Temple University Health System was on its last legs when thoracic surgeon Dr. Larry Kaiser took over as president and CEO in 2011.
The three-hospital academic medical center that serves a patient population disproportionately made up of the uninsured and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries on Philadelphia's north side had lost $133 million between 2008 and 2010.
When Kaiser took over, he kicked off a turnaround strategy that involved expanding Temple's presence beyond its traditional role as a safety-net provider. The system would beef up its more specialized acute-care programs, such as cardiac medicine and organ transplants to increase volume. The goal was to adjust Temple's payer mix by drawing more acute-care patients with higher insurance reimbursement.
To that end, Kaiser 's first move was to acquire Fox Chase Cancer Center, a nationally recognized 100-bed research facility and hospital, for more than $80 million and then invest another $30 million to expand it. Other investments included recruiting nearly 60 physicians to its cardiac surgery and organ transplant programs. That's all led to a 25% increase in Temple's high-acuity patient volume between 2011 and 2016.
"He has been transformative," said Dr. Amy Goldberg, chair of surgery at Temple's Lewis Katz School of Medicine, chief surgeon at the health system, and a part of the Temple since 1993. "He was bold, visionary and fearless, but didn't waiver a moment from our mission."
In implementing his strategy, Kaiser looked at several programs that he thought could really make a difference. One of those, the system's lung transplant program, has more than doubled its intake from 126 in 2011 to nearly 300 last year.
Building up Temple's clinical services has also meant building out its reach. The system has added three urgent-care centers and four outpatient-care clinics in more affluent communities in the region.
Kaiser also said Temple's focus on recruiting top researchers contributed to the university being re-classified last year to the highest tier among four-year college research institutions by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
"It's still challenging, there's no question about it," Kaiser said. "We remain committed to taking care of this community in North Philadelphia while at the same time being a high-end, tertiary and quaternary care referral center. Trying to do both of those in one location is a very challenging process."
But those efforts have produced results. After experiencing operating losses of $2 million in 2013 and $15 million in 2014, Temple returned to the black in each of the past two years. The system ended last fiscal year with operating income of $3 million. Last year, Fitch Ratings noted that Temple had increased its share of high-end cases to 6%, up from 4.9% in 2011 while keeping the system's financial outlook stable.