Springfield Business Journal: What was key to your three-year revenue growth through 2019?
Steve Edwards: Our physician leaders rallied to find new ways to open up their clinics to improve access better: Quicker access from primary care to some specialty, reinventing themselves, creating new technologies that are virtual, multiple ways so that when a patient calls they can get in, in days or hours versus weeks or months, which is what I think the industry had been struggling with.
SBJ: Is there such a thing as growing too fast in the health care industry?
Edwards: Fast growth, for us, is still single digits for the most part, just because we’re pretty big and fairly stable. So, I’m actually not worried about that. We’re not like a startup that’s growing 40%. I don’t think we’re at risk of growing too fast.
SBJ: Do you see a tipping point where your revenue would start to plateau?
Edwards: There’s two factors that affect our revenue, essentially. One is community prevalence of disease and the need to grow to cover that, and then market share. One system is going to grow and the others ones are not typically in that scenario, but we’ve got nice growth in our area historically, both population growth but also as the region ages, demand for health care goes up.
SBJ: Even during the COVID-19 crisis, you’ve announced expansion projects, including a new ward to treat patients with the virus. Is that a result of your past growth?
Edwards: It’s in part because we anticipate almost a dangerous pent-up demand related to it. The corollary side effect of COVID is we’ve got too many people not getting care. We know that it’s going to cause conditions that might have otherwise been manageable [to] become acute and chronic conditions, which are manageable, to become acute. We know we’ve got to expand access to take care of those patients. Even though right now, a lot of systems are shutting down and laying off – maybe we don’t understand the world – but it just occurs to us that patients are going to need us, so we want to grow.
SBJ: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected CoxHealth’s financial health?
Edwards: We had $90 million less revenue for March and April. Our electives were down to essentially zero. Our urgent cares were down to about 25% of volume, ERs about 50%, hospital probably about 70% of volume and then outpatient procedures are generally about 20%-40% – so, a big impact to revenue and a consequential impact to the bottom line. We think we should act and take care of as many patients as we can. So, we’re looking to not go to 100% capacity, we’re looking to go to 125% capacity by operating in the evenings and weekends. We’ve changed the way we do business.
SBJ: Working in an industry that’s on the forefront of the crisis, what’s some advice you would provide to other organizations during this time?
Edwards: You win if you draw customers because they know you’re safe. Take care of your employees; make sure they’re safe. Help your customers feel safe. And I think you’ll be better than that company that doesn’t.
A pair of area medical colleges that received state grant funding in the fall are now investing the funds toward technology and new programs with the intent of attracting more students to the nursing profession.