If Catholic Health Initiatives was in search of a fresh perspective to help turn around its tiny, financially troubled facility Albany (Minn.) Area Hospital and Medical Center, the provider no doubt received that in the form of Ben Koppelman. The hospital executive was just 22 and fresh out of college when he was hired in 1995 as administrator of the 17-bed, critical-access hospital.
2009 Up & Comers: Ben Koppelman
“I had some previous experience working with Larry Schultz, the CEO of St. Gabriel's Hospital,” another Catholic Health Initiatives facility in Little Falls, Minn., Koppelman says. “I had done an internship with him in undergrad for three months in 1994. He encouraged me to apply for the position and interview with the local board.”
Koppelman, now 36 and president and CEO of 25-bed St. Joseph's Area Health Services in Park Rapids, Minn., acknowledges that the opportunity at such an early point in his career was fortuitous. But it was hard work and savvy leadership that enabled him and his staff to move Albany into the black.
The hospital was losing roughly $100,000 annually when Koppelman came onboard in 1995. Five years later, it had achieved a 13% operating margin. Under Koppelman's leadership, Albany landed in the top 10 of CHI's patient-satisfaction scores seven out of eight years. The young executive also launched an aggressive recruitment plan that brought onboard six new physicians, expanded the hospital's imaging services and negotiated agreements for other area hospitals to outsource some of their specialists to Albany on an ongoing basis.
Michael Rowan, executive vice president and chief operations officer of 60-hospital Catholic Health Initiatives, attributes Koppelman's success to an ability to not only recruit but also retain medical staff in small, nonurban settings. “Recruiting people into rural areas, you have to be able to find the right people who are willing to stay,” Rowan explains. “Because in these communities, you often get medical staff that comes in and leaves quickly.”
Since arriving at St. Joseph's in 2007, Koppelman and his staff have achieved Joint Commission accreditation for the hospital. “That's noteworthy, because most critical-access hospitals aren't (Joint Commission)-accredited,” Rowan says.
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