Healthcare Management Systems CEO talks about the future of American health care

well hello again our guest today is Thomas Stevenson who's the president and CEO of healthcare management systems Tom welcome to Lipscomb Thank You better be here well we're delighted to have you tell us about health care management systems what do you do and how do you do it well we are a software development company for hospitals and healthcare facilities so we have been in business about 27 years we develop financial and clinical software solutions for for hospitals and other healthcare facilities we we have about 680 customers around around the United States all different sizes of end types of hospitals acute care hospitals behavioral hospitals long-term acute care so we provide pretty much an indian solution for hospitals to run their their business and the clinical side of what they do in treating their patients you're part of a very interesting part of the healthcare industry the healthcare information segment of the industry it's been a lot of talk about the future of healthcare in healthcare reform there was a lot of discussion about technology talk to us about your company's role in that and where you see healthcare information technology moving in the years ahead well it certainly is it's one of the drivers in the healthcare reform discussion in terms of not only how we deliver healthcare but the access to the information and I think ultimately the the goal behind this and where where the market is moving and where we're working with our customers is how do we share the information and for you know for so long the information that was captured within a hospital stayed inside the four walls of the hospital so the ultimate goal that that I think everybody's pushing toward is you know if you go to the hospital here in Nashville and you have tests or you have x-rays or whatever and then two months from now your Knoxville and you have to go to the hospital then they can access those records and see he had this test done two months ago and here's what the results were and so we're we're right at the beginning of the ability to do that the first thing that has to be done is implementing the systems in a widespread way so that that information is captured and then put it together in a format that can be shared at a state level and a regional level and ultimately at a national level so a lot of the driver behind this is first of all we've got to have the systems in place to capture the information and then secondly how do we standardize it and put it in a in a format that that everybody can access so a lot of a lot of our business today is is kind of the first part of that in getting the systems in place in the hospitals and the the clinical side of delivering that technology is behind and so we're working with our customers to put those pieces in place so physicians are placing their orders electronically rather than writing that on a piece of paper and then the ability then to share that information outside the walls of the hospital so that's a big driver from a technology standpoint and if you look at where you're you know where the banking industry is today that anywhere you go you can put your card in a machine and and access your account and draw money out ultimately that's I think the the goal for for healthcare is that anywhere you are a clinician a physician can access your information or that you can access your information and have that readily available so we're at the beginning part of that that process today but I think ultimately that's got to impact the delivery of care and I think the reform part of this is very is instrumental in driving that process the health care reform legislation which was passed in 2009 included I believe billions of dollars to promote healthcare information technology and it and the idea is predicated upon the concept that this will help to drive down the overall cost of healthcare do you buy that do you think that's what will happen do you feel like we will be successful in driving down healthcare costs I think ultimately it will help I'm not convinced that it's the the be-all end-all solution to that that particular issue but I think the ability to again have the access to the information so that that we're not repeating tests that we're not doing multiple tests when you know when the information is available from a pre a prior visit or a different a different Hospital I think certainly can play a role in that how big a role I'm not sure we know right now but I think I think it certainly has a place in that I think the the challenge we face with that today from a from an implementation perspective of that is we we're in sinning physicians we're in sinning hospitals to implement the technology but the incentive comes on the back end after they've already implemented the challenge a lot of them are facing today is they don't have the resources in the capital to implement the technology now so so that's a challenge that that especially in smaller community hospitals is the access to capital to even implement the technology so they can get the incentive so so that's a that's a challenge we're facing but but I think ultimately we'll get there Tom one of the scariest documents I think I've ever read in my life is the trustees report of Medicare as it projects what's going to happen in health care in this country there are 73 million I believe baby boomers about to begin to turn 65 and this process continues now for the long distance in the future what is your view of the future of healthcare do you feel like we're going to be able to cope with the healthcare costs that are coming and still remain solvent as a country I think it's gonna be very difficult given our current model and the way we're delivering care today and the access to care that we have today I think it's gonna be very challenging because as you said there's going to be a demand on it that that's only going to be increasing and the ability to fund it as we know today is in serious trouble so I think there's going to be some real challenges with that and and technology is only one answer to that to that problem I'm not sure what all the answers are but I don't think you completely solve it with technology and certainly the the ability to manage that cost going forward and I think what you're seeing today to sort of help that is really becoming more of a consumer driven health care so that I'm more in control of what you know what I'm going to have done and by whom and and I have access to what the charges are going to be and I can shop you know and I can be selective and where I go and I think we're only beginning that's you know we're on the beginning of that from a consumer standpoint we have to really become educated in that process and what it means you know we're so accustomed to I go to my doctor he says you need this and you're going to go here and get it and we never we never question that and I think that model has to change to where we're in control of our of our day of the data of the records and we're in control of where I go and who I see and and and and can control that cost differently and I think that the more we go down that path along with the technology I think we can certainly make a difference in it but it's still it's still going to be very challenging from standpoint you're here today to talk about ethics and I don't know an industry that's really challenged more than the medical industry ethics is a part of many different aspects of the decision-making that has to take place in in the healthcare industry we heard a lot of rhetoric quality health care reform legislation was being debated about death panels as we think about the future of health care it becomes increasingly difficult to cope with end-of-life decisions what are your thoughts about the ethical dilemmas opposed by end-of-life decision making well it is a very challenging and challenging dilemma and I think the the ability for the individual and the individuals families to be in control of that process I still think there is a place for that the you know how far you can take that from a medical standpoint certainly is what creates the dilemmas that we have today and as our technology the medical technology and the science of medicine progresses then there's going to certainly I think it's only going to increase because the abilities that we have to do you know more miraculous things from a medical standpoint it is only going to increase the dilemmas that we have there and at some level you know to me it still becomes a personal and a family issue in terms of what what I'm expecting in terms of care for my for my mother who's who's an aged person and in poor health and and and what is my responsibility in that as an individual to cope with that to deal with that aside from the scientific and the medical part of that and what's the quality of life you know that that that is maintained by that and then how do we deal with that from a you know from an ethical standpoint and I think unfortunately that's one of those that in theory it sounds really easy but in practical terms it's a very difficult one to deal with our guest today is Tom Stevenson who's the president and see of healthcare management systems Tom you have been very successful in your career what advice would you give our students as they begin their careers and think about the future you know I think the the most important thing and especially as we talked some about ethics today working hard understanding at the end of the day it's about doing the right thing you know there's there's a certain amount as I look back on my career there's a certain amount of luck in being in the right place at the right time but I think it's it's also defined by just working hard I always tell people you know no matter what room I'm in I'm not the smartest guy in the room but but I'm going to outwork you and so I just encourage anybody that is starting out a career in the middle of a career it's about worth it work ethic it's about doing the right thing it's about treating people right whether its customers whether its employees it's about it's about being fair and being honest and and at the end of the day you know giving value to people for what you do no matter what it is it's about delivering value to them and if you can lay your head on a pillow at night and say you know I did a good job today I worked hard and I treated people the right way then I think you're successful and you know whether it's doing what we do in terms of technology or whether it's you know working at a grocery store all of those same principles apply and so I think it's just important for anybody what I teach my kids is it's about hard work and it's about doing the right things for people and if you can do that you know the rest of it falls into place it doesn't mean there's chat there's not challenges there's not big decisions hard decisions but if you frame it all in that you know in terms of that then then I think you can be successful as you look back on your career what are you what are you the proudest of and what would you take a mulligan again to do well you know I'm just I'm very thankful and very poor out of the way that that my company and the people that that I've worked with throughout throughout my career at HMS the way we've treated our customers we are very fair with our customers we deliver value to our customers we have long-term customers the first the first hospital system I installed some twenty six years ago they're still a customer today and so it really is about how we treat people we you know people want to do business with us because of the way we do business the the Mulligan I would take is is you know there there are times when you have relationships with customers and you over the long term you maybe take them for granted and you don't value that relationship the way you should and in one particular case I you know we kind of fell into a very comfortable position and maybe didn't treat the customer like we should understanding the value of that relationship and unfortunately we you know we caught that in time that it didn't you know it's created a situation that we were able to to correct and have a very strong relationship but just just that recognition early on that every one of the customers is extremely important you have to treat them all that way tell me what what you enjoy doing in your spare time I read a lot I like to exercise a lot work out trying to work out every day my family and I love to go to the beach and go to the mountains and just get away I try to to cycle when I can kind of a way to get out in the country on my own or with my son I'm not a big golfer so I you know I can't say I like to do that I try I do it every now and then when I have to but but just you know being with my family and doing things with with my kids it's always good if you could advise me to read one book particularly a business book that you've read recently what what comes to mind one that I I read I've read now three times and I actually just finished teaching a class based on this on leadership it's called hand me another brick and it's it's a book on leadership principles from the book of Nehemiah in the Bible and it takes Nehemiah and his experience is about building the wall and and breaks it down into real practical everyday looks at leadership and I think the principles that are there in that book are things that anybody in any position of leadership can can learn from and they're there they're just very practical things that you you know when you read them and think about it it really can make a difference and I think how you approach leadership everyday our guest today is Tom Stevenson who's the president and CEO of healthcare management systems Tom you made a comment when you were speaking to the students earlier today that all of your employees are shareholders I think that's a very interesting concept how how did you do that number one and number two why did you do that well in in 1999 the two founders of our company were looking at essentially looking at an exit strategy for themselves they were the hundred percent owners of the company looked at all kinds of different options selling the company you know whatever and came up with this idea of an esop an employee stock ownership plan and basically sold a hundred percent of the stock of the company to the employees it proved to be a very valuable tool gave them an exit strategy and also built a sense of ownership with the employees that that they truly were the owners of the company in 2007 we went through another ownership change and the ESOP sold majority share to a private equity firm but we maintained a portion of ownership with the employees and so that even still today they they maintain an ownership in the company and it really drives that that sense of ownership with them that the decisions we make and the results that we get affect their you know value in the business so it's one of those rare things without being a public company you still get you still get ownership and and it's a valuable thing when you when you stand when I stand in front of them and show them financial results for for the year for the court or whatever and we talk about value we talk about you know what that means to them as owners of the company it's it's it may be a little challenging for a 25 year old to understand how that impacts them because it essentially rolls into a 401k plan but for somebody naive just it's a big impact because you understand you know what that means sure what's your strategy what what what differentiates hm s from your competitors well I tell I tell prospective customers all the time you know we have four or five kind of primary competitors that we that we go against all the time all of them very good companies all of them good products we fit really well into corporate environments so where we have companies that own multiple hospitals are we're well suited for that and have a strong track record for that but I tell people all the time you know you're buying software and there's several companies out there that can deliver good software but at the end of the day it's who in two years when you have a problem and you will have a problem who do you feel comfortable that you can pick up the phone and call them and you can call anybody within the company and and you can get somebody to help you you can get a resolution or if you're looking to grow your business who do you feel comfortable that'll come and sit around the table with you and help you figure out okay how do I do this and I think we've proven that that's the kind of company that we are very accessible very open you know I know visit customers routinely no matter where they are how big how small and and I think we've just created that atmosphere within our business that that's you know we're people you want to do business with one of the academic areas that we try to focus on here at Lipscomb Tom as a faith-based institution is the challenge of creating cultures of integrity within businesses what are your thoughts about doing that how have you done that at HMS well it it starts as we talked about earlier arrive you it really starts with the example that that I and my management team set with our with our employees and you know we can we can provide them that code of conduct and those principles that we want to live by those values that we talk about and that we you know every employee meeting I discuss the values the the HMSO values but at the end of the day it really becomes do I live that every day and and do they see me demonstrating those values with our customers when there is a problem or when there is a situation that needs to be handled how do we do that and so when you have a large number of people that all have different backgrounds that have worked in other places and experience different things it's a process of a sort of constant communication of it of what those values are those principles are but then it's also the everyday living and how do we how do we demonstrate that just like I try to do with my kids at home and and let them see the example that I set we try to do that with our employees as well so that they understand what the expectations are from somebody that works at HMS what do you do as a leader seeking to demonstrate that level of commitment when you come upon a situation where you've got to decide between doing what's right versus profitability well you know I always want to do the right thing for the customer but but you also view it or we view it from the standpoint of the customers made a long-term commitment to us they're spending a lot of money to to use our system it's not like going and store and buying a sack of groceries and next week I can go to the other grocery store and buy that it's not going to happen so for me it's about building those long long-term relationships and and those creating that sense of trust with HMS because I want them to be my customer for 10 years 15 years 20 years and I've got to demonstrate that that type of integrity and that type of behavior with them so that they feel good about that and so it is about about developing trust to create that long term relationship that the number one I can meet their needs but that I'm also going to do it in a way that that they feel good about doing business with me Tom let me ask you one last question I don't want this to sound like a morbid question but I always like to ask this question so if if you were at the end of your time on this earth and you could pre-select what's going to go on your tombstone what would that be well that is a that's a tough question you know I want to say that that I hope when it says when this is over when this life is over for me that you know the number one thing is that that people would say I was faithful to God that I was a good husband a good father and then I treated people the right way you know that's the only thing I know to do and I hope I hope when when life is over that that's that's the way people look at me well that's a great summation and we should all say the same thing thanks for being with us Tom it's an honor to have you on the Lipscomb campus our guest has been Tom Stevenson who's the president and CEO of healthcare management systems we hope you'll join us again soon you

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