An Exclusive with Universal Health Services, Inc.
He possessed a keen business sense, a natural charisma that helped win over even the toughest of clients, and the courage to take calculated risks. Employed by one of the most prestigious advertising agencies in New York City, its youngest vice president was well on his way to establishing a distinguished career. Then, he abruptly changed course – and with that, changed the course of history.
Electing to seek a career with more purpose, and firmly believing that healthcare is the highest calling, Alan B. Miller founded Universal Health Services in 1979, launching what has become one of the most respected hospital management companies in the world, a perennial member of the Fortune 500 and an employer awarded for providing highly meaningful jobs. Today UHS operates, through its subsidiaries, more than 350 acute care hospitals and behavioral health care facilities, including residential treatment centers, freestanding emergency departments and ambulatory surgery centers, in the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the United Kingdom. UHS facilities, and their more than 81,000 employees, provide critical health care services to more than 2.6 million patients annually.
Asked what makes UHS unique, Mr. Miller said, “We defined our mission and we live every aspect of our mission, every day. We provide superior quality healthcare services that benefit every one of our stakeholders – with the patient as our top priority, always.”
Since 2009, Mr. Miller has been joined at the helm by his son, Marc D. Miller, who currently serves as president of the company. Prior to this appointment, Marc Miller worked his way up through various positions in hospital operations management and divisional leadership.
“Growing up I was exposed to the healthcare industry through my father. I gained some initial experience in the consulting field after earning my degree, but then quickly engaged in hospital management,” Marc Miller says. “Under my father’s leadership, UHS has defined and implemented a very successful business approach by maintaining its focus on the patient – it’s an inspiring story.”
As a proud U.S. Army veteran, the senior Mr. Miller approaches leadership strategically and with purposeful intent. “It is important to build the right team, to develop trust, and to inspire and influence people to accomplish our common organizational goals,” he said. He cites service excellence, continuous improvement, employee development, and innovation in service delivery among the company’s core principles.
He attributes his own success to hard work. “Anyone’s success depends on hard work. I don’t know of anyone who has been successful that hasn’t been willing to work hard, really hard.”
Alan Miller also believes that it is vital to attract highly experienced, esteemed, and compassionate professionals at every level within the organization. “Our care providers are the face to the patient, and their ability to deliver a superior patient experience with optimal outcomes is paramount.”
“We won’t settle for less,” he said. “We have a first-class team, provide superior quality care, and embrace leading edge technologies that positively impact our patients’ lives. For me, it’s like in the advertising industry: you have to have a product that is superior to other available products.”
The Business Side of Providing Comprehensive Care
The company’s entrée into behavioral health can also be traced back to wisdom gained during Alan Miller’s advertising days. The most successful firms diversified, representing various business segments, products, and target markets.
“We never wanted to limit our service offerings to acute care, or medical-surgical hospital business because the patient needs and business opportunities expanded well beyond these offerings. This motivated our move into behavioral health,” he recounted. Today, UHS operates the largest, most geographically diverse network of freestanding behavioral health hospitals and residential treatment centers in the U.S. In 2016, its Behavioral Health Division, encompassing over 210 facilities, provided care to more than 620,000 patients, many of whom are facing some of the most traumatic and difficult moments of their lives. However, for the Millers and the rest of UHS’ senior leadership team, it’s more about quality than quantity.
The People Make the Company
“You need the best people, and you need to keep them motivated and engaged on a professional growth trajectory. That has always been my philosophy,” he stated
Further testament to the company’s focus on attracting and retaining the best talent at all levels in the organization are the various public accolades UHS has won. Fortune has consistently listed UHS as one of the World's Most Admired Companies, a list chosen by more than 15,000 senior executives, corporate directors, and industry analysts. In 2017, in the category of “Health Care: Medical Facilities,” UHS ranked first place for innovation, financial soundness, and global competitiveness, and second overall among all companies in the category.
Defining “the Consolidator”
Reflecting upon the company’s very successful history of steady expansion, Marc Miller described a healthy combination between organic growth and acquisition. “UHS strategically builds hospitals–and expands its existing hospitals–in rapidly growing areas as well as underserved markets in need of high quality providers. UHS has also experienced significant success acquiring existing facilities that have a promising future, but under previous ownership did not have sufficient capital, or the clinical expertise, to appropriately support their communities. That's our business model.”
UHS was among the first to successfully define–and prove–the business model as a consolidator.
Operating as a hospital network enables the affiliate hospitals to access and leverage full-time corporate resources and expertise including clinical and compliance, regulatory, legal, information technology, supply chain, human resources, design and construction services, an internal advertising agency, and other central functions. Maintaining system-wide standards with corporate governance affords efficiencies that individual hospitals would not have on their own. While each hospital serves its unique market and is an integral part of its local community, the hospitals value the best practice sharing opportunity of the network, learning from each other, all with the common goal of providing high-quality patient care.
“Our operations in Nevada are a great example of an integrated network of care – with medical-surgical hospitals, behavioral health facilities, our own ACO and Prominence Health Plan – it’s a comprehensive, integrated network to serve our patients,” explained Marc Miller. UHS has seven medical-surgical hospitals under the Valley Health System umbrella in greater Las Vegas– the newest of which is Henderson Hospital, opened in 2016, and two behavioral health facilities.
“Academic affiliations are a key area for us, as well,” added Marc Miller. “A prominent example is The George Washington University Hospital, which is a joint venture partnership with the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. It’s a strong partnership – together, we are forging new ground in making leading edge care available to patients.” Just minutes from Washington, D.C.'s tourist sites and government headquarters, The George Washington University Hospital serves a diverse group of patients, from area residents to visiting dignitaries and heads of state.
“Joint venture opportunities with large non-profits throughout the country are another highly interesting area of recent and prospective future developments,” said Marc Miller. In April 2017, UHS’ Fairfax Behavioral Health and Providence Health Care celebrated the next step in their joint venture at the groundbreaking site for a new freestanding behavioral health hospital on the Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center campus in Spokane, Washington. The three-story, 100-bed hospital is set to open in the fall of 2018.
As to how UHS is uniquely positioned to partner with a variety of industry stakeholders: “A lot of acute care hospitals and healthcare systems are struggling with increasing numbers of patients with complex psychiatric needs coming into ERs, and these large facilities often lack the requisite experience and resources to provide this critically needed care,” said Alan Miller. “They reach out to UHS as a potential partner, to see how we can help.”
Rehabilitation from substance abuse, with and without need for treatment of co-existing mental health conditions, represents another significant service line that is now an integral part of the continuum. Through the acquisition of Foundations Recovery Network (FRN) in 2015, UHS gained a nationally recognized network of treatment centers dedicated to providing patients evidence-based strategies to understand and conquer addiction disorders.
Total Patient Care
Providing a unique combination of acute care and behavioral health services enables UHS to address patients’ physical and psychological needs. “We are equipped to provide total patient care, which addresses not just physical health but mental and emotional health, as well,” said Marc Miller.
UHS’ dedication to its philosophy of total patient care is evident in its numerous specialty services and treatment programs. Niche programming, such as specialized offerings in autism spectrum disorder, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and opioid addiction, has evolved to fit the expanding needs of diverse patient populations and public health challenges.
“A variety of available treatment options in diverse settings ensures that we can support patients at every step of their journey toward recovery,” summarized Marc Miller.
Another important component to UHS’ strategy is education. The company acknowledges that people are much more likely to seek care from a doctor for a heart condition than for depression or similar mental health challenges. Heart disease was the culprit in one of every four deaths in the U.S. in 2008, while one in five adults experience depression annually. Through efforts in community outreach and education, UHS is able to support the people who need help and to lessen the stigma often associated with “unseen” psychiatric disorders.
UHS serves as a leading corporate partner with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, fully committed to its suicide prevention mission and transforming the public conversation around this public health epidemic. As part of the Zero Suicide initiative, five UHS behavioral health hospitals served as pilot sites to address suicide safe care in inpatient psychiatric facilities. In 2015, it expanded to six additional facilities. It also partnered with the Action Alliance in the development of an evidence-informed suicide risk formulation model that has been made available to all UHS behavioral health inpatient hospitals.
The company is also focused on the educational progress of its own patients which often has a huge impact on future quality of life. To this end, in 2017 over 300 adolescent patients graduated with a high school diploma or GED from the educational programs offered at UHS’ behavioral health facilities – a 25 percent increase over the prior year in the number of patients achieving this milestone.
Focus on Our Men and Women in Uniform
UHS’ partnerships with the military recognize that the needs of service members have steadily increased in the last 15 years. “PTSD is a very serious problem with people who have been in combat,” said Alan Miller. “Our country has not properly addressed the issue or provided sufficient treatment resources. We’re trying to change that.”
UHS’ Patriot Support Program, a network of 24 behavioral health treatment centers, medical professionals, and support staff, provides specialized care to active military, veterans, and their families, collaborating with the U.S. military to meet the behavioral health needs of active duty and retired personnel. In 2016, Patriot Support Programs served over 4,500 service members and veterans from more than 140 military installations and VA hospitals across the U.S. and abroad.
“Unique to the care provided is the emphasis on maintaining close communication with military base commanders,” said Alan Miller. “Successful treatment through the program allows a path for active duty personnel to return to work with honor.”
UHS leaders and employees regularly partner with the Wounded Warrior Project® to provide financial assistance, housing, food, counseling, training, coaching, and services to wounded service members as they rebuild their lives. Through its “Hire a Vet” initiative, UHS provides employment opportunities to qualified veterans who have recently separated from or who are about to separate from the service. The company has been hiring nearly 1,000 veterans per year in clinical and administrative positions.
In 2015, UHS opened the Chris Kyle Patriots Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska, dedicated in honor of the late U.S. Navy Seal known as “the American Sniper.” This intensive inpatient treatment program helps military service members and veterans struggling with the effects of combat stress, PTSD, and other post-deployment related issues.
“Healthcare is among the most innovative and technology-driven industries, and since our founding, UHS has consistently strived to be at the forefront, particularly prioritizing innovations that directly impact the ability of our staff to enhance patient safety, comfort, and clinical outcomes,” said Alan Miller.
For example, UHS is increasingly integrating telemedicine into its offerings, particularly telepsychiatry. These capabilities increase UHS’ ability to provide cost-effective, reliable, and real-time assessment and treatments to more patients, including those unable to present in person. They also reduce chronic emergency room backlogs and inappropriate admissions while improving safety and helping patients access the appropriate level of care quickly, often in the comfort of their own homes. UHS currently has more than 100 acute and behavioral health facilities offering varying levels of telemedicine services, and the company plans to continue to expand the breadth of these offerings.
Reducing hospital-acquired infections is a central patient safety priority for UHS. To this end, UHS has aggressively sought to identify and implement the latest innovations. UHS’ Henderson Hospital was the first facility in the U.S. to invest in and install new operating room light fixtures that reduce harmful bacteria by continuously disinfecting the environment. According to clinical tests, this technology can reduce harmful pathogens by up to 70 percent beyond routine disinfection efforts. Similarly, UHS facilities are currently upgrading non-operating room disinfection technologies such as those utilizing next generation Ultra Violet-C and automated dose tracking and recording keeping capabilities.
“To remain a provider of choice in all the markets we serve, the UHS leadership team knows that we must continue to innovate and invest in the latest treatments and technologies. Our patients and staff deserve nothing less than the best and that is what they will continue to receive,” said Marc Miller.
The Future of Healthcare Delivery
“Over the years, we’ve consistently found that our patient centric philosophy results in more patients, referring physicians, and community partners recommending UHS facilities to their family and friends based on positive experiences and our employees’ record of providing excellent, compassionate care,” said Alan Miller. “UHS’ core patient-centric principles will always guide all aspects of our decision-making.”
What’s on the horizon? “The most successful healthcare providers will be those who can offer the most clinically integrated, outcome-focused, accessible, and cost-efficient care that delivers consistent and quantifiable value,” said Marc Miller. “It starts by continuing to recruit and retain the most talented, compassionate clinicians, but it will also involve long-term investment in systems that expand our ability to provide coordinated care however and whenever it’s needed.”
While brick and mortar hospitals will continue to serve as primary hubs of care delivery for many years to come, integrated digital care platforms will enable greater access, flexibility, and efficiency across geographies. Additionally, UHS is prioritizing affiliations in the aftercare space involving nursing homes, rehabilitation, and other related services. “We’re thoughtfully preparing ourselves to be not only involved with – but a key contributor to – the integrated network model as it becomes more prevalent,” said Marc Miller.
“Healthcare is personal – and it always will be,” said Alan Miller. “I’ve had the distinct pleasure to receive many letters over the years that expressed the sentiment of ‘If not for you or that hospital, my family member would not have survived.’ That’s the ultimate payoff we get,” he continued. “We can make a positive impact on the lives of patients, families, and communities. That’s why we’ll always strive to be a leader in providing superior quality care.”
When Alejandra and Tio Mejia chase after their two-year-old son, they thank the team at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, an acute care hospital operated through a subsidiary of UHS. Without the specialty maternity care provided to Alejandra or the advanced neonatal care their son, Alexander, received when he was born 18 weeks prematurely, the toddler would not be alive.
“Baby Alex” weighed 442 grams – less than one pound – at birth. “He was so small we couldn’t touch him. All we could do was sit by his side, pray, and let the team at Summerlin Hospital work their miracles. And they did,” said Alejandra.
For five months, Alexander was a star in the NICU. He grew and met all of his medical milestones. Finally, on December 1, his parents were able to take him home.
That was over two years ago. Today, Alexander is happy and smart, his mother reported. He has caught up on every developmental milestone … he talks, sings, and runs. “We officially hit the terrible twos! Alexander is our miracle and we have Summerlin Hospital to thank for giving him to us.”
“Baby Alex is a reminder of what our hospitals do, and how important they are to the people we are privileged to care for every day. Patients are always our first priority; they have been from the first day we founded UHS. That means delivering superior quality care and excellent outcomes.”
~ Alan B. Miller
Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Universal Health Services, Inc.
Founded in 1979 by Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Alan B. Miller, Universal Health Services (NYSE: UHS), UHS and our affiliates have focused on meeting our patients’ healthcare needs in all of the communities we serve.
The company operates through its subsidiaries more than 350 acute care hospitals, behavioral health facilities and ambulatory centers in the US, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the United Kingdom. Our more than 81,000 dedicated and talented employees treat more than 2.5 million people each year with dignity and respect.
We recognize that the patients we serve come to us at the most vulnerable times in their lives, and we put them first every day and help them achieve their best possible outcome. Our consistent growth correlates directly to our focus on providing the highest level of patient care resulting in more patients and referring physicians choosing us.
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