Whether it’s rolling out an electronic health record, recruiting physician practices into the group or persuading executives from a local hospital to form a joint venture and then getting his physician team to buy into the concept, Michael Kasper has a reputation for pulling people together to work on a common goal. Kasper has been CEO of DuPage Medical Group, a 365-doctor, independent physician group since September 2010, making the jump to the provider side after an early career as a health insurance company executive. The group serves parts of the western suburbs in metropolitan Chicago. His insurance career included a stint as president and CEO of Coventry Health Care of Louisiana, where he implemented a post-Hurricane Katrina recovery plan.
Most recently, Kasper engineered the formation of Illinois Health Partners, a joint venture with Edward Hospital in Naperville, to manage 100,000 HMO patients. Dennis Fine, DuPage Medical’s chief operating officer, has worked with Kasper during both career stages, including in 2000 when they were both at Aetna U.S. Healthcare in Atlanta. “I’ve never had so much fun working with a guy while working so hard,” Fine says. “He’s still extremely driven and a very results-oriented guy, but he’s calmer, more mature and more methodical—a lot of that comes with age, but also with experience and finding the best ways to deal with people.”
This includes using a talent for public speaking while mixing data and a passion to persuade people to focus on a common vision—such as persuading physicians that forming a joint venture with a competing hospital is a good idea. While presenting what he thought was positive news to a group of physicians at a quarterly shareholders meeting, Kasper says that he still felt skepticism about the joint venture with Edward Hospital and that “there was still a lot of curiosity.”
“I said, ‘I know I come across as a bulldog, but I’m your bulldog,’ ” Kasper recalls, adding that it seemed to be the right thing to say to calm the doctors’ concerns, though they weren’t the first to view the arrangement with skepticism. Kasper first had to persuade Edward CEO Pamela Davis—best known for working with the FBI in its probe of corruption in the state certificate-of-need process.
“She looked at me and said, ‘You’re our biggest competitor,’ ” Kasper recalls.
Brian Davis (no relation to Pamela Davis), vice president of marketing and government relations at Edward, confirms the story. “After that initial meeting, we thought we could make something work,” he says. “But we walked into those meetings with an open mind—we didn’t walk into those meetings just to talk with Mike.”
Kasper says the negotiations with Edward were the most collaborative he’s ever worked on, with the focus on bettering community health and “not getting bogged down with minutia.”
“I’ve never had so much fun working with a guy while working so hard.”
40, President and CEO, St. Joseph’s Hospital, Breese, Ill.
40, CEO, DuPage Medical Group, Downers Grove, Ill.