Malone stepped into the role of CEO of Summa Health System in January of this year. Originally from Niles, Ohio, Malone attended John Carroll University for his undergraduate, The Ohio State University for medical school and then earned his masters in business from Notre Dame University. Malone moved to Cuyahoga Falls over a year ago with his wife and has been getting to know the community as he acquaints himself with his new position.
“ What I found about Akron that I didn’t know, is that it’s a big town but it’s a small town. I look forward to meeting people, developing those friendships and being a part of the community. We are local and we want to be the local providers of health care.”
What are first things on your plate as you begin this position?
TM: Well the first thing I had to do is put a new team together. We had some turnover from the previous CEO and it’s important to get the right team in place. We brought in a new president for the physician group, Dr. Lydia Alexander-Cook from Cleveland, Tammy Scarborough from Children’s to be the administrative lead for the physician group and also over ambulatory services. And starting this past Monday I was able to recruit my previous chief operating officer from the Detroit area to come and join me here, Valerie Gibson. So putting that team together was the most important thing and then the second thing was to start getting the message out on where we’re going as a system and what population health really means to the community.
Can you explain in the simplest of terms what population health is about?
TM: What we’re really trying to do with population health is taking care of the whole patient as opposed to taking care of you for a specific disease or a specific encounter. The way health care was designed for a long time was what we call fee for service. Every time you have a problem, you call your doctor, go see them
know that getting a colonoscopy at age 50 is important to prevent cancer, or getting a screening mammography is important to avoid breast cancer. So if you got it, great because we get to bill for it, but if you didn’t get it and we never saw you, what’s the big deal, right? What we’re really trying to do is say that it’s important for you to get those screening tests, whether we get paid for it or not because we want to improve your health. We don’t want you coming into the hospital anymore. Population health is putting all of the pieces in place to care for a community, a population and then to be paid a global fee for all of those patients, or all of those people to manage their health as opposed to their sickness.
You’re also in a different building on Gorge Blvd. Why did you move there?
TM: We moved here as the leadership team because we really wanted to send the message that we were no longer just focused on hospital business, we were really focused on becoming a health care management company. We’re much more than just a hospital company.
What’s the biggest challenge moving forward?
TM: I think the biggest challenge moving forward for us is really the pace of change that is going to have to happen for us to get to where we need to go. We tend to be very conservative in health care and sometimes if we’re really going to move to change the way we do things, you have to take some risks. It’s okay to take some risks and be wrong once in a while – from a business side, not from a clinical side of things.
Every piece of what we do needs to change. We’re going to change our entire electronic medical records system so that it all ties together and we can share information. We need to change the way we pay our doctors. We need to change the way our insurance plan functions. We need to get smaller on the hospital side and expand our ambulatory care. All of this has to happen over the next two to three years.
In an ideal world, what would you like to accomplish while CEO?
TM: It would be to change the way we deliver care in this region. Really to move Akron and the surrounding communities away from the old model of seeking care just when you’re sick to having a new model
where people are being cared for in order to keep them out of the hospital.
Do you interact with any patients or are you solely administrative?
TM: I am solely administrative now. Part of the job is that we do rounds at the hospital and clinics to make sure things are going well and we do interact with patients, but I don’t deliver any health care.
Do you miss it?
TM: I do miss it a little bit, because having done it for 18 plus years I miss that interaction with families. As a neonatologist a lot of what I did was take care of sick babies and support their families through that difficult time in their lives. That was something that was very important to me, so I miss that one-on-one contact. But I think the challenge ahead of us is so big, that I don’t think I could’ve accomplished it unless I [took on] more of a senior role.
When you aren’t in the office, what are you doing?
TM: My wife and I are both health nuts, and we both like to cook. Although she won’t let me cook as much she gets to cook.
After living here for a little more than a year now, what do you think of Akron?
TM: The surprising thing about Akron from living in the community, especially being active, is the parks and the hills and the vegetation. There are so many opportunities if you want to hike or run.
What is on the horizon for Summa?
TM: We are hoping to come up with a facility plan that we can announce in the next few months. We’re trying to figure out what our hospitals are going to look like, how many beds we’re going to have and what we are going to be investing on the ambulatory side of things. So we are going to be redoing our facilities to match where we’re going with population health. What we’re investing in for the future is not necessarily what people invested in before. We’re investing in women’s health, geriatrics, behavioral health and primary care, which are really the foundation of where we want to go with population health, but they aren’t the things that people think are exciting. But they are very important to where we’re going.