Healthcare 360: Forging a Path Forward in Healthcare

February 28, 2024

Podcast: Forging a Path Forward in Healthcare

On this week’s episode of Healthcare 360, Dr. Rob Fields sits down with Tom Sands, MBA, MHA, FACHE, president of Beverly, Addison Gilbert and BayRidge Hospitals and divisional president of Beth Israel Lahey Health’s community hospitals, to discuss working with community hospitals.

A Smaller Margin of Error

Community hospitals are anything but average. As Sands points out, “They're known for having comparable quality to academic medical centers, higher patient experience scores, and [they do it] in a more cost-effective manner.” However, they face a unique set of challenges that academic medical centers don’t necessarily have to deal with.

“We have to make sure that we're continuously listening to the community, what their needs are, how we should be providing [care] – not only being technologically advanced, but also ensuring that we continue with that high touch when it comes to caring for our community,” he says.

Though the margin of error is smaller in community hospitals compared to academic medical centers, this is something Sands attributes to very fragile margins and lower reimbursement. As a result, it’s necessary to be thoughtful about where and how you invest while simultaneously focusing on providing safe, high-quality care in a way that makes patients feel respected.

“The fragileness of it, it also comes from recognizing that you are the closest to the community. When they need care, sometimes you can hear about a larger tertiary care facility, but time can cost lives, being present when people need you is so important.”

Forging a Path for Others

Originally from the South, Sands was born to the first African American nurse to work in a hospital operating room in Macon, Georgia. He started volunteering at the hospital in high school and has now been working in healthcare for over 30 years.

He recalls working with the hospital’s first African American surgeon, G.A. Johnston, who, at the time, was required to come in through a side door, use a separate office, and was not permitted to change in the same locker room as the white surgeons.

“You stand on the shoulders, as we say, of a lot of different people,” he says. “And, you know, as I kind of chose healthcare, healthcare administration as a career, I had a chance to be exposed to a lot of different things – some positive, some negative.”

On being a mentor to others, Sands says he doesn’t feel like it’s something he’s pressured to do. “You look around, you see people struggling, challenged in a lot of ways, and you recognize that you can help people engage in a career that can be life changing. You're making a difference in other people's lives but, at the same time, you position yourself where you can be economically, self-sufficient and you can help take care of your family and loved ones.” Instead, he says, “I do feel a responsibility to give forward.”

Every other week, we’ll chat with a leading expert in healthcare to learn about the many challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Listen to the full conversation with Sands here, and check in regularly for new episodes of Healthcare 360.

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