Spokane Journal of Business

MultiCare’s David O’Brien hopes to bring health care giant’s vision for Spokane to life

Plans include strengthening leadership, integrating care

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-—LeAnn Bjerken
Dr. David O’Brien joined MultiCare Health System as its top executive for the organization’s operations here, following its acquisition of Deaconess Hospital, Valley Hospital, and Rockwood Clinic.

Dr. David O’Brien, MultiCare Health System’s first chief executive for its new Inland Northwest region, says he enters the job with three main goals. 

“We’re looking to strengthen leadership here at MultiCare, improve upon our partnerships in the community, and bring the region into an integrated health delivery system,” he says. “We envision an integrated continuum of high-performance, customer-focused care, delivered at an affordable cost.”

Tacoma, Wash.-based MultiCare made a big leap into the Spokane-area health care sector last July when it completed its $425 million acquisition of Rockwood Health System, which includes Deaconess Hospital, Valley Hospital, and Rockwood Clinic. 

Enter O’Brien, a 63-year-old California native, former family physician, and veteran health care executive. Prior to his move to Spokane in July, he served as president of Providence St. Joseph Health, a two-hospital and medical group in Northern California’s Humboldt County.

O’Brien attended the University of California, Davis, obtaining his medical degree there in 1984. He went on to earn a master’s degree in health care administration at the University of Wisconsin  in 2000.

Before he became a health care executive, O’Brien says he spent 15 years in practice as a family physician, a background that helps him to understand the issues and stresses facing physicians today.

 “I have deep respect and admiration for the outstanding physicians we have that provide excellent care, despite these challenges,” he says. “I rely on my medical background to help find ways to make the physicians’ practice more enjoyable and to improve the quality of our care.”

In the months following his appointment, O’Brien says he’s met with staff at each of Rockwood’s newly named main operating entities—MultiCare Deaconess, MultiCare Valley, and MultiCare Rockwood Clinic as well as meeting with community leaders and attending health care events.

 “What I’ve found is that the Spokane area is a very welcoming, forward-thinking community,” he says. “That makes it a really good fit for MultiCare, as we’re very much a value driven, community focused organization.”

Presidents serve under O’Brien at each of MultiCare’s Rockwood locations, Laureen Driscoll, Greg Repetti, and Dr. Monica Blykowski-May. 

Driscoll, who serves as the new president of Deaconess Hospital, replaced former CEO Maurine Cate. Repetti, who had been the CEO of Valley Hospital, is now president of that facility. 

Blykowski-May currently serves as interim CEO for Rockwood Clinic, but O’Brien says MultiCare is actively searching for a permanent candidate to take over as the clinic’s president.

O’Brien says establishing strong local leaders at each of its Rockwood locations will help MultiCare in its goal of building more community relationships. 

 “We’re committed to having a local team of leaders that will bond with the community,” he says.

O’Brien says MultiCare already has begun engaging with the community through the support of events, such as Tom’s Turkey Drive, The Bridge to Brunch 5K run, and MedVengers, a scholarship event for medical students at WSU’s newly accredited Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine. 

 “As a nonprofit, it’s a big priority of ours to develop relationships and make connections that help us not only in our mission to provide care, but also in finding ways to give back,” he says.

In the future, O’Brien says the health system also looks to strengthen partnership opportunities with both medical schools here—the UW School of Medicine-Gonzaga Regional Health Partnership, in addition to the WSU college—and nonprofit organizations.

“We’d like to work more with the new medical schools so we can help play an active role in the training of future doctors,” he says. “We’re also hoping to partner with other nonprofit organizations to help poor and vulnerable populations, and improve mental health care.” 

While strengthening leadership and developing community partnerships are important starting points, O’Brien says MultiCare’s plan to improve the quality of the region’s health care is dependent upon the development of an integrated delivery system. 

“These days, the health care industry is moving toward more of a value focus, which means finding the best care, in the best location, at the best time, and at an affordable price,” he says. 

He adds, “This community is already well on the path to being able to provide an integrated continuum of care, and our plans to invest in Epic software will move us closer toward accomplishing that.”

Epic systems are used to manage electronic medical records. The system is designed to give patients online access to their health records as well as the ability to manage appointments, pay bills, and email nonemergency questions to their providers.

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

O’Brien says MultiCare plans to invest $25 million to bring the Epic system on line at all of its Spokane locations next year, starting with MultiCare Rockwood Clinic  in March, followed by implementation at MultiCare Valley and MultiCare Deaconess in June.

MultiCare first announced plans to purchase Rockwood’s assets from its financially ailing for-profit, Tennessee-based owner Community Health Systems Inc. in the fall of 2016. Finalized on July 1, the acquisition integrated Rockwood’s facilities and estimated 3,600 employees into MultiCare’s system.

In addition to its facilities here, MultiCare operates five hospitals on the West Side.

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

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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