Although his facility sponsors the Rex Hospital Open, chances are you won't find David Strong in his office practicing his putting. In fact, you probably won't find him in his office at all. The 42-yearold president of 621-bed Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C., spends a lot of his time making rounds with physicians, in the surgeon's lounge or at the nursing unit. For him, it's par for the course.
"Typically, he starts conversations with, 'What can I do for you? What can I get you?' " says Rex Chief Financial Officer Bernadette Spong. "He's always posing those questions to patients, co-workers and physicians."
That's not a surprise given Strong's philosophy of healthcare.
“I try to be a servant-leader,” he told Modern Healthcare in 2003 when he was named an Up & Comer at age 38. Those around him have said that he is not above picking paper off the floor, replacing a broken fax machine or cleaning operating room floors, which, as a high school and college student, was his entree into the healthcare industry.
In addition to improving Rex Healthcare's finances, Strong's attention to detail and to the needs of other members of the hospital community have paid off. In the three years he has been at Rex, he has increased the physician staff from 800 to about 1,000 in an extremely competitive environment in one of the fastest growing counties in the country.
“He's adamant about visiting physicians,” Spong says. “He's visiting all the surgeons over the next couple of months to ask what we can do to garner their loyalty.” While Spong would not provide Rex's specific financial information, she says the hospital's net patient service revenue rose 24% between fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2007, and that the hospital's cash on hand grew more than 30% during the same period.
In addition, Strong has overseen the opening of a new urgent-care center in Wakefield, N.C., the implementation of an electronic health-record system and the opening of a new surgery center with 12 digital operating rooms.
Strong has also worked to strengthen the ties between Rex and UNC Health Care in Chapel Hill, with which it merged in 2000, Spong says. Until now, the two systems have not merged their clinical operations very much, but that is soon to change with a new branding campaign and other efforts to bring the two organizations' capabilities together. “We'd like to take their technology and their research and combine them in a community setting here at Rex,” Spong says. “Under David's leadership, that's what we're looking at.”
Strong also expects the rest of his team to adopt a collaborative approach to their work. “We're expected to make sure we understand what's happening out there and not stay in our offices,” Spong says. “That's been wonderful for me as the CFO, to understand the business better.”