Lead­ing a cul­tural rev­o­lu­tion

Modern Healthcare - - SPECIAL FEATURE -

As CEO of Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal in Mun­ster, Ind., Don­ald Fesko has brought about a change in cul­ture that’s re­sulted in ris­ing pa­tient-sat­is­fac­tion scores and greater team­work among vice pres­i­dents. He’s led in­fra­struc­ture changes such as a new pav­il­ion that houses the emer­gency depart­ment and ren­o­va­tion of three floors to add 75 pri­vate rooms. On the tech­nol­ogy side, he’s presided over the cre­ation of a ro­botic surgery pro­gram.

Fesko, a for­mer op­tometrist who spent only one year as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the 427bed Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal be­fore be­com­ing COO in 2005, has ac­com­plished all of the above and more be­fore the age of 40. The 39-year-old is this year’s re­cip­i­ent of the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Health­care Ex­ec­u­tives’ Robert S. Hud­gens Me­mo­rial Award for Young Health­care Ex­ec­u­tive of the Year.

“I just squeaked un­der the wire,” jokes Fesko, an ACHE fel­low. Fesko also was named one of Mod­ern Health­care’s Up & Com­ers in 2008.

Although he came in and made changes on a va­ri­ety of fronts, Fesko, a board mem­ber from 2000 to 2004 be­fore he be­came CEO, em­pha­sizes that Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal was no turn­around project. “It was, ‘How do we tweak a very suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tion and make it bet­ter?’ ” he says.

“A big one has been the cul­ture change,” Fesko says. “I’m a big be­liever in work­ing to­gether as a team. We’ve changed out some of our se­nior lead­ers along the way.” But the moves have paid off, he says. “We’ve been able to see that with the con­tin­ual up­ward change in pa­tient-sat­is­fac­tion scores here at the hospi­tal. The vice pres­i­dents are work­ing to­gether and not op­er­at­ing in si­los, which has fil­tered through man­age­ment that we are a team.”

The ren­o­va­tions that cre­ated the 75 pri­vate rooms cured one nag­ging prob­lem Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal had faced, Fesko says. “One of the Achilles’ heels we’ve had is the large per­cent­age of semi-pri­vate rooms, so we wanted to pri­va­tize as many rooms as we could,” he says, adding that the hospi­tal fo­cused first on post­par­tum and med­i­cal-sur­gi­cal ar­eas.

The hospi­tal has worked to keep up with the lat­est tech­nol­ogy, such as the ro­botic surgery pro­gram, the first in the far north­west corner of In­di­ana, within the or­bit of Chicago. “Where we’re lo­cated, we com­pete with the Chicago uni­ver­si­ties for a lot of can­cer care, spine, car­dio and or­tho­pe­dic,” Fesko says. “We have to be able to say we have ex­cel­lent staff and tech­nol­ogy just like you’d find at uni­ver­si­ties around us and have the out­come data to com­pare with them.”

Fesko fig­ures his five-year back­ground as an op­tometrist gives him an added com­fort level with those on the med­i­cal side—and vice versa. “Hav­ing a health­care back­ground and an un­der­stand­ing of the med­i­cal ter­mi­nol­ogy, when peo­ple talk about pro­ce­dures or di­ag­no­sis, at least I have a work­ing knowl­edge. I’ve read it in text­books and seen some of that as an eye-care prac­ti­tioner,” he says. “It gives you a lit­tle bit more abil­ity with the med­i­cal com­mu­nity to un­der­stand what they’re talk­ing about.”

As CEO, Fesko tries to hold a steady hand on the tiller and del­e­gate as much as pos­si­ble. “I’m some­body that doesn’t get too up or too down,” he says. “I don’t show a lot of emo­tion. I work well with the team, I as­sist when needed, but I do not mi­cro­man­age. Once we come up with a di­rec­tion we want to fol­low—many of (the All win­ners of the ACHE awards will be hon­ored dur­ing the col­lege’s an­nual Congress on Health­care Lead­er­ship, March 19-22 in Chicago. Pro­files were writ­ten by Ed Finkel, a fre­quent Mod­ern Health­care con­trib­u­tor.


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