Thursday, June 21, 2018
Business

Kathryn Gillette: Bayfront's new CEO rising to meet broad health care challenges

Hospitals hawking service, quality rankings and advanced medical capabilities flood the Tampa Bay media market.

The ads tout BayCare's regional convenience! Tampa General's ratings! Moffitt Cancer Center's excellence! Florida Hospital, HCA Tenet and other chains share a myriad of tips for staying healthy.

None of this media barrage goes unnoticed by Kathryn Gillette, less than two months into her new job as CEO of Bayfront Medical Center in downtown St. Petersburg.

"Bayfront has to have more visible representation in the media," Gillette says. That might mean TV ads, community outreach, lectures or other ways to send a message of who Bayfront is and what it can offer the community.

For now, that branding campaign must wait. To stay competitive, the 58-year-old veteran hospital administrator is pursuing a mandate to create a regional Bayfront Health System with at least six HMA-owned community hospitals along the Gulf Coast. She's exploring a new affiliation with UF Health (formerly Shands Healthcare). And she's getting to know a team of top executives as new as herself to Bayfront.

Gillette has met one-on-one with 75, so far, of a couple of hundred doctors who work for or are affiliated with Bayfront. She eventually wants to grow Bayfront's Convenient Care area clinics. She has talked to the CEO of adjacent All Children's Hospital and toured the nearby USF St. Petersburg campus with the business dean as part of a budding downtown health care innovation consortium.

She has visited with St. Petersburg city officials eager for reassurance that the 106-year-old, formerly independent Bayfront will still honor its care for the area's poor and uninsured — even as pressures grow to generate revenues and control costs.

And Gillette's dealing with the demands of getting acquainted with a new majority owner in publicly traded, Naples-based Health Management Associates. The good news is Gillette's senior management may be new to Bayfront, but they are not new to HMA, which at least has helped her figure out the new computer system and who to call for advice. (See box about recent disruptions at HMA.)

If this all sounds like a job for three (or three battalions), Gillette's clearly enjoying it all. "Can you tell I love my job?" Gillette interjects midway through a recent interview in the Banyan room at Bayfront.

The Bayfront CEO repeats what she told her hospital's leadership team when she arrived. She says she came from Osceola Regional Medical Center, an HCA chain hospital in Kissimmee, to Bayfront "because it is Bayfront." By that she means Bayfront has a long and distinctive history in the Tampa Bay community, and it is a teaching and residency hospital with a trauma service and a cadre of specialists.

"When Bayfront was acquired in a unique partnership with HMA, it was a no-brainer for me when contacted about coming back to Tampa Bay and particularly to Bayfront. There are not a lot of ingredients missing here to work on a first-class tradition. It is not a normal hospital in this area."

Gillette is a hospital veteran, having helped run multiple hospital and health care businesses for decades, including stints in the Tampa Bay region at Community Hospital in New Port Richey, the USF Physician Group in Tampa and even as CFO at Tampa General Hospital.

Amid her vast to-do list, Gillette focuses on a few near-term goals. Bayfront directly employs 26 physicians — hiring doctors on staff is a trend among hospitals — and is looking for more. The CEO is keen to find primary care doctors, not only because she sees a demand for such services, but because she's also casting a longer-term eye on expanding a network of Convenient Care clinics.

Another priority is building a regional network of HMA-owned hospitals branded under the Bayfront Health System name. The network would run from Brooksville Regional to the north and as far south as Charlotte Regional Medical Center, with maybe more to come to the east.

The idea is to keep patients (and their revenues) that enter these community hospitals within the Bayfront "system" on those occasions that followup and more specialized medical treatments can be referred to Bayfront in St. Petersburg.

That's not going to happen, Gillette admits, unless the local doctors, the patients and patients' families see these referrals as seamless and sensible. To help, Gillette likes the idea of "patient concierges" who can help smooth the referral process.

So far, Gillette says HMA is proving to be quicker and more nimble than the far-larger HCA system she worked for in Kissimmee. She likes that.

A regional meeting held in May in Tampa and dubbed MediFuture attracted health care and economic development officials to explore whether Tampa Bay has the medical resources and vision to become known as an innovative health care capital.

Gillette, in the process of relocating here, did not attend. But she volunteers the phrase "disruptive innovation" — a MediFuture buzzword — and says Bayfront can contribute to that regional ambition.

"I have every reason to believe Bayfront can do the same thing by advancing learning and development, because that is what drives revolutionary health care or disruptive change," she says.

Other regions, including Orlando, have similar ambitions, she says. Even Tampa's medical gem, Moffitt Cancer Center, started out as a small hospital named for a state legislator, she recalls.

"But shame on us if we cannot figure it out," she adds. "If you think of the future economic drivers in the United States, the one that sustained itself best in the last recession is health care."

Just don't expect a revolution overnight. Says a very busy Gillette: "This is a journey."

Better buckle up.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

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