Dr. Larry Kaiser

Modern Healthcare - - PHYSICIANS - — Steven Ross John­son

Tem­ple Univer­sity Health Sys­tem was on its last legs when tho­racic sur­geon Dr. Larry Kaiser took over as pres­i­dent and CEO in 2011.

The three-hospi­tal aca­demic med­i­cal cen­ter that serves a pa­tient pop­u­la­tion dis­pro­por­tion­ately made up of the unin­sured and Medi­care and Med­i­caid ben­e­fi­cia­ries on Philadel­phia’s north side had lost $133 mil­lion be­tween 2008 and 2010.

When Kaiser took over, he kicked off a turn­around strat­egy that in­volved ex­pand­ing Tem­ple’s pres­ence be­yond its tra­di­tional role as a safety-net provider. The sys­tem would beef up its more spe­cial­ized acute-care pro­grams, such as car­diac medicine and or­gan trans­plants to in­crease vol­ume. The goal was to ad­just Tem­ple’s payer mix by draw­ing more acute-care pa­tients with higher in­surance re­im­burse­ment.

To that end, Kaiser’s first move was to ac­quire Fox Chase Can­cer Cen­ter, a na­tion­ally rec­og­nized 100-bed re­search fa­cil­ity and hospi­tal, for more than $80 mil­lion and then in­vest an­other $ 30 mil­lion to ex­pand it. Other in­vest­ments in­cluded re­cruit­ing nearly 60 physi­cians to its car­diac surgery and or­gan trans­plant pro­grams. That’s all led to a 25% in­crease in Tem­ple’s high-acu­ity pa­tient vol­ume be­tween 2011 and 2016.

“He has been trans­for­ma­tive,” said Dr. Amy Gold­berg, chair of surgery at Tem­ple’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine, chief sur­geon at the health sys­tem, and a part of the Tem­ple since 1993. “He was bold, vi­sion­ary and fear­less, but didn’t wa­ver a mo­ment from our mis­sion.”

In im­ple­ment­ing his strat­egy, Kaiser looked at sev­eral pro­grams that he thought could re­ally make a dif­fer­ence. One of those, the sys­tem’s lung trans­plant pro­gram, has more than dou­bled its in­take from 126 in 2011 to nearly 300 last year.

Build­ing up Tem­ple’s clin­i­cal ser­vices has also meant build­ing out its reach. The sys­tem has added three ur­gent-care cen­ters and four out­pa­tient-care clin­ics in more af­flu­ent com­mu­ni­ties in the re­gion.

Kaiser also said Tem­ple’s fo­cus on re­cruit­ing top re­searchers con­trib­uted to the univer­sity be­ing re-clas­si­fied last year to the high­est tier among four-year col­lege re­search in­sti­tu­tions by the Carnegie Clas­si­fi­ca­tion of In­sti­tu­tions of Higher Education.

“It’s still chal­leng­ing, there’s no ques­tion about it,” Kaiser said. “We re­main com­mit­ted to tak­ing care of this com­mu­nity in North Philadel­phia while at the same time be­ing a high-end, ter­tiary and qua­ter­nary care re­fer­ral cen­ter. Try­ing to do both of those in one lo­ca­tion is a very chal­leng­ing process.”

But those ef­forts have pro­duced re­sults. Af­ter ex­pe­ri­enc­ing op­er­at­ing losses of $2 mil­lion in 2013 and $15 mil­lion in 2014, Tem­ple re­turned to the black in each of the past two years. The sys­tem ended last fis­cal year with op­er­at­ing in­come of $ 3 mil­lion. Last year, Fitch Rat­ings noted that Tem­ple had in­creased its share of high-end cases to 6%, up from 4.9% in 2011 while keep­ing the sys­tem’s fi­nan­cial out­look sta­ble.

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