Q&A: Tony Lennen

Tony Lennen became president of Community Hospital South in 2009, overseeing a 50-bed expansion that was completed last summer, giving the hospital capacity for 150 private rooms. The facility, located along the line between Marion and Johnson counties, competes against nearby facilities run by Franciscan St. Francis Health, Indiana University Health and Johnson Memorial Hospital.

IBJ: How has the expansion changed the dynamic and the operations of Community South?

A: On the surgery side, it greatly expanded our capacity. From a gross revenue point of view, our surgery volume was up over 50 percent last year. On the inpatient side, we did not have private rooms. So we would have to move you two to three times during your stay. It just was not a good experience. We obviously could not mix infectious patients with non-infectious patients. So there was a lot of juggling. Also, we now have a pediatric hospitalist, able to take care of patients down to 32 weeks. It’s just given us a lot of flexibility that we didn’t have.

IBJ: When you were CEO of Major Hospital in Shelbyville, you talked about the challenge of competing with hospitals on the south and east sides of Indianapolis. Compare that experience to the one you’re in now, where you have several competing facilities even closer by.

A: When I was at Major—I thought we had a good product and a good service—but did we have a market that could support it? On the south side of Indy, you have a really good market, but there’s so much competition vying for that business. It’s a different sort of worry. You’ve got IU Health and St. Francis. One minute you’re working with doctors and the next minute, you’re competing with them, sometimes for the same business. It’s actually more complex than I would have figured. I would say, if anything, the market on the south side is becoming almost hyper-competitive.

IBJ: We’re now one year removed from the passage of the federal health reform law. In that year, what has been the biggest change you’ve grappled with as a consequence of the law?

A: We are spending a lot of money and a lot of energy to try to keep people out of the hospital. We have a huge project under way at Community South on congestive heart failure patients. Those patients have a very high readmission rate. [Medicare and other insurance programs are promising to no longer pay for patients readmitted within 30 days.] We are spending a lot of money and a lot of resources to try to come up with this medical home concept. Once they are in the hospital, and they’re ready to go home, to make sure that we have all the support in place to help them once they leave the hospital. We really aren’t paid to do that. But we just feel like that’s where it’s headed. We’ve got to be responsible for the health and well-being of that patient all the time.

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