Health­care pi­o­neer Nel­son dies at 86

Modern Healthcare - - LATE NEWS - —Joe Carl­son

Stan­ley Nel­son, praised for pre­scient de­ci­sion­mak­ing in run­ning health­care or­ga­ni­za­tions, died Aug. 3. He was 86.

Nel­son was named to Mod­ern Health­care’s Health Care Hall of Fame in 1999 af­ter a ca­reer in which he adapted to changes faster than his con­tem­po­raries.

Col­leagues say one of his most au­da­cious early de­ci­sions was to merge two ri­val hos­pi­tals in Min­neapo­lis to form what’s now Ab­bott North­west­ern Hospi­tal, one of the largest hos­pi­tals in the state. That was in 1967, well be­fore suc­ces­sive waves of health­care merg­ers con­sol­i­dated much of the hospi­tal in­dus­try.

“He had a great vi­sion for what changes needed to be made,” said Don Weg­miller, a friend and col­league of Nel­son’s who for­merly served as a top ex­ec­u­tive at Al­lina Health, which to­day owns Ab­bott North­west­ern.

Weg­miller said Nel­son per­son­ally lob­bied Henry Ford to do­nate $200 mil­lion to ex­pand the ail­ing Henry Ford Hospi­tal in down­town Detroit by es­tab­lish­ing out­pa­tient clin­ics in out­ly­ing com­mu­ni­ties dur­ing the subur­ban ex­o­dus of the 1970s.

“That was, again, un­heard of,” Weg­miller said. “Peo­ple said, aca­demic med­i­cal cen­ters are down­town. They run a hospi­tal and that’s what they do. And Stan­ley had the vi­sion to say, no, that has to change. And he did it.” Nel­son was later cred­ited as the “con­cep­tual ar­chi­tect” for the en­tity known to­day as Henry Ford Health Sys­tem.

Nel­son also served as a founder of Vol­un­tary Hos­pi­tals of Amer­ica, which even­tu­ally be­came the Irv­ing, Texas-based VHA, and he was chair­man of the Amer­i­can Hospi­tal As­so­ci­a­tion in 1982.

In 1993, Nel­son and oth­ers formed the Scotts­dale In­sti­tute, a not-for-profit con­sor­tium of health­care or­ga­ni­za­tions that plan and share in­for­ma­tion on health­care in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy trends.


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