This is one in a series of blog posts marking the one-year anniversary of the merger of Baylor Health Care System and Scott & White Health.
Post-merger integration is hard work. Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH) executives acknowledged that and moved quickly to ensure the new organization melded as seamlessly as possible.
BSWH formed two committees: one for operations and another for clinical leadership. LaVone Arthur, who was appointed the system’s chief integration officer, headed the operations committee.
BSWH Chief Executive Officer Joel Allison said, “As we did integration, we looked for that third way of doing things—not a Baylor way or Scott & White way. We had four non-negotiables: Put the patient first in everything we do. Stay true to our mission. Live our values. Do the right thing for the right reason.”
Robert Pryor, MD, BSWH chief operating officer, said, “This (integration) hasn’t been easy. It’s been a lot of work. But you can amplify (the process of) being a learning organization. The merger gave us an excuse to disrupt those things that needed to be disrupted.”
Dr. Pryor said the board of trustees made one thing clear: “We are going to have one of everything. That statement has helped us integrate.”
Arthur said, “There are two important words in integration: flexibility and courage. You have to make hard decisions.”
Arthur said BSWH decided early primarily to use its own people to drive the merger internally. She said plans included goals for the first 100 days as well as one year later. She said those plans are “tweaked almost every day.”
Internal communication clearly was the first order of business.
Allison said, “That was the biggest challenge we had. We used every vehicle we had. We did road shows. We did a website and videos. We did FAQs and employee engagement surveys to get feedback on what we need to do better.”
Arthur said one integration communication effort targeted the system’s leaders. An integration newsletter for them included bullet points about what should be communicated to their staffs.
“Communication is the most important factor. It is right up there with vision and culture. Our communication plan, both within and outside of the organization, is definitely one of our leading success factors. We are spread out (as a company). Our geography is larger than many U.S. states,” she said.
Allison said, “We are on a journey. We are growing as well as integrating. We continue to add and seek collaborators and partners. A truly integrated delivery network is the goal.”
Pryor said, “Looking back, we have changed at a very rapid pace. But health care is changing even more rapidly than we are.”