The Art of Blending Cultures

Published By: Hospitals & Health Networks magazine • 07/08/2014 4:33 PM

By Marty Stempniak, staff writer for Hospitals & Health Networks magazine

Mergers and Acquisitions are likely only going to pick up pace in the coming years, as hospital leaders look to add muscle to better pursue population health. Marquette (Mich.) General Hospital leaders set out to find a larger partner a few years ago. After scouring the country over several months and eyeing more than a dozen candidates, Marquette settled on Duke LifePoint because of its culture and focus on quality of care.

“Once you get into the culture of what Duke LifePoint is really about, you start asking yourself, ‘Is this going to be a home run?’?” says Marquette’s now-retired CEO Gary Muller. “Well, we think it’s been a grand slam once the cultures started to merge, and I think it starts at the top with Duke’s leadership.”

Duke LifePoint — itself a joint venture between nonprofit Duke University Health System and for-profit LifePoint Health — has been on a buying splurge of late. It announced in March plans to acquire three-hospital Conemaugh Health System in Pennsylvania, as well as a joint venture with Wilson Medical Center in North Carolina. In June, it bought an 80 percent stake in Rutherford Regional Health System in North Carolina. It reportedly has partnerships pending that would add six more hospitals to the six it already owns. After a letter of intent is signed, Duke LifePoint sets about getting to know the employees and leadership at the partner hospital.

William Carpenter III, chairman and CEO of LifePoint Health, says it's critical for leaders to become thoroughly familiar with the partner organization during this period, identifying risks and opportunities, and getting a sense of its leadership culture. Understandably, employees are anxious at the start, and it’s important to allay their fears. “We spend an awful lot of time making sure that we answer their questions because, until people are able to get over how this affects them personally, it’s hard for them to be completely focused on their jobs, and their jobs are critically important,” Carpenter says.

Read more at the Hospitals & Health Networks' website.