For the seventh time in the last eight years, Star Valley Medical Center has been named a Top-100 Critical Access Hospital. Charlie Button, CEO of SVMC, spoke with Duke Dance as part of Health Topics Tuesday on the Weekday Wake-up (98.7 FM / 1210 AM) and here on SVI Media. Button was recently named as one of the Top 60 CEO’s to Know by Beckers Hospital Review.
The following story appeared in the February 15, 2017 print edition of the Star Valley Independent by Julie Dockstader Heaps
On a cold day in November 2015, hospital CEO Charlie Button walked into the Greys River Room at Star Valley Medical Center to meet with the department directors. He had a proposal for the 20 people sitting around that conference room table – get the gold standard of hospital accreditation.
The response he received to what is the most sought-after hospital accreditation in the nation – the Gold Seal of The Joint Commission – didn’t surprise the man who has stood at the helm of this critical access facility for five years now.
Everyone was on board.
“To me that was an amazing moment,” Button told SVI Media. “To see that 100 percent commitment from our leadership team, that they ultimately want better care and better quality and better safety for our community, and they were willing to sacrifice their time and energy to accomplish this.”
This dedication to quality and safety is reaping a dividend of honors for Star Valley Medical Center. For the sixth time in seven years, the facility on Adams Street is ranked among the top 100 critical access hospitals in the nation by the National Rural Health Association.
And even the hospital’s CEO is being recognized. Charlie Button has been named by Becker’s Hospital Review as one of “60 Rural Hospital CEOs to Know” for 2017.
Both awards, Button was quick to emphasize, go hand-in-hand and are in “recognition of the great things that are happening at Star Valley Medical Center.”
“We have a great staff and a great board [of trustees] and a great leadership team and the great physicians that allowed us to get that recognition of being a top 100 hospital,” he said. “We are being recognized nationally.”
As to the personal honor, the hospital CEO added, “It’s a hospital recognition and not an individual recognition. Whether it’s me or somebody else here, the hospital would still be great.”
Along with the hospital being honored by the National Rural Health Association for the sixth time, this is also not the first time a national reviewer has taken note of hospital leadership. Last year, Button was named by Becker’s Hospital Review as a top 50 Critical Care Access CEO to Know,” out of some 1,300 critical access hospitals nationwide. This year’s honor, one of 60 rural hospital CEOs, is out of some 2,600 facilities.
But to Button, the numbers that capture his attention are the “inpatient market share” and “outpatient market share” figures from the “Hospital Strength Index Performance Report” used by the National Rural Health Association. Both statistics, 90.1 and 92.2 respectively, indicate that Star Valley Medical Center is “capturing our local market better than we have in the past,” Button explained.
“That means the local people are using the hospital and turning to the hospital for its services. Of all the indicators, those are the ones I’m excited about. We have things to work on, of course, but when those ratings improve, we know we’re going in the right direction.”
And that “direction,” to Button, is fostering the trust placed in the hospital by the some 12,000 to 14,000 people in western Wyoming and into Utah served by the hospital and its associated clinics. In an SVI Media interview with Button last summer, he emphasized: “We’re owned by the residents of Star Valley. We are a public hospital district, so our primary objective is to take care of the people in Star Valley.” (See Aug. 3, 2016, edition of the Star Valley Independent.)
To that end, in recent years, Star Valley Medical Center has expanded its services and facilities, including a new medical records system, state-of-the-art equipment including the Hitachi CT scanner and MRI, expanded ER and surgical services, and an additional nearly 70 employees, including an anesthesiologist, orthopedic surgeon and a hospitalist.
But the bottom line, Button explained, is that these services and staff are made possible by the reach of the medical center beyond the valley boundaries – with Star Valley residents benefiting from local healthcare.
In the meantime, that growth is tempered by the “personal touch” for which Star Valley Medical Center is known, Button related. And there’s no “secret formula” to that personal touch, he added.
“We try hard to hire staff that fits into the culture of the community,” he said. “You have to factor in the community. We’re not just filling positions. I would say the staff, as a whole, is more in healthcare for the right reasons, that’s to take care of people. They have that compassion.
“Our employees live in our community and are part of the community, and it starts with great employees,” Button added.
The hospital CEO also lauded the elected trustees of the North Lincoln County Hospital District and their support. “Our board has been more receptive to growth than at any other place I’ve been,” he related.
And this local control, Button emphasized, has been the key to the hospital’s focus on community. “We’re a not-for-profit hospital, so we don’t have investors who want to take money from what we’re doing. We’re fortunate that we can put money back into our facilities to make it stronger. That’s the advantage of a community hospital.”
And Button knows where he’s coming from – and where he came from. Formerly the chief financial officer of a larger hospital in Wisconsin and the CEO of the Columbia County Health System in Washington state prior to coming to Star Valley, Button is now on the board of directors for the Wyoming Hospital Association and is chairman of the board for a hospital cooperative based out of Pocatello, Idaho, that includes 16 hospitals.
And while he’s pleased with the top 100 ranking for Star Valley Medical Center, he and his fellow administrators aren’t sitting on their laurels. Their next goal, along with the Gold Seal of The Joint Commission, is to be listed among the top 20 critical care access hospitals — where the medical center was in 2014 and 2015 before the period of extensive growth.
“In the next year, it’s going to be a tremendous amount of work,” he said. But the response of his directors to the quest for the Gold Seal was an “example to me that I’m in the right organization, and this organization truly cares about the community that it serves.”