By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — Hub City Times recently spoke with Marshfield Clinic Health System CEO Dr. Susan Turney, who took over that position Sept. 1 of this year.
Turney was most recently the president and CEO of the Colorado-based Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) prior to accepting her current position with the Clinic. From 2004-2011, she was the CEO and executive vice president of the Wisconsin Medical Society.
Prior to her time with the Wisconsin Medical Society, Turney spent 22 years at Marshfield Clinic practicing internal medicine and serving as the medical director of patient financial services. The following are excerpts from Hub City Times’ interview with Dr. Turney.
Hub City Times: When you transitioned from providing patient care to the more administrative side of health care, was that a difficult transition?
Susan Turney: My first love really is taking care of patients. I believe that at every point in my career that’s what I’ve done but in different capacities. There’s something extremely special about the face to face encounter and the relationship which you develop with a patient on an individual basis. Yet, in every role that I’ve been in, I think I do bring a physician’s voice to the table and also put the patient first.
HCT: Can you talk about how you have been settling in (with the Clinic) so far?
ST: I would say that “settle in” is relative as I have not yet unpacked (laughs). That’s my next phase I think is unpacking boxes. Literally, I hit the ground running. Sept. 1 was actually Labor Day, and (I) had scheduled meetings that day.
… This is really a pivotal time of this organization for a lot of reasons, not just internal, external as well. Practices are having to reinvent themselves as consumers are purchasing their insurance differently than they have in the past, … and they’re also deciding on where they get their care differently than they did in the past.
HCT: Can you talk about how the new health care law impacts the business of the Clinic? Is that still something Marshfield Clinic and other providers are trying to figure out?
ST: The short answer is I think every practice is trying to figure out exactly what this means. It certainly is a new day, and … patients are becoming different consumers. They’re making different choices about the type of health insurance that they purchase.
For example, we knew that high deductible health plans are in the market, and we anticipated that would grow over time, but it grew more quickly than we anticipated. More and more patients have high deductible health plans. Now that patients are directly responsible for the first $2,000 or $5,000 of their health care, they’re looking very differently at where they seek that care.
Whether they seek (care) in a traditional physician’s office, whether they seek it in an employer-based clinic, … whether they seek it through virtual health care either through telephone or some other electronic means, … they’re looking around to see where they can get great quality, but they want the best price as well.
HCT: Recently there have been personnel cuts at the Clinic, and the health care industry is in a period of significant transition. How would you describe this period in the Clinic’s history?
ST: What we’re facing is what most other practices are facing. I don’t think we’re unique. Where our uniqueness is, is that we’re the only system that probably has as broad a geographic spread in a relatively low density population area. So that is certainly unique.
… We’ll be celebrating our 100th anniversary in 2016, which is a really tremendous accomplishment. We’re here for the long haul. We’ve demonstrated that, and our intent is to continue to serve our communities. We do provide strong economic impact in the 55 sites where we do provide patient care and the nine sites where we provide dental care.
We have to be forward thinking. All practices are being asked to do more with less, and we have to understand what outcome we want and figure out the best path to get there. There will always be some reorganization and internal changes to really meet the changing landscape and the way patients desire care. … Everything is not crystal clear, but it’s not crystal clear for any system in this country right now.
HCT: Can you talk about why you decided to take this position at Marshfield Clinic?
ST: I would say that in the 10 years that I’ve been away from Marshfield, I’ve always in my mind viewed Marshfield again as someplace very special. When we hear words like patient-centered medical home or patient-centered care, I believe that’s what we’ve delivered for decades.
And we’ve had the support to do that with our hospital partners, our health plan, and the technology. I’ve many times used Marshfield Clinic as an example when I’ve been speaking on behalf of the (Wisconsin) Medical Society or MGMA because I think we’ve done many, many things right and we’ve kept the patient as the center of our focus.
So, I’ve always had Marshfield top of mind. … And then when the CEO position was available and I thought about it, it seemed like it was the right thing to do. I really was excited about, again, giving back to a community that had given me so much for 25 years of my career.