Exec Q&A: Tim Johnsen

by Tim Johnsen  on Monday, Oct. 3, 2011 12:00 am  

Bio: Tim Johnsen

Education: Bachelor's degree in nursing, Missouri State University; master's in health services administration, Southwest Baptist University; MBA, Webster University.

Background: Johnsen began his career in 1984 as a critical care RN. Interest in management led to further schooling and administrative posts. He has been president of St. Joseph's Mercy since January 2008.

Tim Johnsen leads St. Joseph's Mercy Health System of Hot Springs, whose St. Joseph's Mercy Health Center is the eighth largest hospital in Arkansas.

Q: St. Joseph Mercy recently announced an $11 million expansion of the Mercy Cancer Center. Why does this make sense?

A: Unfortunately, the need for comprehensive cancer services continues to grow in the communities we serve. The expansion will enable patients to receive care in a patient-centered facility where their primary treatments, physicians, navigators and support staff will all be located in one area of our campus, built with the patients' needs and desires in mind. With the advancements in technology we've made this past year, we also need more space to house services such as stereotactic radiosurgery, the da Vinci robotic system and the NanoKnife.

Q: What are your thoughts on health care reform? What parts do you like? What parts could you do without?

A: I am hopeful that health care reform will reduce the ranks of the uninsured to qualify for Medicaid or unsubsidized insurance programs. In the meantime, Mercy is already working to implement creative ways to care for the uninsured. The uninsured are forced to seek care in costly emergency departments, and their care should and could be managed in a much better way in more appropriate settings. Reform, in its current state, has made some strides in addressing access issues but didn't focus enough on increasing the number of primary care physicians or on addressing public health issues such as obesity.

Q: How can hospitals survive in this age of a rising uninsured population and reimbursement rates that might not be enough to cover the cost of treatment?

A: It's going to be very hard for hospitals to survive without substantial changes in reimbursement. Until payers, like the federal and state governments, start paying for preventive health care services, our current model is destined to become too costly to control. Hospitals must get ahead of the cost curve, manage all our patients to what Medicare pays and be as efficient and as lean as we possibly can without forgoing quality or service. We need to determine a better model of care that is patient-centric, manages chronic conditions across the continuum of care and work with all providers to improve our society's collective health. It's no longer just about hospitals and episodic care; it's about managing care of a patient in multiple settings.

Q: Arkansas was named the ninth most obese state in the country, according to the eighth annual report "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011." What will it take for Arkansans to improve their health?

A: I think our first priority must be our children. The epidemic of childhood obesity is truly frightening. Mercy is partnering with Arkansas Children's Hospital to provide a program called HealthTeacher to the schools in our state. This program increases the health literacy of teachers and students and gives students the knowledge to make good choices from K-12. Through our pediatricians and primary care physicians, we are also reaching out to the children we serve to give them the education and tools necessary to be healthy and active.



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