This month, 65-year-old Bill Corley gave his 18 months’ notice that he will be retiring as CEO of Community Health
Network, the third-largest hospital network based in Indianapolis. Perhaps Community’s board of directors
needed so much time to replace a man who has held his post so long–nearly 25 years. When Corley arrived
in 1984, Community consisted of just one hospital on Indianapolis’ east side. Today, it has five. Its
work force has tripled and its annual billings have risen nearly tenfold. In January 2010, Corley will
join the Massachusetts-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement, working to coach other hospitals around
the world. Community’s board has formed a search committee to find a successor.
IBJ: Why was now the right time to move on to something else and end your
time at Community?
CORLEY: Several reasons. One, the organization has been in existence for 52 years.
I’ve been here for almost half that time. So you want to go out when you want to go out. It’s like Strahan
[New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who announced his retirement four months after winning
a Super Bowl ring]. I’d just like to do something different and something where I’m not working 70 hours
a week. My wife and I like to travel. And we’ve done a lot of that. But we want to do more. And then
my daughter is pregnant with our first grandchild. So the combination of all those, you just sort of say, "Hey, hand
the baton on to somebody else."
IBJ: Once you retire, you and your wife, Angela, will
still live in Carmel. Will your new job include travel?
CORLEY: My wife and I talked about this, and she was ready to go overseas.
But my daughter’s pregnancy has changed all that. We were going to [work for IHI] for two years [in Australia
and New Zealand]. So I’ve got to go to plan B and, at this point, I don’t know what plan B is. I really
would like [to travel]. I really like looking at the United States outside the United States. You get
a different perspective.
IBJ: What has been your biggest achievement in your time at Community?
CORLEY: I would say the largest
achievement is probably building a culture in the organization that values three things, and we call
them our exceptional experiences. One is the exceptional experience for patients and family. That’s the major focus
of everything we do. And embedded in that is quality and safety and compassionate care, and making it special to a particular
patient or family.
we talk about the exceptional physician experience. We’ve been able to develop partnerships with physicians over
the 25 years that really have worked very well. It’s not the typical sort of fighting–we on one side, they on the other.
The third exceptional experience is the exceptional
experience of employees. The employees in any organization are the people that really establish the reputation
of that organization. It’s what they do every day. So we’ve tried to get managers and leaders to help
their employees to be as successful as they can be. We have a two-day course on relationship development that
we get all of our managers to go through, because it’s crucial to the success.
IBJ: When you talk about building relationships with physicians, do you mean
the unusual success Community has had at bringing on primary-care physicians as Community employees?
CORLEY: Even before that.
In 1987, we said, "Physicians are a key customer, and what kinds of needs does that customer have?"
A lot of people would tell us, "You know, I never got any training in medical school on how to run a practice: financial,
businesswise, scheduling, staffing of the office, organization, all those kinds of things."
So we had this idea that we would start managing
physician office practices. Our whole concept was, if we help them be successful in their business, which
is their practice, then maybe they would help us be successful in our business. And we did that. We provided
those services at cost to the physicians. That really developed a trust with the physicians. No one was really
doing this at that point.
Then one of our organizations built a whole infrastructure on how to manage physician office practices. And we were managing
physician practices, not just our own, but we were managing physician practices for other hospitals, throughout the state
of Indiana. All the way up to Munster and down to Vincennes and Kokomo and Bloomington and Richmond and Anderson. We were
getting calls to do it outside of the state.
IBJ: Community has recently tried to enter into employment arrangements with heart specialists at its
Indiana Heart Hospital. One of the practices didn’t like that and so entered into a deal with Clarian
Health. Will Community directly employ more specialists in the future?
CORLEY: Yes, and every hospital in the city is doing the same thing.
IBJ: Why does it make sense?
CORLEY: Younger physicians want a more balanced lifestyle than working 80 hours a week. Young
people today, many of them were raised by fathers and mothers that worked, and worked very hard. And they basically are saying,
"I learned something from that. And what I learned is, I’m not going to repeat the same thing." So I really do think
that the employment of specialists will continue.
IBJ: One thing that failed for you was your attempt to do joint-operating
agreements, first with St. Vincent Health and then with St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers. What
I really think there was some potential to that. What happened was, there was a leadership change [at St. Vincent].
And the new person that came in, his name was Doug French. And Doug basically felt that there needed to be one CEO for both
the organizations, and [Community] needed to be a Daughters of Charity hospital [as St. Vincent is]. Well, our board of directors
basically said, "Hey, did you guys read the agreement?" It basically said, in straightforward language, "Community
is not going to try to make St. Vincent non-Catholic and St. Vincent is not going to try to make Community
Catholic." And it wasn’t anything against religion. When Community was formed, it was formed as
a community hospital open to everyone without preference to anybody.
IBJ: It was the city’s first non-religious hospital, right?
CORLEY: That’s right.
When I first came in ’84, I tried to change the name of the hospital. Because I said, "Community is
pretty generic." And the board members basically said, "We really brought you here to provide leadership for this
organization, not change the name." Name change was not in the cards.
IBJ: Do you think we will see
any more joint-operating agreements?
CORLEY: I don’t think so, because I think what folks are interested in are acquisitions or mergers. Up in
Anderson, we tried to do something with a third Catholic order with St. John’s and Community of Anderson,
and that didn’t work out. And pretty soon, my wife was saying, "Hey, when are you going to learn?"
IBJ: One of the reasons
for joint-operating agreements was to get more leverage to deal with payers, such as Anthem Blue Cross
and Blue Shield. Do you think the dominant market position Anthem has hurts hospitals or health care in this community?
CORLEY: No, I don’t think
it hurts hospitals or health care in the community at all. Anthem is a good corporate citizen. [We’re
working together] to help some of their enrollees, that have Anthem insurance, to become well and prevent illnesses. And they’re
very much in favor of trying to keep people out of the hospital.
IBJ: The demographics have shifted out of the favor of Community Hospital
East. Can Community afford to keep the East hospital open?
CORLEY: Yes, yes. Because we’re committed to it. And it’s breaking even–now.
That’s where we started. And we’re committed to the east side, just like we’re committed to the north
side and the south side of town. We think the commitment that the neighborhood has made to us is equally
as important to the commitment that we’ve made to those neighborhoods.