par Diana Bradley
, Staff Writer | September 25, 2012
From the September 2012 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine
Recently, DOTmed Business News spoke with Michael Hulefeld about defining moments in his career, developing news from the hospital and its recovery in the aftermath of Katrina.
DMBN: How long have you been CEO of the hospital and how did you get to where you are today?
I’ve been in this role for three years now. But I’ve actually been at Ochsner for 14 years, doing many different jobs. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a master’s in health administration, I did my administrative fellowship at Ochsner and have never left.
DMBN: What have been some of the highlights during your time with the hospital?
I was here during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which was a defining moment for us to say the least. We were one of only three hospitals in the area to not close during that experience, and this really forged a new direction for Ochsner. Post-Katrina, we made a significant investment in our community, acquiring six community hospitals that are now part of our health system. And at the same time, we really grew our group practice in a very significant fashion. When Katrina hit, we had around 550 doctors in the physician group -- now we have over 900. I am very proud of my involvement with the growth of that physician group as well as the administrative team we have built.
In addition to this, we have been rated as one of Thomson Reuters’ 100 Top Hospitals for the past three years; we’ve got eleven specialties in U.S. News and World Report. I would say our improvement in quality has also been remarkable over the past seven years.
DMBN: What are some of your goals as CEO?
I have organizational goals to continue to advance Ochsner Medical Center as the best tertiary and quaternary referral center on the Gulf Coast. I want to continue to see this organization improve its group practice and become one of the top 10 group practices in the U.S.
DMBN: What are the biggest challenges facing your hospital and the health care industry in general today?
We have taken significant Medicaid reductions from the state for three years in a row. On a cumulative basis, it impacted this hospital over 20 percent in terms of our Medicaid reduction during those three years. We are also seeing more Medicare patients and Medicaid patients. So this concept of getting ready to break even on Medicare patients is certainly being accelerated for us. This puts our revenue very much at risk right now. At the same time, Louisiana is not known for the good health status of its citizens. So we have some real challenges meeting the demand. That is creating capacity issues in our hospital; it creates access issues getting into our medical group because the demand is so high. So we are in this challenging market with this tremendous need, and significantly declining reimbursement, which has had us really rethink our approach on cost management and where we continue to invest and how we continue to grow.