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A healthier approach 40 years in the making.

A long-standing community partner championing healthy living, Sun Health is a community-based healthcare organization providing pathways to population health through philanthropy, senior living, community programs and superior healthcare. Population health is an approach that aims to improve the health of an entire population.

Ronald D. Guziak

President and CEO

Sun Health

Mr. Ronald D. Guziak has been the Chief Executive Officer and President of Sun Health Services and Foundation since December 2009.

He joined Sun Health from Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and Hoag Hospital Foundation, where he served as an Executive Director in Newport Beach, California. During his eight-year tenure at Hoag Hospital, he guided Hoag through many successful hospital and endowment campaigns. Mr. Guziak has a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University and a master's degree from Wesleyan University. He is a Fellow in the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy.

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Q:

What is the biggest barrier to adopting population health practices in general?

A:

We're a 40-year old company that started building hospitals in the 1970s, and over the years we've built a mission to be an advocate for healthy living at all stages of life. Five years ago we entered a partnership with Banner Health, which has amplified our ability to focus on chronic disease management and initiate programs to address this needed care in the community. Population health management is just a new buzzword for what we had been calling chronic disease management.

For us, the biggest barrier to these population health practices is how fast we can get programs up and running so we can actually impact the health of a population. Fortunately, our board is 100 percent committed to supporting the community we're serving. Our goal is to do the right thing now.

Q:

But really, how do you pay for these community programs?

A:

Initially, our Care Transitions program was 100 percent supported by dollars from our own various revenue streams - our foundation, portfolio from our sale to Banner Health and profit from the senior living communities. Today, Care Transitions is one of 100 pilot programs supported by a CMS Initiative Award. This funding allows us to reinvest in other new initiatives.

Q:

What advice would you give to systems that are attempting to adopt population health management practices?

A:

In the past, community benefit programs were established because they were required by state legislation; it was a nonprofit obligation. Very often these programs would get started but stop because they didn't have a revenue stream.

Many healthcare systems are under increased budget scrutiny and face reimbursement issues, so determining what is right - and then how to finance it - can be a catch-22. One way around this is to find a community partner that has the same heart for the community and stimulate their interest in partnership so that it is a win-win for both the providers and individuals who are requiring these services. It's critical to establish a level of trust with community agencies so they can do their best to serve the community.

Q:

With your Care Transitions program, you had some great statistics - notably, the 85 percent reduction in readmissions. As this model continues to grow, what sort of changes do you expect in staffing?

A:

People are the most important thing. As the Care Transitions program grows, our focus is to hire the right people to do the work the way we want it done. We'll continue to use RNs or LPNs as opposed to lay people to initiate that first stage of the program once the patient is discharged. We'll remain committed to providing home visits, not just telephone visits - those are the things that differentiate the program. As we begin to serve different generations, we understand we'll need to add more technology to the services we provide.

We also want to look at beyond just 30 days. Thirty days are just the standard to avoid penalty for readmission with Medicare, but we'd love to keep individuals out of the hospital for longer than 30 days. We'll look at ways to offer support for 90 days and beyond.

Q:

What impact has the ACO model had on your company?

A:

Not much yet. The primary focus of our community programs and partnerships is to lower costs, improve patient satisfaction and offer a more effective healthcare product. As we look ahead, integration with Banner Health's ACO model is certainly our objective.

Q:

As CEO, what's your role in population health management?

A:

My role is to make sure we're bringing the right information to our board, and to develop the right strategy that makes sense for what we can afford to do and what is right for the community. I must understand the needs of the community and what resources already exist and build on the strengths of other community resources.