Boston Business Journal: Q&A with Mark Girard, president of Steward Health Care Network

General Steward Health Care

Published on December 29, 2017, by the Boston Business Journal
By Jessica Bartlett

Steward Health Care System has tracked massive national growth in the last year, acquiring 26 hospitals in nine states. But the health system has also been steadily adding doctors right here in Massachusetts, and is eyeing growth in the future.

While several health systems have sought to merge or be acquired by one another in the New England region, Steward stands apart for its massive national growth. The health system first acquired eight hospitals in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida in February from Community Health System, and then announced plans in May to acquire 18-hospital system IASIS Healthcare.

Simultaneously, the private, for-profit hospital operator has sought to broaden its physician portfolio closer to home, adding both employed physicians and affiliated physicians to its network in an effort to increase referrals and bring more patients into its model, which seeks to care for patients on a budget.

In 2009, Steward boasted 160 primary care and 1,000 specialty doctors that were either employed or affiliated. Today, Steward has 680 primary care and 3,000 specialty doctors employed or affiliated with the system.

Dr. Mark Girard, president of Steward Health Care Network (the physician arm of Steward Health Care) spoke recently with the Boston Business Journal about the growth both in Massachusetts and nationally and about where the health system goes from here.

Steward has recruited several doctors from MGH, BIDMC, Lahey Health and more. Was that part of a broader recruitment campaign?

Boston physicians are fairly close to each other. A lot of us trained with each other. We know each other personally and so sometimes it’s us reaching out to them in conversations as we cross paths across the state, sometimes it’s them reaching out to us because they view us as a successful organization that is physician-led and community based and successful. I couldn’t imagine we’d be able to attract these doctors even five years ago, but now being successful in Massachusetts and growing nationally by leaps and bounds, doctors are reaching out to us.

Do doctors who are affiliated only with Steward maintain relationships with other health systems?

They are Steward doctors in that they have joined Steward Health Network and are helping managing covered lives (on a budget) in an integrated way to drive quality and cost efficiency. There is some care that doesn’t belong in the community-based setting and requires a partnership with an academic medical center with care that belongs there. They continue to work with the people they used to to deliver that portion of the care.

What’s the growth been at Steward’s network?

We have grown in the number of covered lives we manage, the volumes at the hospitals, the volumes to our specialists in the network, not only marque specialists but all over — whether employed or private.

You’ve also added hospitals in other states — are you adding doctors there too?

I’m amazed at the enthusiasm we’re experiencing in the community hospitals, the Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida hospitals we acquired in May — we’ve been in those markets since May 1 and started with no network. We started traveling to each of those (states), meeting docs and hospital folk. By the middle of summer we had 708 docs join the network, and 250 of those are primary care. The model is being well received.

How else is Steward looking to expand nationally?

The underlying presence is meeting the needs of the people in the communities we serve. Based on data and community assessments, we can see what belongs in the community and what we have an expertise to do and we will do that. It’s hard to come up with an example off the top of my head, but if there is a community need for related health care and we have enough people in the communities wanting it, we will do it.

Would Steward build those things from scratch or acquire more services in those states?

We would either acquire or partner to meet all the needs of the communities we’re serving. Integrating care from home to hospital in the right location and needing what they need done.

Are you starting to see service gaps in the communities you’ve entered?

Every community does some things well and some things not so well, and there are gaps in care and they tend to be some similar but unique to the communities. In the central markets, Ohio and Pennsylvania, there were no networks. It was built from the ground up.

Will Steward be entering more states in the near future?

We’re in 10 states now with 36 hospitals. We have plenty of work to do in implementing this model. I suspect as opportunities arise, we will evaluate them and continue to pursue this across the national stage.

To find a doctor or schedule an appointment, visit Steward DoctorFinder™.