Doug Hawthorne Looks Back, and to the Future

For 43 years, my family and I have been blessed to serve Texas Health Resources. This has been an amazing journey and one for which I am extremely grateful. After much prayer and discernment—and with the blessing of the Board of Trustees—Martha and I have decided that it is time for us to spend more time with our children and grandchildren. We will also devote more time to serving the community in areas that are close to our hearts. I have provided the Texas Health Resources Board of Trustees with notice of my intent to step down as CEO at the end of 2014. I will be working closely with the Board as they identify and name a successor.

I am stepping down as CEO but I am not stepping out of the fight to improve the health of the people of North Texas. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity I have had to lead and serve with the people of Texas Health Resources and our community stakeholders. Together, we have overcome many challenges in our quest to fulfill our mission of improving the health of the people in the communities we serve. I am as proud as anyone could be of the progress Texas Health has made in transforming the delivery of healthcare and becoming the healthcare system of choice in North Texas.

Looking back to when we formed Texas Health Resources in 1997, we now know that the odds were against us being successful. According to consulting company Accenture, a host of studies indicate that more than 70 percent of consolidations and mergers that happened in the 1990s failed. History shows that was certainly true of many health system mergers that occurred then. Perhaps there are lessons in Texas Health’s history that can point the way forward for other organizations.

So I’d like to offer some thoughts on what it will take to succeed in a changing healthcare landscape.

Texas Health has been blessed with active participation from our Board of Trustees—all community-minded leaders who volunteer their time and business expertise. From the beginning, they understood that culture trumps everything else, and that a unified culture is critical to a successful enterprise. The board, along with the operational and clinical leadership of Texas Health, empowered people to weave their diverse backgrounds and talents into a new tapestry that became the Texas Health Resources family of today. The symbol of our logo reflects the weaving together of the cultures of Texas Health Arlington Memorial, Texas Health Harris Methodist, Texas Health Presbyterian, and most recently, Texas Health Huguley. The logo symbol also represents the faith-based ties that are the foundation of our health system.

Healthcare must become more of a “team sport” rather than a series of silos of expertise. To succeed in today’s constantly changing environment, health systems must improve alignment with physicians so that everything focuses on delivering value to the patient by improving quality, improving outcomes and enhancing well-being. It will be critical for health systems to involve physicians in decision-making at every leadership level of the organization as we have done at Texas Health. Physicians are the acknowledged experts in care and must take the lead in redesigning care. They must do so hand-in-hand with their counterparts who are experts in operational and financial areas.

An organization’s ability and willingness to collaborate with other healthcare providers will also be critical to success. Rather than attempt to own and control every piece of the care continuum, the successful organization will be the one that understands how to collaborate with like-minded partners to facilitate the fastest, most effective, and most cost-efficient ways to deliver quality care and value to the patient. Collaboration must extend even beyond the provider circle to include the entire community.

Tomorrow’s leading healthcare organizations will be those that empower people to have more control of their own well-being and elevate the role of personal responsibility for health behaviors. The Blue Zones Project we recently launched with the city of Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, major employers, and our strategic partner Healthways is an example of the type of innovative, collaborative effort it will take to successfully transform health in North Texas. This project will involve people from corporate boardrooms to restaurant kitchens to the neighborhood grassroots level, and will serve as a living laboratory to demonstrate the impact that lifestyle changes can have on well-being and health. It will be the start of a multi-year journey that may have the opportunity to expand across North Texas, creating Blue Zones, community by community.

More than ever before, giving consumers resources and access to information about their health choices, providing them with more choices for healthy behaviors and enabling physicians to guide them will become a critical role of the successful healthcare organization.

Today’s model of fee-for-service “sick care” is not sustainable. Tomorrow’s leading health organizations will be those that facilitate physician-directed population health strategies that increase value, improve satisfaction and help consumers navigate a very complex environment. The emphasis must be on keeping people healthy and out of the hospital unless they are injured or very sick. That will require alignment and coordination of all parts of the health system to manage patients’ needs across the continuum—primary care, acute care, rehabilitation, home health services, palliative care, and hospice care.

There are many challenges ahead for our society as we attempt to gain more control over what is a huge portion of our country’s economic life. But it is not just up to those of us in the healthcare industry to change. Truly effective, transformational change will happen only through the combined efforts of the healthcare industry, employers, insurance companies, policy makers, and, perhaps most important, consumers. I am confident that the people of North Texas are up to the challenge.

Later this year, I will step down as CEO of Texas Health Resources. But I will not step away from the challenge of improving health in our communities, our state and our nation.

It would be impossible for me to thank every person who has helped me along the way in this amazing journey. There have been countless servant-leaders who nurtured me each step of the way from my administrative residency right out of Trinity University through 40-plus years of growth and change that reflected the rise of Dallas-Fort Worth as one of the largest and most vital metropolitan areas in the country. Some of you I will be able to thank in person, but most of you who helped me along the path may never even realize your contributions. But rest assured, I know and will be forever thankful for the blessings you bestowed on me.

And I will continue to work with you to build a brighter future for the communities we serve.

3 comments on “Doug Hawthorne Looks Back, and to the Future

  1. An incredible man of the highest character leaves an incredible legacy to the people who work at THR as well as all of the people in the communities we are privileged to serve

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  2. I first met Doug when training at Parkland in 1973. At that time he was an associate administrator working with Rod Bell. It has been my pleasure as well as The Texas Back Institute’s to be a part of Doug’s journey and vision. THR is prepared for the many changes facing today’s healthcare arena thanks to Doug. SHH

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  3. I first met Doug in 1988 at Presbyterian Hospital Dallas and was impressed with his directness and vision. I have since had the honor and pleasure of working with him and Texas Health Resources to help the system reach the goals his vision inspired. He is a gifted leader with a clear mission and a rare gift of empowering those with whom he works to achieve their best. He has indeed enriched our community with quality healthcare. MEE

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