Q&A: New Hospital President at DMC

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As one of the newest hospital presidents at the Detroit Medical Center, Andrei Soran has been busy running Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital in Commerce Township and the DMC Surgery Hospital in Madison Heights for just seven weeks. His new role began shortly after Vanguard Health Systems, DMC’s parent company, announced that it would be acquired by Tenet Healthcare Corp., likely by the end of this year.

DDN: What are the challenges of overseeing two different hospitals that are about 40 minutes away from each other?

Andrei Soran: The logistics are not simple, but we have very good management teams in place. I have offices in both locations, and I try to dedicate as much as possible equally between the two. We’re blessed to have technology here — such as video conferencing and conference calls — that’s going to be applied more and more. Healthcare is global, so it’s starting to shrink, even at 40 miles.

DDN: What projects are you working on?

AS: Our biggest project right now, on the very macro level, is a successful completion of the Vanguard and Tenet merger. Once that goes through, we’ll be focusing on the integration of our operations within the scope of the DMC and within the scope of Tenet. Secondly, we’re looking at the strategic planning for both hospitals in terms of: Where do we go in the future? How do we apply where healthcare is going in the context of our services? I’m trying to find the common threads that can lead us to a strategic plan that is viable and successful.

DDN: How are things going so far?

AS: I’m getting accustomed and getting to know a lot of new people. It’s very exciting. I think a lot of the future of healthcare is going to be written around this area. There’s a lot of opportunity to draft how many of the things will look like. I think that Obamacare — and I’m not taking any political stance here — but any kind of additional coverage for people that are not covered at this point in time is going to have a profound impact on this area. And I do believe that a lot of innovation will come on the heels of it.  

DDN: You previously served as the vice president of growth for Vanguard Health Systems’ New England region and CEO for MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, Mass. Are you noticing differences between metro Detroit and where worked along the East Coast?

AS: I think that was one of the reasons, one, that I was asked to come here and, two, why I was interested in coming here. About 98 percent of residents in Massachusetts are covered by health insurance. During my time there, I learned a lot about how that works and how it can be applied here in terms of population management, managed care, and alliances with physicians. I think all of those will have a role to play here as we evolve in the new health care (environment). I’m happy to be part of it.

DDN: What trends have you noticed in the medical field recently?

AS: I think in this new health care environment, there is a significant impact on value proposition. What I mean by that is that if you have a high quality product, which DMC provides, and great customer service at a low cost, you are probably going to be one of the survivors. There’s always opportunity to become better, more efficient, and more productive, and everyone at DMC is working very hard to figure out how to get there. For example, we’re widely engaged in lean management activity in order to reduce waste.

DDN: What is an example for that at your hospitals?

AS: Like many hospitals, we have waste in transporting patients throughout the hospital from place to place. A lot of time is wasted, and as a result, things are more expensive because patients have to wait longer than necessary, or they don’t go home as soon as they could. So, in all of our hospitals, we now have initiatives related to process improvement: how to minimize the wait time for patients in all areas of the hospital. We have a commitment to see the patient in less than 29 minutes in our emergency room. A strategy like that requires a lot of alignment in workflow processes because it just doesn’t happen like that.

DDN: Do you see fewer hospitals operating in the future?

AS: I don’t know if I see fewer hospitals, but I would not be surprised if the total number of deaths is going to decrease. And that may be across the system. Medicine is progressing at a very rapid pace, and a lot of things that needed hospitalization before can now be done in outpatient settings right now.

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