Strength in Leadership: Making a Name

Date: October 15, 2019

A Q&A with John Fogarty, FACHE, President

What sets Beth Israel Lahey Health System (BILH) apart from other systems in the health care marketplace?

There are two things that strike me as unique about the formation of BILH. The first is the clear statements of purpose—delivering care close to home through its suburban provider network, commitment to innovation and research through its academic centers and embedding behavioral health providers in primary care practices. The second is the geographic scope of both hospitals and physicians BILH will offer. Seventy-five percent of eastern Massachusetts residents will be within five miles of an affiliated provider. That’s a powerful foundation for change.

What part do you see community hospitals like BID Needham playing in the BILH system?

Needham will continue to play an integral role in keeping care in the community. For so many reasons—patient convenience, cost, decompressing crowded urban hospitals—this will be a key to the success of the new system.

What do you see as the greatest opportunity from combining 13 hospitals across five health systems, bringing together a variety of specialties in a wide range of geographic locations?

Collaboration on best practices. Every hospital brings to the table something they excel at. If we share and populate those ideas system-wide, it will be a win for the entire system and everyone we serve.

You’ve seen growth in so many ways at BID Needham since you became president in 2011. What are you most proud of?

I feel we’ve come such a long way that it’s hard to point to one particular item. I guess what I find most inspiring is to have an employee or member of the community say, “We are so lucky to have a revitalized hospital like this in our midst. It makes the quality of life for me, my family and neighbors so much better.” Fortunately, I get to hear that often!

What is your main focus today for the hospital?

In the near term, settling in as a new member of BILH. Though we don’t expect this to bring drastic changes to BID Needham, it’s important to keep everyone on track with where we’re going. Secondly, working through the growth and logistics of our expanded campus, bringing in new services and physicians are the things that come to mind.

Patient care remains a priority for the hospital. What steps do you take to ensure high-quality patient care?

There are many “mechanics” involved in achieving optimal quality, but to me it’s always come down to three things: full transparency in monitoring successes and failures, keeping the quality journey a central topic at the board and highest levels of the organization, and lastly, making sure front-line employees know they have a principal role in how good we actually are. That last one is the most important. Also the hardest, but I think we’re doing pretty well on all three.

What is happening at BID Needham right now that you are most excited about?

There are a number of important initiatives that we’ve launched in the past year that are exciting because they are still coming to fruition. The new BILH affiliation, new practices that have joined us like the Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare group in Wellesley, ramping up our new Outpatient Clinical Center and re-engaging in our service excellence effort here with training and classes for managers and staff. It’s too hard to pick one!

What is next for the hospital? What main impacts will patients feel and see?

Other than expanding on the items I’ve already referenced, we’ll need to relook at ourselves as we enter the next decade. Over the years, we’ve changed from your local Needham hospital to more of a regional community health provider. So, our strategic plan calls for envisioning and implementing what that means. It’s still germinating, but I think the community will see a larger campus with new and more contemporary services, like wellness, fitness, nutrition and likely a stronger focus on women’s health.

What do you see for BID Needham five years down the road?

I would hope that we can be seen as a regional health resource for MetroWest working in concert with the rest of the BILH system. Not just a place you think of when you are sick or injured, but somewhere that offers a broader array of health services and information on health topics along with our BILH partners.

What is your favorite book on management?

My favorite book on management isn’t actually a management book at all. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin is a Lincoln biography, but I think it’s the best management book ever written. Lincoln assembled a group of strong-willed but very talented cabinet members—many of whom initially opposed his nomination and thought him unworthy of the office—and then created a sense of urgency and purpose that won them over by his candid, modest but perseverant style to achieve success in perhaps the darkest period of US history. This is an amazing story of leadership that we can all learn from.