WHS Industry Partner NetworxHealth helps small hospitals keep the doors open

July 8, 2022

Networx Health logo.Washington Hospital Services Industry Partner NetworxHealth specializes in helping small, rural hospitals find interim executive leaders who possess a rare combination of managerial skill and health care insight along with qualities not listed on most resumes. These include pragmatism, flexibility and a willingness to work alongside hospital staff, sometimes literally, to get things done.

When Virginia Mason, now a part of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, recognized a growing need for interim C-suite leaders in small community hospitals, health care operations expert Tammara Gibbons was tapped to develop a sustainable solution. NetworxHealth was launched in 2017 to place interim executive leaders in rural and critical access hospitals—a federal designation given to hospitals providing emergency and acute care in remote areas—across Virginia Mason’s Northwest region, which includes Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

Because small rural hospitals sometimes serve as their community’s sole provider of acute and emergency care, “keeping the doors open” can become more than a business objective. Remaining financially sound and operational allows hospitals to serve local residents who would otherwise need to travel for hours to reach a larger city. Too often, those without access to a local hospital forgo needed care altogether.

To help hospitals succeed, NetworxHealth looks for leaders who understand all aspects of health care operations, from finance to nursing to ongoing essential tasks like maintenance and environmental services. NetworxHealth believes small hospital leaders should be culturally sensitive and able to read the personalities of everyone in the room to help people feel safe.

The right interim leader brings hard-won leadership expertise while taking a genuine interest in the community and its residents. NetworxHealth looks for prospective leaders who embrace the opportunity to make a real difference in a small community.

According to NetworxHealth, smaller hospitals require someone who enjoys participative management, someone who can make assessments of an organization, its direction and its management team. These leaders should have a real desire to have some immediate connection with the community. Often, they’re people who have retired from an extended career in health care but aren’t quite ready to hang up their shoes yet, and they’re looking for an adventure. They may get more of an adventure than they’re looking for.

As NetworxHealth began filling interim executive roles, small hospitals started making additional requests for assistance with project work, from information technology to operations management. NetworxHealth is very nimble, flexible and strives to help hospitals thrive in a difficult environment.

With a deep health care network and extensive operations experience, NetworxHealth can also help address the impact of supply chain problems on small and remote hospitals. Recent projects include reengineering a client’s supply chain policies and workflows and helping a hospital in Alaska overcome geographical and logistical supply chain obstacles to keep its warehouse stocked.

When small hospitals need to solve IT problems quickly without interrupting care, NetworxHealth can assemble expert teams in a flash. This year NetworxHealth was called to work on a MEDITECH pharmacy implementation that went sideways the week it went live, and within a week the team had an expert working on a solution.

Top projects for 2022 focus on helping small hospitals plan and prepare for the future. Ongoing work with WSHA includes mock facility surveys and quality and safety projects. Because so many hospital boards request help with strategic planning, NetworxHealth is also building a roster of resources to guide boards in creating their annual plans.

Even as NetworxHealth expands its list of offerings, its goal remains unchanged: To help rural hospitals stay sustainable and provide quality care for the communities they serve.

For more information about NetworxHealth or the Washington Hospital Services Industry Partner Program, contact Ed Phippen at edp@wsha.org or (206) 216-2556.


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