facilities to changing technology. Sugar Land Hospital was built with the latest equipment and technology, offering all-private rooms and amenities for the comfort of patients and their families. The hospital is also at Stage 6 with electronic medical records implementation using the Cerner suite of products.

To help remain successful, the hospital has the advantage of being part of the Memorial Hermann healthcare system, the largest not-for-profit system in Texas with 11 hospitals and numerous specialty programs and services.

“Growth still remains a challenge, although we have seen great success so far,” Brown said. “As a new facility we have not yet hit the sweet spot of covering our depreciation on new construction and allocation of corporate overhead. But we have been ahead of schedule in that journey.”

A new facility not only starts clean with technology and applying the latest amenities for patients and families, it also starts clean in management and operations. All hospitals are doing their best to plan for an unknown future of accountable-care organizations and physician alignment.

Physician-employment models and alignment between primary-care physicians and specialists has been a major focus for Sugar Land Hospital.

“As a system, Memorial Hermann is progressive as it relates to physician alignment, the potential development of accountable-care organizations, and health-information exchange,” Brown said. “At Sugar Land, we are in an environment where physicians of multiple specialties are seeking the hospital for employment. A constant challenge is how to embrace them without alienating our loyal, independent physicians who are not interested in the employment model. I think this can be achieved, but it requires political savvy and trust.”

Brown has focused a great deal on building that physician trust and maintaining positive relationships with employed and independent physicians. Collaboration with physicians and engagement are two key values Brown promotes as CEO.

Fostering alignment with primary-care physicians and the specialists that help support the hospital has been a strategy for growth as well as a plan for future changes.

Through these strategies and the rigorous quality standards the hospital maintains, Sugar Land is uniquely poised to establish itself as a market leader.

-by Patricia Chaney

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