It appears in his first year as top executive of the American Hospital Association, Richard Umbdenstock has delivered on his pledge to change little at the Chicago-based trade group.
Industry executives credit Umbdenstock for holding steady operations, strategy and key staff during his first year at the head of the AHA, which reported $100.7 million in annual revenue in 2006. Umbdenstock, formerly a top executive with Providence Health & Services, Seattle, stepped in as president in January after Richard Davidson, the associations second-longest tenured chief executive officer, retired.
I cant say that Ive seen major changes, said Sister Carol Keehan, president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic-affiliated hospitals, health systems and other providers. Keehan, who started as chief executive of the St. Louis-based trade group roughly 14 months prior to Umbdenstocks appointment, said the organizations continue to work together effectively. Hes inclusive; he pays attention, said Keehan, who worked with Umbdenstock to compare the trade groups respective healthcare reform principals.
Ive always found him very, very easy to work with and talk issues over with, Keehan said, even when the associations policies diverge. The trade groups differ on how not-for-profit hospitals should tally and publicly report subsidized care and services to their communities. The important thing is that when you dont agree, you talk it over respectfully, she said, and hes someone you can do that with.
Todd Linden, president and CEO of 49-bed Grinnell (Iowa) Regional Medical Center, said there wasnt a need for major change, and said Umbdenstocks career left him well-prepared to succeed Davidson. Umbdenstock gained experience handling operations as a health system executive. He understood the trade group thanks to his tenure as a trustee, said Linden. And since taking his new post, Umbdenstocka former consultant to directors and trusteeshas put an emphasis on governance, said Linden, who joined the Center for Healthcare Governances advisory board roughly two years ago.
I wasnt brought in to do major shake-ups, said Umbdenstock, who said hes proud that the C-suite change did not prompt turnover elsewhere in the association. Holding onto key lobbying and policy staff was cited as one reason for selecting an insiderUmbdenstock was AHA chairman when he was named president-electto replace Davidson. Im pleased with the progress we made with honing our agenda and the associations success on Capitol Hill, he said. The trade groups lobbying helped blunt fallout from changes to Medicares inpatient prospective payment system, he said. In September, Congress passed legislation that is expected to soften an estimated $20 billion hit stemming from the changes by $7 billion over five years (Oct. 1, p. 12).
Hospital and health system executives described Umbdenstock as adept at building consensus, a skill they said will be much-needed as the nation debates healthcare reform during the final months of the 2008 presidential and congressional elections. Hes been open to the views of others, as the AHA has sought comment and support for its five-point healthcare reform proposal, said William Schoenhard, executive vice president and chief operating officer of SSM Health Care, St. Louis, and an AHA trustee. Hes a great listener. He really is a person who has strong facilitation skills and capacity to communicate and effectively assimilate input on a complex issue.
Brian Shockney, president and CEO of 104-bed Memorial Hospital in Logansport, Ind., noted an uptick of communication on critical policy and legislative issues during the past year, a trend he said he welcomed as a 21-year veteran of small and rural hospitals. Large and urban hospitals have resources to track evolving public policy that executives at smaller hospital lack, Shockney said.