Q&A with David Cheney, Banner Boswell Medical Center's CEO

November 01, 2012
by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer
DMBN: How long have you been CEO of the hospital and how did you get to where you are today?
DC: I have been CEO since September 2008, but I’ve actually been with part of the Banner Health system for 30 years. Banner came into existence in 2000. And it was a merger of two other systems: Lutheran Health Systems, based in North Dakota, and Samaritan Health System, based in Phoenix. Prior to the year 2000, I was with the Samaritan Health System. I started out as a paramedic and moved my way through the organization in different roles. In September 2008, I was the senior administrator at Banner’s big tertiary hospital in downtown Phoenix. That month, Banner acquired Sun Health Corp. At that time, they asked me to come up here and be the CEO.

DMBN: What have been some of the highlights during your time with the hospital?
DC: Being recognized as one of the nation’s 100 Top Hospitals by Thomson Reuters was a big highlight for us. We have transformed the culture here to one of being the best and achieving excellence, and this is a good mile marker for us that shows we are heading in the right direction.

DMBN: What are your main goals as CEO?
DC: I’ve got about 2000 staff, 1000 volunteers and 700 medical staff. My personal goal is to watch this group of people really become everything they want to become and help them achieve what they are capable of achieving. My group wants to become an excellent hospital, provide a fantastic patient experience, be the safest hospital in the U.S., and they want great clinical outcomes. Further to this, our mission statement is really important, and we really do live by it. We aim to make a difference in people’s lives through excellent patient care. That is something we don’t just talk about, but actually live through.

DMBN: What are the biggest challenges facing your hospital and the health care industry in general today?
DC: The whole changing landscape of health care is a challenge for us. In addition to that, we have decreasing reimbursement for Medicare. And given we are in a very large Medicare population, that’s a big challenge for us. Furthermore, we do have Medicaid problems.

DMBN: With reimbursement cuts and the current economic issues going on, what actions have your facility taken to cut costs and curb spending?
DC: The system has undergone a significant reflection on our structure.We have asked: How do we restructure what we do on a day-to-day basis to take care of patients under a very different model going forward? In some cases, when we talk about health care in the future, we understand we are going to need more case management RNs. At the same time, we look at those opportunities at each facility and see if there is an opportunity for us to centralize some of those functions and become more efficient.

DMBN: Do you interact with CEOs from other hospitals/ health care facilities? If so, how has that benefited you?
DC: As part of Banner Health encompassing 23 facilities in total, we are currently working in what Banner defines as our “innovation phase.” We look to each other for best practices at each facility. Those practices have to be measurable, sustainable, and if they fit those criteria, our role is to then transfer those best practices to other Banner facilities. So we raise the tide for all the ships at Banner. Of course we do talk outside Banner as well, to accomplish the same goals; we don’t have the answers to everything.

DMBN: Are there any “green” or eco initiatives at your facility?
DC: We’ve started our Print Smart initiative, which aims to reduce printing costs through centralized printing. We are trying to get people to think about their printing needs and reduce our overall carbon footprint on the environment. We also have a Think Green committee that just rolled out our recycling program. In addition, we are using digital communications instead of traveling for meetings, saving the eco system.

DMBN: Does your hospital have any big announcements or developments on the horizon?
DC: Banner is expanding our access to the community through the development of primary care centers throughout Arizona and Colorado. So there have been recent announcements about new primary care centers that have either just opened, are under construction or about to begin construction. Our goal there is to make sure we are serving the needs of our community and giving people access points to primary care. We are part of the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model and well-prepared to begin that this fall. We are also really proud of the Care Transitions Program in collaboration with the Sun Health Foundation, a philanthropic organization in the community that raises money for Banner Boswell. The program identifies patients being discharged from our hospital and then a team goes out to the patients’ homes to make sure they are following up with their doctors and their medications are properly managed. The goal is to reduce the 30-day readmission rate. We have only been trying this for a few months, but our initial findings are nothing short of really amazing. They are tracking close to 100 patients now and that readmission rate is a fraction of the national average and our average here prior to the program.