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Steve Edwards, left, Charity Elmer, Ron Prenger and Jake McWay lead CoxHealth.
SBJ photo by Wes Hamilton
Steve Edwards, left, Charity Elmer, Ron Prenger and Jake McWay lead CoxHealth.

2018 Dynamic Dozen No. 11: CoxHealth

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SBJ: What’s the key to your growth?
Steve Edwards: As our community grows, we grow. Last year, in almost every category we had just about 8 percent growth, which exceeds the growth in our community and exceeds the aging population growth. That means there are some market share gains. There are fewer people leaving our community for care than ever.

SBJ: How do you manage change and growth?
Edwards: The people drawn to health care tend to be a little more scientific-oriented, so they’re excited about change. They know (they’re) going to be working in the (emergency room) and we may have five patients show up at 11 a.m. or we may have 75.

SBJ: What are the top challenges facing CoxHealth?
Edwards: This shifting regulatory environment that is at the whim of competing political agendas. I’d argue that it’s harming care. It’s harder for our doctors and nurses to deliver care today than it was three years ago. It’s harder for patients to manage care; it’s harder for people to understand their bills.

SBJ: How does growth affect employees and patients?
Edwards: Growth affects employees because, at this point, we don’t have enough. That means there are people who are working more hours and picking up extra shifts. What I look at as a healthy month, they look at as a lot of work. In Springfield, there are days where both ERs, Cox and Mercy, are just at capacity. That can cause longer waits. What we’ve tried to do is really focus on access. A good example is retail clinics. We have a program called Save My Spot. You can go online and you can pick the time you want to show up at a retail clinic or urgent care, kind of like a restaurant reservation.

SBJ: How have your business goals changed?
Edwards: The biggest change to our business right now is the realization that the way health care is financed is broken. We’re paid based on the failure of medical care, not the success. We’re paid when someone has a heart attack, not when we manage their cholesterol and they avoid a heart attack. We don’t believe that trajectory is sustainable.

SBJ: What makes CoxHealth dynamic?
Edwards: We’re focused on southwest Missouri. Go in our boardroom and look at the people who make the final decisions for the organization; they’re long-term community leaders.

SBJ: What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
Edwards: When I worked in the grounds crew, I was 15 or 16. I had worked a couple weeks and this guy pulled me aside and said, “You need to slow down. The more you do, the more we have to do.” That didn’t resonate with me. (In 1992) when I came back, I was getting a tour of the organization, and we walked into this room downstairs and there was a man in a room sitting on a bucket smoking. He was in the same job for 25 years or more. I think I did the right thing.

SBJ: And the best advice?
Edwards: I’ll reflect on one mentor of mine from Baylor [University]. He said, “You’re going to have some tough decisions in your life, and you’re going to try to balance the finance of it, the pressure politically, physician pressure.” ... “In the end, imagine that it’s your mom that’s on that table. What’s the right thing to do to take care of her?”

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