OLYMPIA - Jim Geist, chief executive at Capital Medical Center, envisions a three- to five-year plan for the hospital, helping it to become a full-service medical facility and a well-known community destination.
He started in May as chief operating officer before taking over CEO duties in August. Geist, 44, was born in Connecticut and grew up in St. Paul, Minn., before going to high school and college in Texas. He has a master’s degree in public administration and once thought of becoming a city manager before realizing he had a lifelong interest in health care.
Geist received a master’s degree in health care administration and has worked for hospitals throughout the Southeast and Southwest, including hospitals owned by the Hospital Corporation of America – the former owner of Capital Medical Center – a company called LifePoint and Capella Healthcare, the Tennessee company that owns Capital Medical Center, a 110-bed facility in west Olympia.
Geist has family in Oak Harbor and has embraced the Northwest, taking hiking trips throughout the Olympic National Forest, he said.
Hospital board of trustees Chairman Kevin Ekar, who was involved in interviewing Geist, described him as a doer and a listener, someone who communicates well and is not afraid to reach out to the leadership around him for advice.
“He’s doing the right stuff, right now,” Ekar said.
Geist sat down with The Olympian to talk about his time at the hospital.
Question: What kind of year did the hospital have in 2010?
Answer: We had a good year. It was a year of retrenching and rebuilding our leadership team. We hired a new chief financial officer and several clinical department directors. It was a year spent recovering from significant turnover and leadership over the previous couple of years, relearning who we are and what we are. I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the work of interim chief executive Joe Sharp, who was very successful in regaining the trust and support of our physicians. Because of that, we realized 8 percent growth in patient volume last year, a year in which many hospitals, because of the economy, were flat in volume growth.
Q: What do you expect in 2011?
A: I expect another good year, but I expect it to be more challenging. Because of the economy, there are an increasing number of uninsured patients, which creates economic challenges for medical facilities, but it also causes people not to seek health care when they otherwise would. I’m forecasting continued growth, about half of what we saw last year, or 4 percent. But I think that’s significantly higher than what other hospitals across the country are projecting. We also have two major initiatives this year: a new outpatient imaging center, which is expected to open in August, and we’re going to bring back neurosurgery to the hospital. We are very excited about that.
Q: What are your personal goals for the hospital?
A: My three- to five-year plan is to become a full-service hospital. Last summer we hired a company to do a community-perception survey of the hospital. What we learned is that there are a lot of people in this city who are not aware of what we do and provide. Because we are a smaller hospital, some feel like the quality of care may not be comparable to other hospitals’. So it’s my goal, through the provision of quality patient care, that our community learns we are a full-service hospital and that this is a great place to receive high-quality care.
Q: Now that the hospital can offer the artery-clearing elective angioplasty procedure, how has that changed things here?
A: The biggest impact on the hospital is that it ensures our ability to meet the total medical needs of our patients. We have a strong surgical program at this hospital. Now that we can offer the elective procedure, it really enables us to meet my long-term goal of becoming a full-service, medical, surgical hospital.
Q: How are hospitals likely to respond to federal health care reform?
A: I think all health care providers will be asked to do more for less. The pie is not growing, and the slices will be much thinner. We’ll have more patients to take care of but no additional reimbursement to take care of those patients. We’re going to have to be more efficient and more effective, and the care that we provide is going to have to be increasingly transparent and quality-driven. We’re also told that we are going to receive one bundled payment for an entire episode of patient care – preventative, acute, follow-up – so the government would give an entity one payment for all of those services and you have to determine how you divide the payment. There’s going to have to be greater coordination of care between providers. The good news, though, is that there will be fewer uninsured.