Medical Center leader sees new challenges ahead
Dr. Peter Rutherford says health care system is in a state of change
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
WENATCHEE — After three months at Wenatchee Valley Medical Center’s helm, Dr. Peter Rutherford said he misses seeing patients, but is quickly gaining a new perspective and appreciation for what it takes to run North Central Washington’s largest medical clinic.
At the end of January, Rutherford, 54, replaced Dr. David Weber as chairman and CEO. More than 200 doctors who work there and who collectively own the organization selected him. Weber retired after leading the medical center for nine years.
The job, as Rutherford sees it: “I want to see that this organization does well, and that the health of our region does well.”
Rutherford was born and partly raised in Wenatchee, spending kindergarten and first grade here, and moving back for ninth through 12th grades before going off to college and starting a practice in Cody, Wyo. When offered a job at the medical center, he moved back in June 1990 with his wife, Karen, and two sons, Mike, 23, who works for Amazon.com, and Steven, 20, a student at the University of Washington. In his free time, he likes to ski at Mission Ridge, where he’s also on the Ski Patrol; bicycle; and sit on the beach at Lake Chelan.
After 21 years as an internist at the medical center, he’s moved out of the doctor’s office and into an administrative position.
“Do I miss the clinical work? Sure I do. That’s what I went into medicine for,” he said. Now he’d like to help guide the organization through its next phase of challenges.
Rutherford said health care is in a state of change, and he thinks one of the biggest challenges will be to find ways to better serve patients, and do it more efficiently and cost-effectively.
“If you look back over the last 20 years, the payment for health care in general was payment for doing something. You got paid for volume. I think there’s been a real awakening — and I think it’s good — in that we’re moving away from payment for volume and toward doing the right thing to the right people at the right time,” he said.
That means preventing unnecessary hospitalizations and emergency room visits, keeping people healthier and managing chronic illnesses so that patients pay attention to small problems before they become large issues.
“I think it’s the way we need to go, speaking as a consumer of health care and a provider,” he added. “The challenge is, as you move from payment for something to payment for a good outcome or better health, it’s a stretch or stress on your finances.”
Rutherford said the change will require discussions with patients and the community as a whole about becoming more involved in maintaining good health.
Rutherford said in addition to meeting its challenges, he will be working to realize several strategic goals, particularly in these areas:
• Primary care: Evaluating how the medical center provides primary care, and offering patients the right care at the right time. That includes making sure patients with chronic illnesses are seen when it’s appropriate, which may require more case management nursing and education.
• Financial stability: Making sure the organization remains financially viable.
• Regional relationships: Making sure the medical center works well with other physician practices in the region. “I think care is going to get more regional — you provide what care you can effectively and efficiently, as close to home as you can,” he said. That means getting referred to the nearest, most appropriate facility, and requires a good working relationship with others working in health care.
• Quality of care: The clinic plans to look at methods for evaluating quality of care — such as how well it is helping patients control diabetes — and when it’s confident the data is reliable and accurate, provide that information to the public.
• Political clout: Rutherford said lawmakers in Olympia and Washington, D.C., will largely decide the future of health care, particularly for those on government-funded plans like Medicare and Medicaid. “I think everybody realizes that the current health care system ... can’t continue in the same business model going forward,” he said. “We want to be involved in the discussions of how it’s going to go forward, and carry forward the message from patients as we hear it.”
K.C. Mehaffey: 997-2512
MORE LIKE THIS
Wednesday, May 22
WVC Hepcats Swing Dance Classes
Wenatchee Valley Senior Activity Center, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 23
BNI Better Business Boosters
Rivertop Bar & Grill, 201 N. Wenatchee Ave., 7:30 a.m.
Thursday, May 23
BNI High Noon Achievers
Red Lion Hotel, noon
Thursday, May 23
S.T.Y.L.E. Boot Camp!
Wenatchee Valley Mall, space A-4, 6:30 p.m.