Bon Secours Mercy Health executives, sponsors work to forge unified culture

November 1, 2018

Leadership formation key to success, sponsors say


On the heels of their quick six-month process to complete their combination, Bon Secours Health System and Mercy Health began operating Sept. 5 as the unified Bon Secours Mercy Health. Executive team members and sponsors are engaged in the challenging work of integrating the two companies and cultures.
Sr. Eck
Sr. Smith
Sr. Gottemoeller

Sr. Pat Eck, CBS, chair of the new system's public juridic person sponsor, Bon Secours Mercy Ministries, and sponsor members Sr. Carol Anne Smith, HM; and Sr. Doris Gottemoeller, RSM, spoke to Catholic Health World about the heightened importance of leadership formation in the launch of a new health care ministry.

The new PJP's seven-member sponsoring body comprises members of the legacy Bon Secours system PJP, Bon Secours Ministries, and members of the legacy Mercy Health system PJP, Partners in Catholic Health Ministries.

Srs. Eck, Smith and Gottemoeller say the legacy sponsors worked together and with senior executives of the legacy systems to create the mission and values statement of the new organization. And, in doing so, they say they found much common ground and much opportunity to express the charisms of the systems' founding congregations in the new statement. Five congregations were founders of facilities now in the new health system.

With this foundational work completed, the sisters say, Bon Secours Mercy Ministries is focused on supporting John M. Starcher Jr., president and chief executive of Bon Secours Mercy Health, his executive team and the system's board and on helping these leaders to define the new system's vision, priorities and the strategies it will use to achieve its goals.


Sr. Eck says that in this work, "understanding the role that formation will play in our ministry is critical."

Sr. Smith adds that the goal of this formation will be to equip leaders to preserve the charism of the sponsors and build on the missions of the legacy organizations, while also developing a new culture. "Going forward, formation programs will share the story of the charism, as well as the responsibilities that Catholic health care leaders have for integrating the charisms in their daily ministry in every location within our system," she says.

The new system's leaders and sponsors are working with consultant Deloitte to determine how to address "the very significant challenge of integrating the two cultures within the new executive leadership council and board of directors," according to Sr. Smith.

Sr. Gottemoeller says given the "fantastic talent" represented on the governance and leadership teams of Bon Secours Mercy Health, "I have no doubt we will successfully integrate the two cultures."

She says the sponsor body's "main priority will be helping to make the mission and values truly live within the organization.

"This is something you can't command — you must continually invite people to join you in this important work."

A sum greater than its parts
Marriottsville, Md.-based Bon Secours Health System and Cincinnati-based Mercy Health announced on Feb. 21 their intent to combine. Bon Secours Health System owned, managed or partnered in joint ventures involving 20 hospitals and a network of ambulatory and continuum of care sites in six states: Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida and New York. The legacy Mercy Health system had 23 hospitals and a network of other sites in Kentucky and Ohio. The two systems' service areas did not overlap.

Bon Secours Mercy Health executives call the deal a "combination of equals" and say it created the fifth largest Catholic health system in the nation.

"We knew from day one that our mission, values and geographic service areas were remarkably well-aligned, which provided a common foundation from the very beginning," says Starcher. "By bringing together two strong, like-minded ministries … we choose to control the destiny of our ministry today and well into the future."

Sr. Eck says, "The energy and excitement of coming together has been so empowering. As one ministry, we have a unique opportunity to make a difference in the communities we serve, and that is a gift."

Economies of scale
Starcher says each ministry was functioning well on its own. The combination opens strategic opportunities not available when the legacy systems were solo operations.

"The ability to scale (operations) is key, but doing it right is essential" he says of the combination. He adds that by eliminating redundancies and unnecessary duplication in the new company, Bon Secours Mercy Health will be able to use its resources more efficiently.

As part of its healthy community initiative, Bon Secours Kentucky Health System sponsors a farmers' market to improve access to fresh foods. The newly formed Bon Secours Mercy Health says it will increase community initiatives that support improvements in population health.

By achieving economies of scale, the system will free cash to improve care delivery, expand its service offerings and geographical reach, according to information from Bon Secours Mercy Health. These economies could include back office efficiencies that do not impact personnel, according to Maureen Richmond, Bon Secours Mercy Health senior director of integrated communications. Some redundant positions will be examined as part of the integration, she says.

Starcher says the system has "committed to investing in innovative products and services that we feel have real potential to change the face of the health care industry."

He points to the 2016 Mercy Health purchase of Ensemble Health Partners, a revenue cycle services company, as an example of an approach to innovation that could be employed more widely under a Bon Secours Mercy Health with more resources at its disposal. Richmond adds that under Mercy Health, Ensemble grew significantly and improved its product offerings.

Starcher also points to another partnership that provides a launchpad for innovation at Bon Secours Mercy Health: the legacy systems both were partners in the for-profit The Innovation Institute company, which incubates and commercializes new ideas and products for the health care industry. Bon Secours Mercy Health will continue its participation with the institute. Starcher says the system is particularly excited about "My Idea," a platform for soliciting and then developing promising ideas from health system employees.

Community-level investment
Starcher says Bon Secours Mercy Health expects to deepen its commitment to its existing communities, and invest more in health services and community benefit initiatives. The new system will increase its focus on disease prevention, including through population health initiatives. He says this is a "strategy that's the right thing to do but isn't supported today by most reimbursement models."

The system says Bon Secours Mercy Health currently provides nearly $2 million per day in community benefit programming, charity care and the cost of unreimbursed care to those insured by Medicaid.

While Bon Secours Mercy Health has yet to set out details related to strategic investments in community benefit and population health management, its legacy systems have a long history of developing and operating community-based programs and outreach to improve access to medical and mental health services, to improve maternal health and decrease infant mortality and to support patients in achieving better control of chronic disease. Programs address obesity and substance abuse. The systems' combined anti-poverty programs include outreach to the homeless and initiatives in neighborhood stabilization and affordable housing.

Read past Catholic Health World coverage of the Bon Secours Mercy Health combination:

» Bon Secours and Mercy Health combine, announce leaders
» Mercy Health, Bon Secours plan to merge by year's end


Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.

Copyright © 2018 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.