April 16, 2018

New Trinity Health CEO pledges community approach in competitive healthcare market

HBJ Photos | Steve Laschever
HBJ Photos | Steve Laschever
Dr. Reginald Eadie says his years of experience in a multi-hospital system in Michigan will be of value to the young Trinity Health of New England system, which is anchored by St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford.
Leaving Michigan was not an easy choice for Dr. Reginald Eadie, but he says Trinity Health’s faith-based mission helped sell him on the system and Hartford.

Trinity Health of New England

• Hospitals: 5

• Employees: 13,000+

• Annual revenue: $1.6 billion

• Beds: 1,417

• Employed providers: 837

• Annual emergency visits: 265,000

Source: Trinity Health of New England

Dr. Reginald J. Eadie, the newly named CEO of the fledgling Trinity Health of New England system, has been moving up the healthcare management ladder for years, but he's always found at least some time to see patients by picking up weekend emergency room shifts.

It was important to him to maintain a connection to the community, something Eadie referred to often during a recent interview at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center, whose parent company hired him after about 20 years within the Detroit Medical Center (DMC) system, as well as a stint at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Michigan.

A hospital CEO seeing patients is rare, Eadie acknowledged, but then again, many hospital CEOs don't have medical degrees.

Eadie, who trained as an emergency medicine physician and later specialized in treating obesity, stopped seeing patients a year ago to focus on his increasing responsibilities at DMC, but he said he hopes to bring a similar approach to his new role at Trinity Health, which has four Connecticut hospitals and another in Springfield.

"I'm a big time community person," Eadie said. "I'm a servant leader and I have to be in touch with the community."

One of Eadie's goals is to get Trinity's area hospitals — which just a few years ago were disparate entities but are now part of the third-largest health system in Connecticut by revenue — working in tandem as much as possible. He calls it "systemness."

"Get the system operating as a system," he said. "I've seen that happen very well. I've seen that happen very poorly."

As part of that ongoing work, Trinity Health earlier this year began leasing 55,000 square feet of office space in Bloomfield for more than 200 finance and billing staffers who serve the entire system.

Eadie, who started March 26 and succeeds Christopher Dadlez, said he will also be focused on patient experience, population health and lowering costs. Adding value for patients and payors will be important, he said.

With hospital merger activity keeping up a steady clip of late, Eadie wouldn't say if Trinity Health is looking to add to its portfolio.

"We're not necessarily trying to acquire, build," he said. "But we're trying to satisfy need."

Asked about Hartford HealthCare's recently announced plans to acquire St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center in Bridgeport — a Catholic hospital — Eadie said Trinity Health officials had been involved in discussions with St. Vincent's at one point.

He declined to elaborate further.

Inverted pyramid

In Michigan, Eadie served on the board of a science and medicine high school and led a campaign urging residents to avoid drinking soda for a month. He's written several books about diet, blending his medical background with his religious beliefs, which he described as non-denominational, though he bases his own diet choices on the Bible's Book of Deuteronomy.

He said he would not have left Michigan for a job at an organization that was not faith-based, which the Catholic Trinity Health system is.

When Eadie and his wife Kimberly, who is a nurse, visited Hartford during his interview process, he said they approached strangers in restaurants and stores to ask them about the area.

He said he was certainly aware of the Michigan-based Trinity Health system during his time at DMC — a for-profit system owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp. — but said there's no direct connection to him getting his new gig.

He said his management approach will also apply to his new team of approximately 13,000 employees, whom Trinity refers to as "colleagues."

A typical corporate organization chart suggests that everyone down the chain reports to the top. That's still true, but Eadie said he seeks to invert that pyramid.

"My role as regional president and CEO is to support everyone else, so that's why I'm here," he said. "That may or may not be a shift in culture, but that's who I am."

Meeting Trinity's front-line medical staff in the area sold him on leaving his long-time home, he said.

Competition, innovation

Eadie arrives in a competitive market that has seen major consolidation among its healthcare providers.

He says there's nothing special about that. It was happening in Michigan, too, and it's happening across the country.

"It's going to be difficult for individual business units or hospitals to survive alone," he said. "You're going to have to collaborate, you're going to have to leverage scope and efficiency, [and] operational excellence is a must."

The broader Trinity Health system, which has 94 hospitals across the country, recently announced it had partnered with fellow Catholic systems Ascension (which currently owns St. Vincent's) and SSM Health to form a generic drug company in an effort to lower costs.

"I think that's just one of many examples that you're going to hear about coming out of Livonia, Michigan," Eadie said.

On the payor side, Eadie sees some of the same cost-lowering and care-quality motives in the mega-mergers announced over the past four months by Aetna and CVS and Cigna and Express Scripts.

"Nationally, we spend a lot of money on health care and our outcomes don't really justify it," he said. "Everybody is scratching their heads asking themselves 'how do we provide that same level of care or better at a lower cost?' We have no choice but to do that."

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