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Bold Moves: Providence St. Joseph's Hochman on managing successful mergers

In late 2017, Providence St. Joseph Health and Ascension considered merging. The two faith-based powerhouses eventually abandoned those talks, saying the timing wasn’t right. It was a year into the merger of Providence Health and Services and St. Joseph Health. Providence St. Joseph CEO Dr. Rod Hochman said his new system and Ascension had significant and separate goals in 2018. No stranger to consolidation, Hochman in 2012 oversaw the union of Providence and a secular organization, Swedish Health Services. While acknowledging that every deal is different, Hochman says research is key to the sometimes scary move to combine organizations.

what was your riskiest decision? Merging two organizations with different cultures. One’s faith-based, one’s not. One’s based in Seattle and one’s up and down the West Coast. What they had in common was that they really were committed to their communities and population health.

Why was that move risky? It took a lot of work to get both sides to understand each other, but ultimately, seven or eight years later, it’s been very, very successful.


The first step is finding out whether the two missions align. Does the leadership think somewhat the same way about the future?”

describe the outcome In a merger, you always have to ask: What are the goals, what should we do? And will the community be better off? When we grade all of those things, the answer is resoundingly yes. We think the quality of care is better. We think access to care is better. We’ve brought more technology to care. Sometimes scale does help with certain things.

Response from those involved Our employee engagement scores have gone up every year for the last four years.

Advice to execs in similar positions When you’re new, don’t do anything right away. Take some time, figure out what’s going on, make sure you talk to your constituencies. I see a lot of my colleagues when they take on a new job, they feel they have to do something right away. And I say resist the temptation. And don’t consolidate for the sake of consolidation. The first step is finding out whether the two missions align. Does the leadership think somewhat the same way about the future? If those things are there, you’ve got a good shot at being successful.

Describe your leadership style I would hope that they would say Rod’s a servant leader, that he cares about the people who work for him, and thinks not about himself but about how to make his people better.

How would others describe it? I think it’s described that way. I mean, I love the people who work for me and I think they know it.

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