Interview by Ray Newton
Yavapai Regional Medical Center President and CEO John Amos believes you can’t have a healthy health system without a strong community. Providing high quality care to patients takes a village. It takes dedicated staff, talented doctors, volunteers, an outstanding education system and a high quality of life to attract and retain talent. And, of course, it takes heart. Amos has a heart for his family and a heart for YRMC. Originally from Colorado, the husband and father of two has served with the not-for-profit healthcare organization since 1992 when he was Director of Physical Rehabilitation Services. Throughout his tenure, he was integral in creating the hospital’s East Campus in Prescott Valley. And although he credits his predecessors with “planting the seeds,” he is helping them grow, all while positioning the health system for the future, attracting and retaining top talent and always remembering the center of all of it – the patients.
Prescott Living: Thank you for being with us, John. How has the role of President and CEO changed in the four years since you’ve taken over?
John Amos: I think probably one of the biggest evolutions is the relationship we have with our physician community. We have a growing employed physician network. We have 78 providers. The provider is a physician, a nurse practitioner or a physician assistant. They are employees of the hospital, as opposed to community-based practices. That’s happening across the country. You’re going to see by the year 2025, 80 percent of all physicians will probably be in large groups. So, I think that’s one of probably the bigger changes just within the industry, not unique to just YRMC.
Prescott LIVING: What’s driving that change? Healthcare reform?
John Amos: Yes. The other thing is we’re finding that the new generation of physicians, they really are focused on medicine and taking care of patients. They’re not as interested in the business aspects. And when you have that relationship with a hospital in our network, we can take care of the back office, coding, billing and staffing to support the physician and patients.
Prescott LIVING: This will be YRMC’s 75th anniversary. What do you think of the history of this place? What has occurred that is good at YRMC?
John Amos: Stepping back several decades, a decision was made in partnership with the community to develop the Council of Electors. And the Council of Electors is a representation of our community, so it’s essentially the stakeholders in our community who are responsible for the selection of our Board of Trustees. We have a really unique process in how our Board of Trustees is selected for the governance of the hospital. I’m also real proud of our mission, vision and values, which drives all the other really cool aspects of our development and growth, and that’s a lot of our services. We have tremendous programs with cardiac care and orthopedics or neurosurgery. Those are examples of our exciting program growth. We also have an incredible relationship with our volunteers. We have over 700 volunteers who support the organization. I’ve seen statistics highlighting that we have the highest volunteer-to-bed ratio in the state of Arizona. I think it’s just a great reflection of our community and their commitment to the hospital. We really have a wonderful culture that is focused on our mission, vision and values, so that’s what I see when I look at the road map and development of what’s broadest to where we are today.
Prescott LIVING: You’ve been here 20 years. Give me two or three of your favorite memories.
John Amos: You know, I’ll always remember opening day on the East Campus in Prescott Valley. That was 2006, and we were all in the Emergency Department. The physicians and staff were there, and we actually had plans to open at 7 a.m. We all looked at each other…and (thought) this would be the last time we’re not open, because at a hospital, it’s 24/7. We’re here for the community now. It’s an exciting time to be a part of a hospital opening. So, that’s a special memory for me.
Prescott LIVING: What’s No 2?
John Amos: It’s probably a collective event, but every year we do an employee of the year. It’s really a fun event, because we currently have over 1,950 employees, and to be selected by your peers to be a representative of this organization for excellence is a very special award and recognition.
Prescott LIVING: Third, is there anything special just for you?
John Amos: I had great times with our Saturday morning Sports Medicine Clinic. I used to manage Physical Rehabilitation Services. We really got to connect and take care of the community on Saturday mornings.
Prescott LIVING: You got your degree at Colorado State. What did you study?
John Amos: Occupational Therapy.
Prescott LIVING: What drove you into the career you have now?
John Amos: I always loved anatomy and physiology. That was a draw for me into healthcare. And as I gained experience, I quickly recognized that I can make a difference through program development and looking for services that we could enhance or maybe add. So, that was kind of a natural transition. Then, I had leadership opportunities. My role today is to really look at community needs and what we can do to improve the overall patient experience. That could be improving technology, recruiting additional physicians, staff training and programs or new service lines. It really energizes me to be able to develop and grow services.
Prescott LIVING: What attracted you to YRMC?
John Amos: I had read the mission, vision and values statement, and it was very unique, because it talked about the patient. It talked about supporting our patients’ families, loved ones and their support system. I was drawn to the fact that there was a hospital that talked about treating the whole person and creating a Total Healing Environment. It drew my attention to want to learn more about the organization. We love the lifestyle and the history of this area. It’s a wonderful place to raise a family. So between the mission and the vision of the organization, along with the communities, it was an easy sell for my wife and me.
Prescott LIVING: And you’ve got two children.
John Amos: I have a son and a daughter.
Prescott LIVING: And where are they right now?
John Amos: My daughter Allie Jo is a freshmen at Lasell College in Boston, Massachusetts. She’s following her mom’s footsteps. She plays volleyball and is a student athlete and just finished her first semester of college. And my son is a junior at high school. Colton and I have a lot in common. We do a lot of fun things together. And he’s a three-sport athlete, and he’s just coming off of a real successful high school season. He broke a 37-year-old record at the high school for total tackles. I’m proud of him. He’s an All-State strong safety, wrestler and high hurdler and a very good student.
Prescott LIVING: You’ve been quoted as saying you’re going to retire here.
John Amos: I hope I have that opportunity. God willing, I will be able to continue to contribute to the organization, and I hope, at some point, my kids can come back with opportunities within our communities, and at least have that choice. We are blessed to live in Prescott.
Prescott LIVING: Here’s a tough question. At a time when so many healthcare providers around the nation are struggling, the medical center is thriving. To what do you attribute that?
John Amos: It boils down to what we focus on. In our mission, it is clearly stated that we focus on providing high quality healthcare consistent with our community’s needs. So, first and foremost, we look at what the community need is. We put the patient in the center of that decision. We’ve continued with that approach with every program and every milestone to make sure the decisions we’re making are consistent with our mission, vision and values. So, I think this is the catalyst to our success. The other big part is the talent we have. Our Board. I mentioned the volunteers. Over 700 support us. The area attracts talented physicians, and we’re blessed with a medical staff in our community that we’re very proud of. And we have an incredible team of over 1,950 healthcare professionals who support the health system. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the hospital leadership — the management team, the department directors and all the supervisors — and then my predecessors. We’ve had chief nursing officers and chief financial officers and CEOs who have made great decisions. They planted seeds that we, today, are benefiting from.
Prescott LIVING: That takes us to the point about the physicians and the professionals you have here. Why are you able to attract people who could go anywhere in the nation?
John Amos: We have the building blocks in place. We have the technology. We have the facilities. We’ve built a very strong team with our ICU nurses, our ER nurses, our medical/surgical and telemetry nurses, our ancillary and outpatient teams. So, we have a very attractive health system if you look at these building blocks. The physicians evaluate programs we’ve committed to, what services we develop. They see if you’re financially stable. They look at your mission and your vision. Then, they test that to see if you’re in fact driven by that. They want to raise their families, or start their careers or end their careers in this community. So, we benefit from the community, and really, if the hospital does well, the community will do well. If the community’s not doing well, we won’t do as well. It’s the communities, the organizations and the facilities — it’s all those components (which doctors consider when moving here). Are the schools good? We have our district schools, we have our charter schools. They look at all of that. So, they really do evaluate the entire area, as well as the healthcare system. We have an incredible example that’s only a few weeks old. We have one of the brightest structural fellowship-trained, interventional cardiologists in the country. She selected our community, our health system, because of what I had mentioned. The physicians who are here — she was excited to work with that group. The staff she met, the community, the friendliness of the folks downtown, when we had her for dinner — it was all of those components. She has Mayo Clinic experience; she has affiliations with Cleveland Clinic; she was being recruited internationally, but she selected us, and it’s not unique. We have a lot of examples.
Prescott LIVING: Given the coming shortage of physicians, how do you retain such people?
John Amos: Boy, I tell you, we’ve had to develop our physician network. We strengthen our relationships with medical schools. We go to their fairs. We connect with the physicians when they’re in residency training. We hired a team that focuses on physician recruitment. It’s paying off because we’re getting exceptional candidates in all specialties, and we’ll continue to develop that. And another component of that is — you’ll see this across the nation — you’re going to see more of the mid-level support. And you’ll have nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants support a physician practice, when it’s appropriate.
Prescott LIVING: This ties in with being cited as being one of the most wired medical centers in the country. Tell us what that means.
John Amos: It’s a great question. They have a ranking system for the level of complexity and how advanced you are with your technology. And what I mean by that is your electronic medical record — do you have digital imaging? Does your MRI go into a format that a patient or a physician could pull from a cloud and view that for diagnostic and screening purposes? Can a patient access a medical record through a portal? Is your ER discharge summary available to the primary care personnel so they can see what happened when you had to visit the emergency department? So, that whole network is all in place, and we’re a Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) level 6. That’s an industry benchmarking agency. A level 6 puts us right at the top.
Prescott LIVING: I’m going to take a look at your view. Why do you feel that not-for-profit healthcare is important in the community?
John Amos: I think it’s important to have a health system that is focused on community need, and we are a not-for-profit community health system. We are locally owned and locally governed. Our board leadership has community interest, and being not-for-profit, all of our resources go into our system. They stay here. If you’re a part of a large chain, your resources may be funneled into a new market. It may be funneled into a new initiative in a completely different state on behalf of the system you work for or under. And the beauty of our system is that our focus is on our community’s needs. We don’t send shareholders dividends. We put that back into our technology, our staffing, our physicians and our recruitment.
Prescott LIVING: I think that also makes you a major economic engine within the community, which people don’t realize.
John Amos: Yeah, that’s a good comment. I believe we are the largest employer. We have over 1,950 employees. We also have 700 volunteers, and we work with more than 300 physicians. Now, they’re not all employees of YRMC, but they’re on our medical staff, so they’re closely affiliated with the hospital.
Prescott LIVING: Shifting concepts. How would you define the differences between the East Campus and West Campus?
John Amos: The West Campus is the original campus. We have 140 beds. The East Campus opened in 2006, so it’s the newer campus and we have 74 beds. The other distinction is the services. We have our James Family Heart Center, our cath labs, and we have higher acuity services on the west campus, meaning we have additional specialties for the ICU. Now the East Campus, though, has our women’s health services, our women’s health pavilion and obstetrics and our nursery. We have our pediatric unit on the east. We have our BreastCare Center on the east. We have wound care and infusion care on the east. The hospital district is essentially western Yavapai County and we have roughly 180,000 people in the district who we provide primary and secondary services for. When you describe Yavapai County to folks who aren’t from Arizona, Yavapai County is the size of Connecticut, to give you a kind of a comparison. If you’re from the East Coast, you’re like, “Wow! One health system is serving the state of Connecticut.”
Prescott LIVING: At one point it was suggested that at some time in the future there’d be a third campus constructed at the north end of town.
John Amos: One of our strategic initiatives is to improve access to care. One strategy is to continue to have presence and services and strategically look at where they’re located. It could be a physician practice. It could be imaging. It could be a hospital. So the North Campus is strategic for us to continue to develop services in what we call our north community. So in the future, you’ll see physician practices, you’ll see ancillary services. It has a scale to build to where there could be inpatient services. Now that could be 15, 20, 30-plus years down the road, but we have the capacity to do that now because we have the North Campus, which is 170 acres. And it’s just a little south of Chino Valley, a little north of Prescott, off of Highway 89. That was a gift and a purchase from the Deep Well Ranch and the James family. Every aspect of the hospital the James family contributes to. And it’s not just the financial support, which is certainly important, but just the overall support is appreciated, and is a big part of our history.
Prescott LIVING: I know you and your team have both short- and long-range plans and priorities. Could you go through some of those with us?
John Amos: The short-range plans include continuing to grow some of the service lines, our vascular, orthopedic, neurosurgical and cardiothoracic services. Those are some immediate goals in 2018 and in the next three years. Some of our long-term plans are looking at facility capacities, so we’re always planning to see if we have enough ICU beds. Do we have enough capacity in the emergency department? Do we have physician practices in the right locations for community access? And then we have what’s termed The Master Facility Plan, so we continually look at the area’s growth, the demographics and utilization numbers. And we’re also really developing our wellness and our preventative health programs.
Prescott LIVING: John, how do you stay current?
John Amos: We’re a part of national organizations and we network with partners across the country, whether that’s administratively or clinically. Our physicians take part in societies and affiliations that bring best practices. The Board stays educated. They participate on national committees and attend education conferences in order to make sure we’re exposed to and understand what’s happening in other health systems across the country, so that we can potentially adopt those changes as well. We have annual competency testing that we do with every staff member, so there’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of accountability to education. We also stay connected with the colleges. We support scholarships for allied health and nursing. We connect the colleges to technology because that’s such a part of the curriculum now. And we actually have an entire department focused on education and training. It’s an ongoing commitment.
Prescott LIVING: Is there anything else that you want folks to know?
John Amos: I think we covered it well. I’m very proud of our culture, and our mission and our vision drives our culture. I may have mentioned this earlier, but I’m very proud of the people of YRMC, and I firmly believe that our team could manage any hospital, and do it well, in the entire country. I’m honored and blessed to be a part of the team. And when I say the team, it’s our community; it’s our volunteers, our physicians and our staff. We’re blessed with good people at YRMC.