Spokane Journal of Business

MultiCare transition begins

Network to add technology, build local partnerships

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Greg Repetti is serving now as president of Valley Hospital and is part of the strategic leadership team that will guide MultiCare’s operations in Eastern Washington.

This past weekend marked the start of a new future for Rockwood Health System, as the network officially transitioned to new ownership under Tacoma-based MultiCare Health System. 

Now with most aspects of the acquisition behind it, officials from both Rockwood and MultiCare say the newly formed entity will focus on adding technology to improve patient experiences and working to establish lasting partnerships within the community. 

 “We’ve spent the past eight months since the agreement working to make sure the transition won’t disrupt hospital or clinic operations,” says Tacoma-based MultiCare CEO Bill Robertson. “Our first goal was to make sure patient care would continue without regard to the transition.”

The $425 million transaction, which was officially completed July 1, returns Rockwood Health System to nonprofit status, as well as ownership by an in-state health care network.

Rockwood Health System includes Deaconess and Valley hospitals and Rockwood Clinic, the large multispecialty physician practice. The network employs about 3,600 people through its two Spokane-area hospitals and 12 clinics. 

Last fall, nonprofit MultiCare announced plans to purchase Rockwood’s assets from Rockwood’s financially ailing for-profit, Tennessee-based owner Community Health Systems Inc., which had owned Deaconess and Valley hospitals since 2008 and Rockwood Clinic since 2009.

MultiCare operates five hospitals on the West Side, including three in Tacoma—Allenmore Hospital, Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and Tacoma General Hospital—as well as Auburn Medical Center in Auburn and Good Samaritan Hospital in Puyallup.

Its network also includes primary-, specialty-, and urgent-care clinics, and community outreach services, as well as the MultiCare Medical Associates physician group, and it employs more than 12,000 people.

Robertson, who joined MultiCare as CEO in 2014, says with the addition of Rockwood, MultiCare is now the largest community-based, locally-owned community health system in the state. 

“Our mission is partnering for healing and a healthy future, and as part of that, we’re very engaged in our communities,” he says. “We have a long history of community engagement within the Puget Sound region and would like to begin a similar journey here in the Spokane area, by encouraging collaboration with organizations and events that work to make the community successful.”

As part of the transition to new ownership, Robertson says Rockwood’s Spokane locations already have undergone some changes in leadership, although the vast majority of its senior executives have agreed to stay on. 

“We’ve recruited Dr. David O’Brien to serve as the new senior vice president and chief executive for the Spokane region,” he says. “He’s both an experienced physician and health care executive. He and his family have already relocated, and he’s looking forward to working with teams here and becoming a part of community.”

Robertson says other leadership changes include the addition of Laureen Driscoll as the new president of Deaconess Hospital, replacing former CEO Maurine Cate, who opted to continue working with Community Health Systems Inc. He says MultiCare also will begin searching for a permanent president for Rockwood Clinic, who would take the place of interim CEO Monica Blykowski-May.

 “So far we’ve been impressed with the teams at each location and are excited to begin working with them,” says Robertson.

Greg Repetti had been the CEO of Valley Hospital, and he now is president of that facility. 

“Our titles have changed slightly,” says Repetti, “But essentially, the three presidents will serve alongside Dr. O’Brien as the senior strategic team for our region.” 

 Repetti has worked with Rockwood Health for the seven years.

“I’m very proud of the work my team here in the Valley has accomplished these past few years,” he says. “I’m thrilled to continue serving in a leadership role, representing them now under MultiCare.” 

Repetti called the transition an excellent opportunity for both the community and the two newly joined health systems. 

“We’re excited to move into this bright new future with MultiCare,” he says. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for all of us to grow and continue our mission to serve and care for the people of this region.”

Robertson says other staff in good standing at each of Rockwood’s loc-ations have transitioned to MultiCare, and there are no current plans to reduce staff within the organization. 

 “Over time, we hope to hire more staff, as we begin expanding services to better the community,” he says. “The current staff at these locations are doing an excellent job of caring for their communities, and we’d like to see that continue.”

Robertson says as part of the transition, all Rockwood signage and logos eventually will be changed to showcase the MultiCare name. The three main operating entities will be known as MultiCare Deaconess, MultiCare Valley, and MultiCare Rockwood Clinic.

“It’s likely to be a gradual process,” he says. “The Rockwood name as a health system will go away, although the clinic locations will likely keep it as part of their site names.”

Robertson says the decision to operate all three entities under one name was to reinforce connections between employees and provide a larger sense of collaborative care across locations.

“Our greatest asset is people,” he says. “So we’ll always be interested in finding ways to continue to engage staff, and use their skills and ideas to better the patient experience and environment.”

While patients aren’t likely to notice any big changes right away, Robertson says over time patients will begin to notice additional care options, the biggest of which will be use of the Epic electronic medical record system. 

“The switch to the electronic medical record system Epic is going to be a big change that will likely take between nine and 14 months,” he says. “We’ll start with changing over the physician practices, and then move to the hospitals, but it will likely take a little over a year to fully complete.”

Robertson claims MultiCare was the third organization in the world to begin using Epic, a system that gives patients online access to their health records as well as the ability to manage appointments, pay bills, and email nonemergency questions to their providers.

“Patients will have their own electronic record via MyChart, which will make it much easier to manage their health, stay connected to physicians, and access information,” he says.

Epic is currently the electronic medical record software used at all Providence Health Care facilities, having been introduced gradually to each in 2012 and 2013.

While Providence has traditionally been Rockwood’s competitor in health care, Repetti says sharing the same electronic records system with other area hospitals will actually benefit the patients of both. 

“Using the same system of record technology will make transfer of records between institutions much easier,” he says. “Being on the same system will help put data in the hands of providers more quickly, allowing for consistent quality care, which leads to more successful patient outcomes overall. We’re very excited to be switching to Epic.”

Although prior to purchasing Rockwood, MultiCare didn’t yet have a physical presence in the Spokane market, the health care system has offered virtual care services here since last October.  

Looking ahead Robertson says MultiCare hopes to continue to increase the area’s focus on telemedicine tools, by adding more electronic services and virtual care options for patients.

“We’re already able to provide some services, including psychiatric and prenatal care on telehealth platforms,” he says. “It’s amazing how helpful technology can be when you’re able to bend it to assisting people in the health care space.” 

Once the transition is behind it, Robertson says MultiCare plans to turn its attention to further improving patient care and strengthening community partnerships. 

 “As a nonprofit health care system, we believe part of our mission also includes caring for those with no resources,” he says. “We’re of the community, so we intend to be out in it, learning about how to best meet its needs.”

He says that means working with local organizations to contribute to the overall health of the region, including those that work to improve behavioral and societal issues, as well as those that support education and the arts. 

“We’re very pleased to be becoming part of Spokane and its surrounding communities,” he says. “We look forward to being one of this area’s go-to partners, not just in health care, but in all of the things that make up a healthy community.”

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken is the most recent addition to the Journal's news team. A poet, cat lover and antique enthusiast, LeAnn is also an Eastern Washington University alum.

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