BIDMC’s president is on a mission to bring the institution to new heights
Peter J. Healy was drawn to health care from a young age. When he was growing up, his mother, Margaret, a medical–surgical nurse who emigrated from Ireland to Ohio, came home every day exhausted from her shift. And yet Healy recalls how her face lit up when she talked about her patients. "My mother loved being a nurse," says Healy. "Her influence drove me to work in health care because I knew I wanted to do something fundamentally meaningful in my career and, by extension, in my life."
Having worked in hospitals for almost 30 years, Healy continues to pursue his passion for health care delivery as president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center since 2017. Known by staff as simply "Pete," Healy is uniquely qualified to lead the medical center during a critically important time in its history, where it faces unprecedented physical and financial growth. He possesses a key attribute that few share: from the very beginning of his career, he has always reported to—or been—the chief executive officer, from his first job as administrative fellow at Faulkner Hospital to his role as chief executive officer of Beth Israel Deaconess–Milton prior to joining BIDMC. "Consistently being at the executive table has been an incredible privilege," says Healy, who early on observed the inner workings of large hospitals and leveraged this valuable knowledge, along with his strong work ethic, to build a distinguished career.
Healy's vast experience—or his "front row seat" as he calls it—has enabled him to learn from renowned health care leaders in the Boston area to ultimately develop his own signature style. Known as a careful listener and a consensus builder, Healy leverages the expertise of the medical center's talented physicians, administrators, staff, and board members. "My goal is to hear each team member's point of view," he says, "and to work together to devise strategies and solutions that benefit BIDMC and our patients."
Healy's thoughtful approach has paid off. Over the past two and a half years, he and his team have worked tirelessly to advance the medical center's mission with a focus on quality and safety, patient care, operations, and financial health. An example is Healy's efforts to expand the medical center's high-acuity capabilities. "As a tertiary/quaternary hospital, we have to be prepared to meet our patients' most complex needs," he says. "Growing our subspecialty surgical programs, where surgeons use advanced techniques that have significantly improved outcomes and quality of life for patients, is essential to our success as an organization." Better patient outcomes are an unmistakable accomplishment. But there is also less concrete anecdotal evidence of Healy's, and BIDMC's, success. One of his favorite activities is reading the hundreds of letters he receives each month from patients recounting the life-altering—and oftentimes lifesaving—care they received and expressing gratitude for the staff's kindness.
"BIDMC is special because we recognize the humanity in everyone," says Healy. "Yes, we provide clinical excellence, but we go above and beyond that. Everyone is treated with dignity and compassion without exception." He credits the medical center's culture of respect as a reflection of the first-ever Patient Bill of Rights, established in 1972, and the work of Mitchell T. Rabkin, M.D., and Joyce Clifford, Ph.D., R.N., who revolutionized the concept of patient-centered care on a national level. "BIDMC's warm, caring environment is similar to that of a community hospital," says Healy. "To have that at a world-class academic medical center is extremely uncommon." He would know, having spent half his career working at community hospitals and half at academic medical centers.
As he looks to shape the future of BIDMC, Healy is intently focused on three key strategic objectives. The first is to continue to elevate its academic mission. With a longstanding history of leadership and innovation in clinical care, research, and education, BIDMC is ahead of the curve, but Healy believes there is always room for progress. "The minute we stop improving, we fail the patients, families, and communities who need us," says Healy. "This is especially important with our role in the new system." Indeed, with the recent launch of Beth Israel Lahey Health, the second largest health care system in the state of Massachusetts, the population BIDMC serves is expanding faster than ever. As the entity's highest acuity hospital, BIDMC accepts referrals from all 12 other member organizations and provides the most complex care to the sickest patients.
Healy's second area of focus is an effort called the BIDMC Experience, which is aimed at fostering a culture of collective improvement, respect, and teamwork—not just for patients, but for families, employees, and the community. Initiated in 2017 by Healy and Harvard Medical Faculty Physicians President and CEO Alexa Boer Kimball, M.D., M.P.H., this project is the culmination of Healy's evolution of thought over his decades-long career. "Everything we do is aimed at exceeding the expectations of our patients and families," says Healy. "We cannot provide a seamless, safe patient experience if we have disaffected staff or physicians, so engagement must include all parts of the BIDMC ecosystem." To date, this work has addressed physician burnout, strengthened employee engagement scores, and made BIDMC one of the top-ranked organizations in the country in 2018 for its "likelihood to recommend" score. In the health care industry, it is novel to integrate engagement programming for patients, physicians, and staff into one coordinated endeavor—but to Healy, it's common sense.
Healy's third focal point is BIDMC's hospital-wide effort to transform its physical space and infrastructure, which has been underway since 2015. The cornerstone of this project is a new 10-story inpatient building on our West Campus at the intersection of Brookline Avenue and Francis Street. Slated to open in 2022, it will offer 128 state-of-the-art private rooms, 30 intensive care unit rooms, and 11 leading-edge operating and procedure rooms, all with advanced imaging and diagnostic equipment. "This building won't just be beautiful and technically sophisticated. It's a valuable tool to help us deliver better care," says Healy. At the heart of the institution's comprehensive fundraising efforts, the building will focus on cardiovascular care and a broad range of surgery, including cardiac. It will also increase BIDMC's percentage of private rooms to enhance the patient and family experience and ultimately will enable spaces in other buildings to be renovated in order to continue the transformation of the medical center's campus.
Healy has big plans for BIDMC. By pursuing these key strategic objectives, he aims to make BIDMC the best academic medical center in Boston and beyond. To him, "the best" doesn't mean the largest, the most expensive, or the most famous, but the place of choice—where patients want to come, where physicians want to refer, and where professionals want to work. "I believe we are well on our way to becoming the place of choice in Boston, and this vision will be expedited by philanthropy," says Healy. "Generous and visionary donors are essential to BIDMC's growth in biomedical research, clinical care, and education." With his unique leadership style and decades of executive experience, many agree Healy's goal is well within reach. "I am thrilled to see Pete Healy take the helm," says Kevin Tabb, M.D., president and CEO of Beth Israel Lahey Health. "He is a trusted partner whose leadership, wide-ranging expertise, and deep understanding of health care give me great confidence for his and BIDMC's future success."
With the profound desire to make a difference and a longstanding commitment to health care, Healy is leading more than 10,000 employees to make a vital impact in Boston and arguably across the country. He inspires confidence in us all.
Yes, we provide clinical excellence, but we go above and beyond that. Everyone is treated with dignity and compassion without exception.
Peter J. Healy