The New UCH 'Financially Strong and Growing'
Several years and what he described as "a lifetime ago," Drew Botschner arrived in Memphis to oversee what he thought would be a temporary project at UT Medical Group (UTMG).
At the request of longtime friend Dr. David Stern, medical school dean and vice chancellor for clinical affairs for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), Botschner agreed in late 2013 to move to the Bluff City to help turn around the beleaguered UTMG. The medical group, which had too many physicians and not enough cash flow, was reeling from a multi-million dollar lawsuit and in danger of declaring bankruptcy.
With a law degree (as well as an undergraduate degree in economics and history) from Wake Forest University, plus an MBA from Xavier University, Botschner was a wise choice. In addition, his previous experience included roles as general counsel at CarePoint Partners, LLC (2011-2013); chief legal officer at University of Cincinnati Physicians Inc. (2004-2010); private practice attorney, specializing in healthcare, corporate and transactional legal and business consulting services (2002-2004).
His legal background combined with the successful track record of operating streamlined startups made him uniquely suited for the task and he looked forward to the challenge of transforming the organization.
"David was very candid with me about the situation and asked if I'd come to Memphis to help UTMG through a difficult time," Botschner remembered. "I'd just sold my company and I've always liked being entrepreneurial, so I looked at this as a way to help UTMG become something new, something better."
Shortly after arriving at UTMG, Botschner was promoted to president and CEO of the organization. He was given the latitude to explore myriad options to help the organization rebound, which led to its new identity: University Clinical Health (UCH).
"There were a lot of negative perceptions about UTMG and there was a lot of baggage associated with that name," Botschner said. "They had worked with outside counsel and the insurer to negotiate a reasonable settlement for the lawsuit and that helped remove the litigation cloud, but we knew the name had to change."
Legal trouble began 2005, when a UTMG doctor performed a cesarean section that resulted in the baby suffering brain damage and cerebral palsy. A lawsuit was filed and nearly a decade later, a jury delivered a verdict of more than $30 million against UTMG and the doctor who performed the procedure.
At about the same time, UTMG was going through a transition, spinning off physicians to medical practice groups at Le Bonheur, Methodist and Regional One.
"There was a lot of activity concurrent to the verdict and UTMG was undergoing a substantial metamorphosis," Botschner remembered. "It was difficult for physicians and personnel and the organization was cash-flow negative, to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars every month. That model was simply unsustainable."
To help right the ship, Botschner implemented operational changes to drastically reduce costs and personnel while generating revenue. From a peak of nearly 450 physicians in 2012, today University Clinical Health counts about 100 physicians.
In the last four years, UCH increased revenue by nearly 50 percent and eliminated its debt. Operations have been streamlined and IT costs are down by more than 60 percent.
Dr. Brad Canada
Dr. Brad Canada, chief medical officer for UCH since 2004 and assistant professor of medicine at UTHSC, says the transformation is nothing short of remarkable.
"We're looking at things differently now, with a vision of how to best serve our patients and operate in a sustainable manner," said Canada, who joined the organization in 2004. "Our mission is to serve patients, serve the community, teach, and support research. Our goal is to improve health and access to care."
In addition to rebranding and streamlining operations, UCH has benefited from the expertise of a business development team, Botschner said. Far from its former identity as a bloated, bureaucratic medical group with siloed departments and duplicate operations, today the organization occupies a smaller footprint that produces a larger yield.
"UTMG did not function well and its cost structure was unsustainable." Botschner said. "In the last few years, we've been on a planned path of growth in physicians and services, but we're very deliberate about that and we're not just adding services that are readily available elsewhere in our community."
For example, Campbell Clinic is a leader in orthopedics and serves the Mid-South well, Botschner said, so there has not been a demonstrated need for UCH to enter that area. However, last year the group launched a rheumatology practice, an otolaryngology practice, and added specialists in dermatology, hematology and podiatry.
"We're at the forefront of quality and innovation, which is the driving force of our organization," Botschner said. "We're financially strong and growing. I liken us to a phoenix rising from the ashes."
"Looking back on where we were, on the verge of collapse, it's wonderful to see how far we've come and how much better we are today," Canada said. "This has taken a lot of effort by a lot of dedicated people, but I believe we've turned the corner. We're much better than we were before."