Diminished expectations won't fly with Mike Trachta.
Waverly (Iowa) Health Center is a self-described progressive rural hospital, ranked among the nation's top critical-access hospitals and with patient-satisfaction scores for inpatient care and ambulatory surgery among the top 2% and 8%, respectively, of all hospitals in the nation, large and small.
"The thing that I'm most proud of is getting people to not use the mindset, 'For a small hospital we're good.'
I want people to think, 'For a hospital, we're good,' " says Trachta, 35, chief executive officer at 25-bed Waverly since February 2002. "Our patients deserve the same safety they get at any hospital."
Waverly was a well-functioning hospital when it hired Trachta, who had served as CEO of two rural hospitals in the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics system. To stay so, the hospital needed new energy and an updated facility, says Michael Berstler, a family practitioner who was medical staff president at the time.
Trachta was young-he received the job offer on Nov. 27, 2001, his 31st birthday. But of all the candidates interviewed, Trachta "had done his homework, more so by leaps and bounds," Berstler says, and out of that research, he had developed a clear vision of what good, efficient medical care could be in the small community.
The city of Waverly (population 9,300) is located near Cedar Falls and Waterloo, larger cities with three other hospitals. So Trachta saw the continued delivery of personalized care-or as he puts it, a "cozy" experience-as one key to maintaining the independent hospital's financial health and serving its community.
Thus, in 2003, tiny Waverly became the first hospital in Iowa to affiliate with the Planetree National Alliance, which promotes a patient-centered approach to care emphasizing architectural design and human interaction, among other core elements. The previous July, Trachta had completed his first major initiative at the hospital: conversion to critical-access status, which brings cost-based Medicare reimbursement.
Working with the medical community, Trachta recruited two general surgeons and two OB/GYNs, and led a $20 million building project that implemented many Planetree concepts. The hospital's total revenue grew to $28.6 million in fiscal 2006, ended June 30, up 90% from $15 million in fiscal 2002, and its total margin averaged 8.1% during the period. (The fiscal 2006 numbers are unaudited.)
Trachta came to healthcare administration via music therapy, his undergraduate major at the University of Iowa. In 1995, when he was a music therapy intern at 89-bed Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, the state entered a Medicaid managed-care contract for inpatient psychiatric services. It meant the end of coverage for music and recreational therapy. "I thought it was terrible to see all those positives go," Trachta says. "That was a real motivator to get where I could make an impact."