(Story updated at 6:30 p.m. ET.)
Feinberg currently also holds the titles of president of the UCLA Health System and associate vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences.
“I have always been impressed with Geisinger's commitment to doing what is right and best for its patients and members, as well as its many contributions to improving care and reforming our nation's healthcare system,” Feinberg said in a news release (PDF). “It is important to me to not only continue, but also expand Geisinger's work in patient care, research, education, innovation and community service.”
Feinberg, 52, is the second top UCLA executive to announce his departure this year. Dr. A. Eugene Washington, CEO of the UCLA Health System, announced last month that he will take over as CEO of the Duke University Health System in Durham, N.C., April 1.
William Alexander, Geisinger's board chairman, said Feinberg was selected because he had a proven ability to lead a healthcare organization and a record of using innovation to drive improvements in healthcare quality and patient satisfaction. Alexander, speaking during a news conference, said he was “confident Geisinger's tradition of innovation will be continued” under Feinberg's leadership.
Feinberg, meanwhile, stressed that his approach to innovation will be rooted in the nuts and bolts of running the hospital and caring for patients. The staff, he said, can expect to find him on the loading dock when supplies are arriving, in the kitchen when meals are being prepared and in the operating room while it's being cleaned after a procedure.
“The best ideas come from the people on the front line,” Feinberg said. “I'm a very 'on-the-shop-floor' type of manager.”
He also plans to spend up to two hours a day with patients, he said, though not necessarily as a physician. He doesn't practice much anymore besides an occasional consultation, he said, but he does like to visit with patients and talk to them about their concerns.
“I'm a physician,” Feinberg said. “I like taking care of people.”
Feinberg will be only the sixth CEO in Geisinger's 100-year history. Mayo Clinic-trained Dr. Harold Foss was Geisinger's first chief executive, and he led the organization from 1915 to 1958. Steele has held the post since March 2001 and will continue to serve as board chairman of xG Health Solutions, a company that is looking to export Geisinger best practices to other organizations operating under risk- and performance-based payment models.
“It has been my extraordinary privilege to lead the organization from a highly respected regional provider to a nationally recognized system,” Steele said in the release. “I wish Dr. Feinberg well as he continues to build upon Geisinger's unique position, history and track record of success well into the future, and I will do all I can to help him transition to his new position.”
Feinberg placed 49th on the 2014 Modern Healthcare 50 Most Influential Physician Executives and Leaders list. Steele was No. 8.
Feinberg previously served as vice chairman of clinical affairs for the UCLA department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and medical director of the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA. He is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in child, adolescent and addiction psychiatry.
Despite the harsh winter the eastern U.S. is experiencing, Feinberg said he is excited to be coming to central Pennsylvania from Los Angeles. In fact, he said his wife, who is also a physician, was “thrilled beyond belief.”
Feinberg is originally from San Francisco, and his wife, Andrea, is a native New Yorker. They met in medical school in Chicago, and they agreed that they would practice anywhere in the world but Los Angeles because they believed it was a bad place to raise children. But, he said, both of their children turned out fine; one lives in New York and the other attends the University of Pennsylvania.
“It really, really is a dream come true" to be joining Geisinger in Pennsylvania, he said.
Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks