Q&A: New Premier Health CEO Michael Riordan talks transformation

Premier Health’s new chief executive is already developing a new strategic plan for the Dayton region hospital and health care system and envisions transformational progress through partnerships with Wright State University and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Michael Riordan, who took over as president and CEO of Premier Health, on Jan. 31 also said the development plan for the former Good Samaritan Hospital site is being revised to allow for future expansion of Premier health care facilities in northwest Dayton.

Riordan came to Dayton after two decades as chief executive for health care systems, including the University of Chicago Medical Center and Greenville Health System/Prisma Health in South Carolina.

Premier owns Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, Upper Valley Medical Center in Troy, a physician network and urgent care and other health care facilities.

Here is what Riordan had to say during an expansive interview at Premier’s downtown Dayton headquarters. His comments are edited for space and clarity.

The past several years have been ones of tremendous expansion for Premier. What do you see going forward as far as the pace?

All the facilities we have, they’re terrific. My sense is we’re in a pretty good position in terms of the physical bricks and mortar assets that we have. I think there are things that we can do to increase capacity, especially inpatient, and we can do that at a Miami Valley, Atrium or Upper Valley. We need to grow our partnerships with physicians, the independent physicians, the allied physicians that do a lot of work here our own provider network and we have a relationship with Wright State University. How do we work better with all of them? The growth opportunity for us is bringing those physicians together. Not so much physically, but together in terms of moving our mission forward. And we’re certainly seeing more and more things transition to the outpatient world.

What is Premier’s commitment to the Dayton region?

So strong. Part of the transition plan for me was to meet the board and leadership team (and) to get outside. I’ve met public officials, whether it’s the county, the city, the governor called me, the lieutenant governor, both senators. I had a conversation with one person on the public side, he said in the past 20 years, Premier Health has saved Dayton time and time again. Every time there was something that needed to happen Premier Health showed up. When I talked to the business community, I had people say they called Premier because of the pandemic and they showed up immediately. So there’s a history of showing up for Dayton. And I think that that continues.

What do you see as the biggest issues facing the health care industry in general, and specifically, Premier Health?

I attended a big Ohio Business Roundtable meeting with CEOs from all these differentplaces. And the common theme was staffing or workforce development. So I think that’s happening statewide, nationally (and) that is certainly specific to us. So we’ll address from a retention and a financial side.

You bring to Premier extensive experience with community partnerships. How will you leverage that experience locally?

The first thing was getting embedded into the community. The second thing is just getting out and seeing all the areas we touch. There is no shortage of community involvement with Premier Health. I would say for me, my biggest learning experiences for engaging the community was when I was at the University of Chicago in the south side of Chicago, a predominantly African-American community. What I learned is that to engage with the community, was you work through the churches and you work through the locals. And that’s something that I’ve continued here.



What have you learned in your time here in talking to community stakeholders?

Every day since I was here Good Sam came up. There were really some very (internal and external) tender conversations around that. There were economic impacts that were relevant in both communities, and there were emotional impacts to both communities. There are times where people would just get choked up. And this (hospital closure) happened in 2018. So that was really important for me to hold space for that and acknowledge that. I did visit with the Clergy Community Coalition, Father Ben of The West Dayton Caravan of Churches (and) the Revs. Daryl and Vanessa Ward. I talked about it with our own employees who were deeply touched around that.

One of the other strengths of this organization is really the commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. If you look at the diversity and inclusion here at Premier, it’s numerically impressive and visually beautiful. I think we actively get engaged with that. It’s not just hiring practices or manager practices. It’s how do our investments line up with that, how does our marketing line up that it?

Does Premier remain committed to continuing the development of the former Good Samaritan site and what is your vision of that development?

I have sent a clear signal, our board has sent a clear signal of a commitment to that project that doesn’t just have health care entities on it, but does have what we’re doing, physician offices and urgent care. We’re going to continue to engage the community to do what’s right there. And I think that actually is going to be a place that we’ll be able to build on. And one of the recent things that we did (is) we looked at the site plan of where (the) Premier Health part of the facility was going to be and we realized that if we could just rotate this a little bit, it would provide us a better path to expand. So we actually have changed it so that this can continue to grow in the future.

How do your experiences leading health systems in Chicago and South Carolina, and your background as a Marine guide your approach?

I think I have a disciplined approach to leadership and an engaging approach to it. The thing I learned in the Marine Corps, as an infantry officer, was the importance of small unit leadership: it’s really that manager that’s going to move an organization from point A to point B. I can tell you, when I get in front of a group of managers, I just light up. Those are who I want to talk to, who I want to talk to about leadership, who I want to give the information to. (I say) I’m going to give you the same information the board gets. The board is going to get it first, you’re going to hear about it. You’re going to hear what we’re doing well, what we’re not doing well. And you’re going to hear some thoughts on leadership and how we need to engage moving forward. I think (I had) great success at the University of Chicago and in Greenville, two very different environments. Two different workforces. University Chicago, highly unionized, Greenville, not so much. And through sort of a pretty rigorous discipline approach about engaging employees, measuring it, giving feedback, working with managers.

Being involved in academics and organizations that have lots of physician leadership is comfortable to me. I couldn’t imagine making a decision without physician leaders side by side with me. So I’ve had some really terrific conversations with (President) Sue Edwards at Wright State. Before I got here, there was an affiliation agreement signed between Wright State University and Premier Health. Part of my goals are I want to work with Sue and make sure that we’re living up to our end of that, that they’re living up to theirs and then to see how we can grow that. The the differentiator for us is our residents, our learning environment, how we can train that next generation of therapists, nurses, advanced practice providers, physicians, etc. It’s pretty exciting.

What is happening with the strategic plan?

We have a strategic plan in place, Building our Futures 2023, so it was pretty clear to me that 2023 was going to be here tomorrow. We (held an) initial retreat with the board and then a group of the senior leaders to begin that process of setting the vision. We will have touches with the organization over the next few months, but towards the end of the year, a strategic plan that will look out more than just three years. We want to start with that 10-15 year view, and then step back and then build that three year. What’s the capital plan? What’s the operating plan behind that? I think it’s really important for us to have a view of what the future is. And it’s going to be done by Premier leadership and by the board

The pandemic brought what some would say is an unprecedented level of cooperation between Premier and Kettering Health. What lessons were learned from that and what does it bode for the future in the Dayton region?

So I would say that that cooperation was strong. And I’ll say, not unprecedented, but it was never seen at this scale. At some times senior leaders will bump shoulders on things, but I will guarantee pre-pandemic if Kettering Health or a Christ Hospital or a Mercy, if their operating room ran out of something they knew exactly who to call from Premier Health. And I have no doubt it was on a truck. This (pandemic) was such a wide, large scale, that it took a lot of coordination. But my sense was that coordination was terrific.

What changes or adjustments did Premier make because of the pandemic and which ones are now here to stay?

So this (headquarters) building pre-pandemic probably had 1,200 employees (and now we have) maybe a third of that at any one time (and the others work from home). So I think the flexibility around where people work, I don’t think we’re going go back to the way it was. In IT maybe four or five of the last peoplehired live out of state. So we can tap into a (broader) talent pool.

On the clinical sideit’s telehealth and an accelerated and safe approach to doing more procedures on an outpatient basis.

What is Premier’s market share in the Dayton region compared to Kettering Health?

A little bit more than a third Kettering Health, a little bit more than a third Premier, and the rest sort of a smattering. If you were to look at our market share since 2015 you’d see that the line sort of came together between Premier Health and Kettering. If you look at surgical volumes, you can see where we really have increased. Medical volumes a little bit larger, perhaps, for Kettering Health. Outpatient is tough to measure. There’s nothing better for us than a strong Kettering Health. It just sort of keeps us on our toes and and moving forward. It looks like there’s some good parity there. But I like I like our trajectory.

Are you concerned at all about Mercy Health, Christ Hospital Health Network and Cleveland Clinic expanding into the area?

No one in particular, and yes to everyone. There’s going to be a natural competition if there’s two larger players. But I think it’s important that we, as Premier, don’t get overly preoccupied with a someone right here, like Kettering Health. One, I want to make sure that we execute our strategy and our plan and move forward. But if horns are always locked, you’ve got to worry about the wolves circling. So what do I mean by that? If you look at Atrium, Atrium is in a pretty competitive marketplace, Cincinnati. So that’s where we’re starting to feel a lot of the competition, so that will have our attention. And we’ve got a strong and a historic presence in Middletown. It’s not any one player, but I think as the Dayton region grows and does well other organizations are going to are going to try to work their way work their way here.”

Are companies trying to acquire Premier and are you open to that?

No one is trying to acquire us. An acquisition is not something that that I have an interest in. In South Carolina there was an opportunity for the system I was in, Greenville Health System, to merge with Palmetto Health and create Prisma Health. And the big idea there was that those two systems together would have the ability to really impact health outcomes for the state. It wasn’t just merging for merging sake. I don’t see those sets of circumstances here that that there would be one big merger that would be that transformative for the state. I’m becoming more and more convinced that health care is local. We’ve got a big footprint between Troy and Middletown and all that’s in between. But there is something I think about our size and our scale that seems to me to be very defensible, in a good way. Very focused on a region. I think we have the opportunity for partnerships and strengthening partnerships that already exist. I mentioned Wright State and the other academics. If there’s an opportunity for us to work well and leverage the resources like we’re doing (with) joint surgery center with OhioHealth in Springfield that makes a lot of sense to me. If there are things that we can partner with, with a system from Cincinnati, I’m wide open to that.

What is the plan for the Wright State partnership and what do you foresee that developing into?

We have an existing affiliation agreement. If we just executed that to the fullest, it would be transformational. There would just be so much more that we can do. So new or increased residency programs would be important. What Miami Valley has and what some of the other hospitals have been is one of the richest clinical learning environments around. (Miami Valley trains Wright-Patterson Medical Center staff) so our role in mission readiness for the Air Force is sort of one of these under the radar things that is just terrific. When I was in Greenville we started residency programs, whether it was in psychiatry or emergency medicine and and other areas. It’s a grow-your-own strategy.

What will you do about the shortage of nurses?

It’s very similar from a nursing standpoint. So we have great partnerships with Sinclair (Community College) and the University of Dayton. I think we make sure that we haveaccess to an incredibly rich learning, a clinical learning environment. That’s gold for us. These universities, they just can’t wait to work with us, because we have the the activity, the patients, the complexity that will train them. Now our goal is, once we’ve exposed a nurse or a physician or a resident to us, I want to make sure that we can retain them. And I think that’s a longer term play, back to employee engagement.

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