Richard Davidson, who served as president of the American Hospital Association for 16 years and was a champion of hospital quality measurement, died Monday at the age of 79.
Davidson was the second longest-serving president in the trade group's 118-year history. From 1991 to 2007, Davidson led national efforts to publicize hospital quality information and engage community care networks to improve patient care. The effort is considered the predecessor to accountable care organizations.
“Dick was an innovative and visionary leader, a consensus builder, and a friend and mentor to many throughout our field,” current AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack said in a statement.
Davidson helped founded the Hospital Quality Alliance, a public/private partnership that was instrumental in creating the Hospital Compare website.
In 2012, Davidson recalled to Modern Healthcare that during an initial meeting with officials to discuss ways to improve transparency, lawmakers, members of the Joint Commission and other leaders realized, primarily through Davidson's prompting, that they were all trying to do the same thing.
By the end of that meeting, the group had a shared vision that led to the creation in 2002 of the alliance, which includes the AHA, American Medical Association and Joint Commission, among other organizations.
Another of Davidson's accomplishments was the AHA's Institute for Diversity in Health Management, which was a direct reflection of his core values.
Carmela Coyle, the current president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association, said in that 2012 article that Davidson became her mentor after she met him while working at the AHA.
“As a young executive, as a woman executive, being part of this team, he was not only fair and respectful, but he always made himself available for the extra time needed to help me, to coach me,” she said.
Davidson's tenure as AHA president took place during President Bill Clinton's push to enact comprehensive health reform. Davidson rallied behind then first lady Hillary Clinton on her campaign for reform, saying that anyone who didn't believe there was a healthcare crisis needed to spend an hour or two in a hospital emergency room.
In 2007, Davidson received the Distinguished Service Award, the AHA's highest honor, which recognizes significant lifetime contributions and service.
The AHA annually presents the Dick Davidson Quality Milestone Award for Allied Association Leadership to a state, regional or metropolitan hospital association that makes significant strides in quality improvement.
Davidson was the first president of the Maryland Hospital Association, serving from 1969 to 1991. During his time as president, state hospitals faced rising costs of uncompensated care. The MHA lobbied the state Legislature and helped pass a bill that established a rate-payment model.
Davidson earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from West Chester University and Temple University, respectively.
While working as a teacher and studying higher education administration at the University of Delaware, he suffered a back injury and went to Delaware Hospital for surgery.
Coincidentally, the state hospital association at the time was looking for someone to manage its association education programs. He received that first healthcare job offer while recuperating at Delaware Hospital.
Davidson worked his way up to the position of president and CEO of the Maryland Hospital Association in 1969.
While serving at the MHA, Davidson earned a doctorate in education from George Washington University.
Davidson is survived by his wife, Janet, and two sons, one of whom is Andy Davidson, president and CEO of the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems. He was preceded in death by his son Michael.