En­gi­neer­ing change

Up-and-coming exec fo­cuses on com­mu­ni­ca­tion

Modern Healthcare - - SPECIAL FEATURE -

Christina “Tina” Freese-Decker’s en­gi­neer­ing back­ground makes her ide­ally suited to chip­ping away at the chal­lenges that face health­care sys­tems across the coun­try. Since 2011, the 35-year-old pres­i­dent of 46-bed Spec­trum Health United Hospi­tal, Greenville, Mich., and af­fil­i­ated 16-bed Spec­trum Health Kelsey Hospi­tal in nearby Lake­view, has de­voted her en­er­gies to im­prov­ing a pa­tient-care process by cre­at­ing a new de­part­men­tal work-flow struc­ture and tak­ing ad­di­tional steps to en­sure the hospi­tal’s physi­cians and the ad­min­is­tra­tion are on the same page oper­a­tionally.

“Health­care is very com­plex, and what I en­joy most is iden­ti­fy­ing where we have some is­sues and some bar­ri­ers and then re­mov­ing those bar­ri­ers to get the pa­tient the right care at the right time and in the right places,” she says.

Freese-Decker has a master’s in in­dus­trial en­gi­neer­ing from the Univer­sity of Iowa and with that back­ground, she says she looks at the prob­lems fac­ing health­care as a kind of puz­zle. She also holds a master’s of health ad­min­is­tra­tion from the Univer­sity of Iowa, as well as an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree in fi­nance from Iowa State Univer­sity.

The Amer­i­can Col­lege of Health­care Ex­ec­u­tives will present Freese-Decker with its 2013 Robert S. Hud­gens Me­mo­rial Award for Young Health­care Ex­ec­u­tive of the Year. The honor rec­og­nizes CEOs or chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cers younger than 40.

One of her ma­jor ac­com­plish­ments that earned her the award was launch­ing a physi­cian-re­la­tions pro­gram to im­prove en­gage­ment with physi­cians at her fa­cil­i­ties.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key, says Freese-Decker, who works to gain in­sight on is­sues from the front lines by reg­u­larly con­fer­ring with nurses, cafe­te­ria work­ers and other staff mem­bers. “I ask them how they’re do­ing and I talk to pa­tients to see what is­sues are im­por­tant to them,” she says.

Mary Kay VanDriel, pres­i­dent of Value Health Part­ners, a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based al­liance of seven Michi­gan health sys­tems that in­cludes Spec­trum, nom­i­nated Freese-Decker for the award be­cause of her work in build­ing the lo­cal ACHE chap­ter. The al­liance’s mem­bers work in con­cert to ad­dress re­gional dis­par­i­ties in care while also rep­re­sent­ing their com­mu­ni­ties on pol­icy is­sues af­fect­ing pub­lic health.

VanDriel calls Freese-Decker “very in­ten­tional,” mean­ing she al­ways has spe­cific rea­sons for her ac­tions. She cited Freese-Decker’s role in grow­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion into a vi­brant chap­ter and de­vel­op­ing a strate­gic plan that was later adopted at the larger Detroit chap­ter. She says Freese-Decker’s vi­sion and en­thu­si­asm make her a valu­able team mem­ber al­ways ded­i­cated to find­ing so­lu­tions that seem to elude ev­ery­one else.

The Great Lakes Chap­ter serves South­east Michi­gan and has about 500 mem­bers. One of Freese-Decker’s achieve­ments was reg­u­larly video­con­fer­enc­ing the chap­ter’s events, which made par­tic­i­pa­tion eas­ier and helped in­crease mem­ber­ship, VanDriel says.

Freese-Decker joined Spec­trum in 2002 as an ad­min­is­tra­tive fel­low. A year later, she served as a sys­tem di­rec­tor for plan­ning and strate­gic devel­op­ment be­fore mov­ing on in 2006 to be­come vice pres­i­dent of sys­tem strate­gic plan­ning and devel­op­ment as well as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Spec­trum’s re­gional hospi­tal net­work.

John Mosley, Spec­trum’s ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and chief strat­egy of­fi­cer, notes Freese-Decker’s work with the sys­tem’s 2011 ac­qui­si­tion of Zee­land (Mich.) Com­mu­nity Hospi­tal. Mosley says she helped lead strate­gic plan­ning with Zee­land staffers to en­sure the own­er­ship tran­si­tion went smoothly.

He also men­tions her involvement with the board of direc­tors at the David D. Hunt­ing YMCA of Grand Rapids, which gave her a big­ger pres­ence in the com­mu­nity. She has served as a board mem­ber since 2007. The work at the YMCA helped Freese-Decker gain com­mu­nity sup­port, some­thing a suc­cess­ful ex­ec­u­tive needs along with the sup­port of hospi­tal clin­i­cians and other em­ploy­ees, Mosley says.

“That’s one thing about Tina, she has the sup­port of all those groups,” he says.

Christina Freese-Decker

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