These days, Richard Lofgren spends a lot of his time listening.
Lofgren — who took over as CEO of University of Cincinnati Health after the retirement of former CEO James Kingsbury Dec. 2 — has spent the past two months listening to colleagues and analyzing the needs of the institution to improve health care and make it more affordable.
On his first day, he challenged the health system’s clinicians, nurses and staff to “bring their ‘A’ game every day.”
So far, he said he’s been pleased with UC Health’s development in the field of healthcare, but there is much that needs to be done.
“I’ve been doing a lot of listening,” Lofgren said. “This is an organization that has rich tradition, there’s lots of stuff that is going extremely well and I need to understand that, so I’ve probably spent the majority of my time getting to know people within the medical center, people within the university and people within the community itself.”
Formed in 2009, UC Health is one of the top health care providers in the region. It’s a collaboration of top clinicians and researchers aimed at bettering treatment and innovation in hospitals around greater Cincinnati. It has locations throughout Cincinnati and extends as far as Lexington, Ky.
Lofgren said UC Health is the only academic medical center in a community of almost 3 million people.
UC Health is not technically part of the University of Cincinnati, but the two have an ongoing affiliation with UC to serve as the clinical arm of educational research, Lofgren said.
Despite not being an official extension of UC, the non-profit organization is still closely united with UC’s College of Medicine and is even largely comprised of UC professors — the organization consist of more than 700 certified clinicians and surgeons.
“So it’s got this rich tradition building upon this new momentum, which is exciting from my standpoint,” Lofgren said. “And I think it’s exactly the kind of platform that we need to make a big difference.”
Prior to taking the helm of UC Health, Lofgren worked with United Health Care, a consortium comprised of all of the medical academic centers from around the country. According to the United Health Group, UHC has invested nearly $3 billion in research and development in the past five years.
“We’re very, very fortunate to have Rick with us,” Thomas Boat, dean of College and Medicine, said in a statement. “He has been a consultant to a lot of academic health centers and he has really been able to see what works and what doesn’t work across the country in these settings.”
Given Lofgren’s extensive experience in improving American healthcare, he said the long-term problems facing UC Health coincide with problems affecting similar institutions nationwide.
“The biggest issue facing the health of the country isn’t necessarily the lack of technology, it’s really a healthcare delivery system that’s clumsy and increasingly not affordable,” Lofgren said. “It’s important that we leave a legacy of a healthcare system that’s sustainable; meaning that it’s accessible, of high quality and oh yeah, affordable.”
Lofgren said building a state of the art clinical delivery system — a procedure is set in place to accurately provide healthcare to the public — is only half of the battle. The other half is advancing academic programs to spur further research and development.
“We need to make a commitment to the entire greater region that regardless of how sick, or how complex a medical problem, they can get world-class care right here in Cincinnati,” Lofgren said. “That’s what we’re trying to build to.”
Lofgren said he has yet to encounter any surprises or setbacks, which he accredits to the transparency of UC Health. He said given the nationwide concerns about healthcare reforms and lack of funding, Cincinnati is the place to turn that around.
“I’m not a Cincinnatian, I’ve only really been here for about eight weeks, but I’ve been continually struck by the sincerity of the community, the commitment of the people,” Lofgren said. “It’s just a very genuine community, both within UC Health and in the greater community itself. It really makes it fun to work.”