New Texas Health CEO aims to streamline care

Scott Nishimura Texas Health Resources will keep searching for ways to improve its patients’ health over their lifetimes, says the new chief executive, Barclay Berdan. That could mean connecting more people with primary care physicians, improving coordination among providers, developing well-being initiatives, reducing expensive hospital stays, and ultimately paring costs, Berdan said in an interview July 29. That follows a stepped-up transformation plan that THR put into place under Berdan’s predecessor, Doug Hawthorne, who is stepping down. Berdan, 61, said he wants to continue to reduce wasted effort in patient care, a problem that THR found several years ago in reviewing progress. “We recognized that there was an awful lot of waste that existed between what I’ll describe as the silos of care that existed,” Berdan said.

From hospitals to physicians’ offices, and post-hospital care like rehabilitation and home health, “there was a chasm between those silos” that obstructs efficient delivery of health care, he said. Berdan said a relative’s recent health care episode has “reinforced” the problem for him personally. “The lack of coordination in that continuum, as you move from one location to another, becomes a more challenging journey, one that needs navigation and where a lot of waste exists,” he said. Anne T. Bass, THR’s board chairman and leader of the search committee for a new top executive, said in an interview July 29 that the board chose Berdan, THR’s chief operating officer, to succeed Hawthorne from among a diverse group of “people who are at the highest levels of their organizations.” “Barclay exemplifies the best qualities of a human being in terms of a leadership profile,” Bass said. “He is an eminently nice individual. Barclay is kind, compassionate, and I think these are really important attributes for a health care leader.” Berdan will assume his new post Sept. 1. THR, based in Arlington, is one of the nation’s largest faith-based nonprofit health systems. The system has 25 acute-care and short-stay hospitals, including Texas Health Presbyterian, Arlington Memorial, Harris Methodist and Huguley. It also comprises the Texas Health Physicians Group, outpatient facilities, behavioral health, home health, preventive and fitness services. Berdan joined the Harris Methodist Health System in 1986 as vice president/administrator of Harris Methodist Southwest. He became president of Harris Fort Worth, executive vice president of the health system, and senior executive vice president for system alignment and performance. In 2012, he was named Texas Health’s senior executive vice president and chief operating officer. Berdan points to a partnership struck in mid-July with CVS Caremark as one of the latest pieces that THR is putting into place to challenge the “silos.”

Doctors in the Texas Health Physicians Group will serve as collaborating physicians for 34 MinuteClinic locations in Dallas-Fort Worth CVS stores, plus seven more to open by early 2015 in the region. At the MinuteClinics, patients can get clinical support, medication counseling, chronic-disease monitoring and wellness programs. CVS and Texas Health will move to integrate electronic records on prescriptions and patient visits to improve communication. The program heightens the chances that patients with no primary care physicians can be directed to one, which is important given today’s shortage of primary care doctors, Berdan said. “It’s low-cost and it begins to connect people with a larger system,” he said. Many such patients use emergency rooms for routine care, “which is expensive and overkill for the kind of problems that people will seek care for at the CVS MinuteClinics,” Berdan said. THR is also a leading backer of Blue Zones in Fort Worth, an initiative designed to promote well-being based on practices in communities worldwide where people live longest. Business and civic leaders have climbed on board with the initiative and its promise of a healthy, happy, productive population and ultimately lower health care costs. “I think as we roll through the end of this year and into 2015, you’ll see a lot of activity and a lot of energy over Blue Zones,” Berdan said. “We think that’s a very laudable goal and one that will ultimately have a very good return on investment for the community, although it will take a number of years to achieve that return, both in terms of reducing costs and increasing productivity,” Berdan said. There are likely more areas of the fast-growing market where THR will need to build facilities, he said. “One of the great things about North Texas is the growth that we’re experiencing,” Berdan said. “The growth spreads through the geography. So, as that happens, we watch and we’ll extend services, probably first on an ambulatory [outpatient] basis. And then we’ll get to the point where we may have to consider other services.” But even then, what results may not be traditional.

“We want to create opportunities for access and care that are not based in the traditional acute-care hospital model,” he said. THR’s Burleson campus, for example, includes a freestanding emergency department that opened in 2010. It also includes full imaging capabilities, outpatient physical and occupational therapy, primary care and specialty physician offices, and a fitness center. “That’s been a very successful model for us to begin making their services available closer to home for folks,” Berdan said. “I expect we’ll continue to apply that model or a variant of it in other areas of North Texas in very short order.”