Like its namesake, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital isn't satisfied standing pat. The Hollywood, Fla., hospital is adding floors and has been pushing northward, expanding its services to Palm Beach County. Leading the charge at “Joe D,” is Caitlin Beck Stella, who took over as CEO on June 18. She replaced Chantal Leconte, who retired after five years at the helm. Joe DiMaggio Children's is part of Memorial Healthcare System. Stella has a public health background and has been in children's healthcare most of her career. Previously, she was chief administrative officer at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital and Women's Health. She recently spoke with Modern Healthcare Managing Editor Matthew Weinstock. The following is an edited transcript.
MH: You had spent a fair amount of time on the other coast at UCLA. What was the draw for you to move to Florida and take over as CEO at Joe DiMaggio?
Stella: I've been in the healthcare business for 20 some years and mostly in pediatrics, even when I did consulting for PwC. It's definitely my passion.
“Joe D” is a really special institution. For me to leave California, it was really going to take something unique. I spent most of my time in L.A. in academic environments that did very hard-core academic research. I like that, but I really believe Joe D is the best of both worlds. We have the academic component with our graduate medical education program; we have physicians who do research. But the core focus here is about providing excellent clinical care.
Even though I had been in wonderful institutions, sometimes the clinical care and the focus on patient- and family-centered care was overshadowed by other more academic priorities. I was at the point where I really wanted to go somewhere where we can focus on growth and expansion and be less bureaucratic.
MH: What are some things about children's healthcare in an academic environment that get in the way?
Stella: There are a lot of benefits to the academic model. In fact, we benefit from it here with the training of future generations of leaders. But in academic settings, sometimes the way faculty are promoted, the motivation for the way people move up and are in front, are very different from what we do here.
Our physicians are part of our community. They are a part of our fabric. The motivation and focus are really about their clinical operations and how they focus on the patient and the family. When you have that very heavy academic environment where the attending physicians are not always the ones taking care of the patients, the relationship between the physician and the patient gets somewhat diluted.
MH: Joe DiMaggio had a growth strategy before you were hired, including expanding in other regions, Palm Beach in particular. What are your goals and where do you hope to see Joe DiMaggio in a few years?
Stella: It's like driving a Ferrari. This is already an amazing institution that's running so smoothly.
I get the fun job of looking at what will be needed in the future. Where are the populations of children growing? What are some of the gaps in services?
I really hope that our future footprint in the market will be very complementary to what already exists because I don't think we need to build everything. We can partner with folks in the market who do things well without compromising our current excellent patient care.
Looking at Palm Beach, for example, and Wellington, where we're expanding our outpatient footprint, we'll be able to bring some specialty access and ambulatory surgery services. We've had a warm reception there.
Obviously, we're studying where the populations of families and children are growing and the gaps in care. But also what's going to be additive and looking at what's there and what we can bring to help keep that goodwill in the community.
MH: The Palm Beach market is fairly competitive. What would you bring that's missing?
Stella: Some of the providers, even though they have excellent reputations in their own regard, they're not necessarily a pediatric provider or specializing in pediatrics. So there might be good opportunities for complementary partnerships.
Or, our sub-specialists are super sub-specialists. Even with some of the providers that are up there, they don't have the depth and breadth that we can bring. That's really where we work with others.
Even those that are pediatric providers and try to see, “OK, what can we add to the complement that's there to best serve children and families in this market?”
MH: Are there any specific gaps in services?
Stella: In Palm Beach, we're already starting to identify them, and the pediatricians up there are really being helpful in terms of contributing that knowledge, to say, “Hey, we're missing this. And we have to send these families far away to get services like this.”
I'll give you an example—sleep studies. When we were first opening up the facility, it was not our intention to do anything overnight or after hours because we're really not licensed to do any kind of short stay. But we did get permission and approval from the local area to do sleep studies overnight because there really wasn't a sleep lab up there that focused on children and was outfitted appropriately.
They asked us to start that service. It's a perfect complement to the experts we already have. And it's a good use of the facility overnight for something very low equity. So it was a perfect complement. And we'll find other things like that along the way.
The saddest thing for me, and I get asked this, “What's the one issue in healthcare that drives you crazy?” For me it's the idea that a child would need very specific care that's available in their area, but they don't have access to it because of health insurance issues and narrow networks.
We really need to lead on those issues to make sure kids are getting what they need in their home market.
I've just seen it happen too many times where young children with developing brains and developing bodies will get routed for care to adult providers and then it just prolongs their treatment.
Sometimes it interrupts their ability to have ideal outcomes, and that to me is just unconscionable.