Five Questions With: Scott B. Laurans

Chairman of the Lifespan board of directors talks about the health care network’s strategic future direction. More

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Five Questions With: Scott B. Laurans

COURTESY LIFESPAN
"THE REALITY is that the current health care delivery system is not financially sustainable," said Lifespan Chairman Scott Laurans.
Posted 2/13/12

Scott B. Laurans is the new chairman of the Lifespan board of directors, succeeding Alfred J. Verrecchia after 10 years as chairman.

Laurans assumes Lifespan’s leadership mantle in a time of great change – both within the Lifespan hospital system and throughout the health care delivery system in Rhode Island. George A. Vecchione, president and CEO of Lifespan, is stepping down at the end of the year. Hospitals, both large systems and unaffiliated community hospitals, are facing difficult financial pressures.

Providence Business News asked Laurans to address Lifespan’s strategic future direction, in his first in-depth interview since he became Lifespan’s board chairman.

PBN: In its most recent annual report, Lifespan announced that it was moving toward a realignment of its network of payers, patients and physicians. How does Lifespan envision that this will shift the current system from volume to value?

LAURANS: The reality is that the current health care delivery system is not financially sustainable. As the largest health care system in the region, Lifespan has a responsibility to look at new and creative ways to deliver the highest quality, cost effective care to our patients and the purchasers of health insurance-public and private.

These services must be provided across the entire continuum – in hospital and ambulatory settings with consistent levels of quality and alignment focused on enhancing the patient experience.

One major enabler of this ability is the use of information technology. Lifespan has made substantial investments in our IT platform over the past 15 years which positions us well for the future.

In our way of thinking, the transformation that is required to stabilize price and enhance outcomes is to better align the payment mechanisms with the providers of care.

For too long, we have operated in separate silos. This shift will not happen overnight; however, we have a clear imperative to make health care more affordable and to impact quality, and we are interested in working with insurance companies and governmental agencies to help make this a reality.

PBN: Recently, Lifespan set up an outpatient center, The Women’s Medicine Collaborative, including many providers who had recently been affiliated with Care New England’s Women & Infants Hospital. Does this signal that there is competition for women’s health providers in the Rhode Island market?

LAURANS: Lifespan has always been a major provider of services to women in Rhode Island, and the reality is we do provide care in a competitive environment. We are excited about the Women’s Medicine Collaborative because it embodies a philosophy of patient-centered services focused on prevention, wellness and an interdisciplinary model of care. The Women’s Medicine Collaborative patients are delighted with this experience because all the services they need are provided in one location that is uniquely designed for women.

The Women’s Medicine Collaborative is aptly named as constant collaboration with physicians in the community, including obstetricians and gynecologists, is a hallmark of the practice.

PBN: Lifespan’s research division has been successful during the last few years, attracting more than $90 million in annual revenues and employing more than 850 in that division. How important is Lifespan’s research division to its future growth strategies?

LAURANS: As an academic health system, research is a critical component of our system, making up one area of our tripartite mission – along with patient care and medical education. Research generates clinical innovation, and is also a major economic driver whose benefits ripple across the state.

Our commitment to the research and teaching mission – and our dedicated physicians who are involved in major areas of investigation – help form the backbone of the state’s Knowledge Economy and our continued success in this area is essential for us to remain competitive as an academic health center and for our city’s and state’s future economic health. Of course, our support and nurturing of this enterprise is predicated on our continued clinical success.

PBN: A number of acute care community hospitals are experiencing financial trouble in Rhode Island. Do you anticipate that Lifespan would become actively involved in acquiring such hospitals for its network?

LAURANS: Lifespan is acutely aware of the financial challenges being experienced by community hospitals in Rhode Island, and our system is likewise challenged in the current health care environment. The pressure to contain costs and the trends to transform care will continue to reduce demand for inpatient hospital services.

Our success in creating medical homes, enhancing primary care and evolving medical technology are great for patients and our need to curtail costs, but they all result in lowering our need for inpatient hospital days.

As a major community-based hospital system, we are open to discussions whenever a potential alignment can enhance the system of care, maintain the safety net function so crucial to many of our patients and help stabilize health care costs.

PBN: There has been some discussion about creating a statewide plan for the delivery of health care in Rhode Island. Does Lifespan favor the development of such a statewide plan?

LAURANS: The pressures on our health care market are steadily increasing and it is prone to more and more volatility. We have a responsibility as fiduciaries to synthesize increasing amounts of information and best position our institutions in this environment.

Against this backdrop, we are opened to discussions that will add clarity and some measure of predictability as we continue to pursue our mission to best serve our patients in this region. We are open to working collaboratively with the state and others to help improve health care quality and stabilize costs in our state.

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