Questions for Brian Gragnolati
President, Suburban Hospital Healthcare System
The Johns Hopkins Health System recently welcomed a fourth hospital—Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md. The 239-bed acute-care hospital has served Montgomery County and the surrounding region since 1943. Today, it admits nearly 15,000 patients annually. In addition to serving as Montgomery County’s designated regional trauma center, Suburban offers a broad array of outpatient services.
In a recent conversation, Suburban Hospital President Brian Gragnolati discussed the rationale behind a momentous change for his institution.
You approached Hopkins about a possible integration. Why?
About three years ago, I began a series of conversations with our board and medical staff leadership about our future as a free-standing health system in what I saw as an industry poised to undergo some very big changes. What made these conversations challenging was the strong position Suburban enjoyed clinically and financially.
But we concluded that to best serve the community in the coming years, we needed to develop competencies that would better position Suburban to continue to provide access to state-of-the-art health care. These included different ways to work with physicians, payers and community organizations. We also needed to invest in systems and processes to better manage care across the entire continuum. We had a belief then that the movement toward accountability for quality and cost would continue. Given our longstanding relationship with Hopkins, it seemed quite logical to approach them.
Are there particular strengths that Suburban can acquire from JHM?
Hopkins is an amazing organization which, over the past couple of decades, has developed competencies beyond its strong base of academic medicine to include community primary care (JHCP) and managed care (JHHC), which will help us in the National Capital Region. In addition, the organization’s significant experience in ambulatory care and willingness to innovate with delivery system changes are essential for the future. But most importantly, we will now have access to Hopkins’ care delivery systems and processes that are focused on delivering the safest, highest quality care.
What resources does Suburban bring to Hopkins?
Suburban is a very strong organization clinically and financially. We have a dedicated and engaged workforce and we are growing. But we are also blessed by geography. We’re the only private hospital in the nation that’s physically located across the street from the National Institutes of Health. That has given us, as a community hospital, a unique opportunity to do translational research.
Patients in our community receive unparalleled care at both the NIH Heart Center and NIH Stroke Center at Suburban Hospital because NIH clinicians can see them very quickly. That’s tough to replicate anywhere else. As a result, we can attract world-class physicians who are here with patients in the morning and walk across the street in the afternoon to their labs. Sounds a little like Hopkins, doesn’t it?
Will NIH play a role in the integration process?
Prior to our board vote, we spoke with each of the Institute directors. The level of receptivity and enthusiasm was tremendous. We are actively working with several Institutes to pursue additional translational research opportunities.
How will the integration meet the needs of the Suburban workforce?
Now that we’re part of an organization that’s 10 times larger than we are, the possibilities for the staff to further their growth and professionalism are enormous.
Evaluate the integration process so far.
The process is going quite well. Every day we learn more about how we’re going to work together. One of the things that allowed us to get to where we are today is how quickly we were able to complete the transaction. Once both organizations decided to move forward, we worked in partnership to solve those challenges that emerge when you are bringing two organizations together. This spirit of cooperation for a common purpose continues today and guides all of our planning efforts.
–Reported by Stephanie Shapiro