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HealthBeat

Robert Steigmeyer, Concord Hospital’s new CEO, takes over

Robert Steigmeyer has been selected as the next CEO/President of Concord Hospital. 

Courtesy

Robert Steigmeyer has been selected as the next CEO/President of Concord Hospital. Courtesy

Robert Steigmeyer is the black sheep in his family.

The other five children born to Dr. David Steigmeyer of Fort Wayne, Ind., are in direct patient care like their dad, a longtime pediatrician. There’s the son who joined the Fort Wayne family practice. There’s the daughter who’s a pharmacist.

Then there’s Robert. The only Steigmeyer not drawn to don scrubs and a white coat, he went to business school after college.

He went into health care, too, though, first as a consultant, then as senior vice president of operations and finance at Northwest Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle.

After three and a half years as president and CEO of Community Medical Center Healthcare System in Scranton, Pa., he’s taken on the mantle of CEO at Concord Hospital.

“I guess I’m more of a gray sheep now,” Steigmeyer said in his first interview after arriving at the hospital last week.

He has spent his first few days meeting hundreds of employees at the hospital’s main site in Concord and at satellite facilities across the region.

A self-described geek, he gets most excited talking about the details of how minute data will give hospitals like his opportunities to improve care and employ the best possible methods for helping patients manage chronic disease.

“Fundamentally, though, it was my father who influenced me, my father’s passion for caring for children,” he said. “He worked hard to make a difference in the lives of kids and families, and he did that one at a time.

“If I do my job really well, I have the ability to affect the lives of thousands of people, by managing and directing resources in the right way. To me, that’s a powerful driver.”

Steigmeyer, his wife Patti, and 9-year-old twin sons have moved to a rented house in Bow as they look for a place to live. They plan on buying soon, though, and staying for a while.

When he took his job in Pennsylvania, the family traveled frequently to Boston because the boys are avid Red Sox fans.

Patti Steigmeyer grew up in St. Paul, Minn., and during a trip to the Lakes Region one year, “she just said, ‘I’m home,’ ” her husband said. “So we’ve had our eyes up here, and I’m looking to be here for the rest of my professional career.”

Future based on data

By the time the 51-year-old Steigmeyer retires, however, the health care world could be a vastly different one than it is now.

The Affordable Care Act, advances in technology and the looming potential costs as the nation’s largest generation ages are all changing the demands on hospitals.

Fewer procedures require long inpatient stays, so the focus of hospitals will shift to outpatient health and to providing “the right care in the right place with the right resources,” he said.

When Steigmeyer’s predecessor, Mike Green, took the position of CEO 20 years ago, one of his first decisions was to reduce the hospital staff by 100 positions.

“My intent is that we will never have to deal with that, that we will manage our resources properly and never get into a position to have to do that again,” Steigmeyer said. “It’s all about managing resources, to stay viable and stay ahead, and we are in a strong, strong position. We are as stable as you can be right now in health care, with a strong balance sheet and a great quality profile.”

Maintaining that will be Steigmeyer’s job.

In the future, hospitals and physician practices will be more concerned with managing patient health, especially patients with chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“I see a future where we’re much more cognizant of evidence-based medicine and learning from research the best way to do things,” he said.

The information to drive those changes will come from world-class research hospitals and medical schools, but also from the vast amounts of data hospitals are now collecting about their patients and their treatment, about what works and what doesn’t.

Under the accountable care organization New Hampshire Accountable Partners, Concord Hospital will have access to information about almost 40,000 Medicare patients here, in Dover and in other parts of the state. In about six months, the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services will report outpatient data on ACOs across the country, revealing efforts that are working and those that are not succeeding at improving patient outcomes and decreasing costs.

In Concord, the ACO efforts are bearing fruit already, Steigmeyer said, “as quick as our intellectual capital can be built.

“We’re exquisitely managing that population, and it is a rich laboratory. It’s a lot about data analytics, measuring the effects of care, and finding the data to bear it out. The actions that we’ve taken already have had effect, but the proof will be in the pudding.”

‘Very special job’

When he came to visit the hospital, before officially applying for the top executive position, Steigmeyer said he walked around the building to get a sense of the organization.

He didn’t wander far before being noticed.

“People looked me in the eye and they asked, ‘Can I help you?’ People focused on me at a level you don’t see in many organizations. They were curious. They were service-focused,” he said.

“I didn’t know Mike, I didn’t know the culture, but the servant-leadership culture Mike imparted here, along with everyone else, is palpable.

“I’m entrusted with an asset that has performed very well. I take that trust seriously,” he said.

“My job is to take the mission and do something with it. If I can’t do something with it, I need to hand it back. This is a very special job.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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