Religious-based hospitals and systems have a role to play in the healthcare system of the future, but they must be willing to dramatically alter their missions, said Richard Scott, president and chief executive officer of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.
Mr. Scott, who was a speaker at the second annual National Interfaith Healthcare Leadership Conference last week in Phoenix, didn't specify what changes he thought religious providers need to make in their mission statements.
Other speakers, however, said missions need to be expanded to include taking care of communities as well as the poor and disadvantaged.
"There was a lot of discussion from CEOs about their mission being outdated," said Robert Kramer, president of Kramer Crosby, an Annapolis, Md.-based marketing firm. Kramer Crosby provided the marketing for the leadership council, which is sponsored by nine religious healthcare systems.
Religious leaders at the conference discussed the need to strike a better balance between simply caring for the poor and disadvantaged and engaging in innovative business deals to survive competition with more aggressive for-profit chains such as Columbia/HCA, Mr. Kramer said.
In his brief speech, Mr. Scott said Columbia/HCA is interested in either acquiring religious hospitals and systems or forming partnerships with them. He cited two reasons to link with Columbia/HCA.
One is to develop statewide networks. The other is to increase access to capital.
Mr. Scott added that Columbia/HCA is willing to be flexible in partnership arrangements with not-for-profit institutions. He said Columbia/HCA would "share power, decision-making and profits without betraying religious missions."
But Mr. Kramer said many conference attendees were skeptical about partnering with Columbia/HCA and discussed other options such as working more closely with not-for-profit systems.
"There were those who viewed an inherent and irreconcilable conflict with the values and culture of for-profits and those of a religious-based provider," Mr. Kramer said.