Rick Sutton, CEO of Banner Health Northern Colorado Area.

‘Regional concept’ helps Banner Health deliver 2015 Bravo! Entrepreneur - Regional Spirit

BizWest hands out its annual Bravo! Entrepreneur awards to honor business leaders it feels have had a positive economic and cultural impact on Northern Colorado. But Rick Sutton, chief executive of Banner Health Northern Colorado, is adamant that recognition for this year’s Regional Spirit Award be spread around some.

“It’s not one person, but a whole team that created this regional concept,” he said.

That “regional concept” refers to three medical facilities – North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, McKee Medical Center in Loveland and the new Fort Collins Medical Center. Sutton says the idea was to streamline the health-care system by reducing the amount of variation in each of the facilities.

“When you reduce variation, you increase reliability,” Sutton said, “which was one of the major drivers in this, so that each location isn’t doing things a little bit different. Instead, we’re trying to standardize as much as possible.”

Another way Banner Health is streamlining the system is by reducing duplication, starting with upper management. That entailed the creation of one senior executive team for the region when Sutton was named CEO over Banner Health Northern Colorado in 2013. Each location still has a certain amount of senior leadership on hand, such as a chief operating officer, for instance, but Sutton said “… when it comes to strategic planning, when it comes to capital-equipment purchases, when it comes to some of those bigger decisions that need to be made, they’re made by one executive team for the whole area.”

A few high-end procedures such as open heart surgery and brain surgery were consolidated as well, when a strategic decision was made to select certain locations for certain specialties.

“Some of these procedures require tremendously expensive and very specific equipment,” Sutton said. “Some take a specific type of personnel, so you just don’t want to be duplicating those over and over again everywhere.”

Sutton said duplication has led to a “medical arms race,” adding that concentrating these highly technical specialties in this manner allows staff to better hone their skills.

More common procedures such as orthopedics, obstetrics and general surgery still are provided at each facility.

“What we want the patient to have is, no matter what facility they’re in or what they’re being treated for, they get the best care possible,” Sutton said.

While Banner Health Northern Colorado uses evidence-based medicine to drive its decisions, Sutton said it falls on his staff to actually make things happen.

“In order to have, say, all of our cath labs or all of our operating rooms standardized, you have to have people who are willing to go between the three facilities and really make those things look, act and feel exactly the same,” he said. “It’s really a team effort.”

As the son of an orthopedic surgeon and the father of a physician, health care is something of a family tradition for Sutton. He said his goal at Banner Health Northern Colorado is simple.

“We want to provide phenomenal patient care,” he said, “because at some point it’s me in the bed, it’s you in the bed, it’s a family member.”

That’s why he wants a process in place that will deliver the best possible outcome.

“I can’t make it a reality,” he said, “but I have 4,500 people alongside me who can.”