Six Years and Going for a Healthier Arkansas
By MELANIE KILGORE-HILL
CHI St. Vincent's Chad Aduddell committed to quality care for more Arkansans
Chad Aduddell is on a mission to create a healthier Arkansas. Now in his sixth year as CEO of CHI St. Vincent, Aduddell oversees a growing Central and Southwest Arkansas footprint that includes four acute care facilities and some 70 clinics statewide.
Originally from Oklahoma City, Aduddell was drawn to leadership at a young age - a quality that resonated in his early years as track captain at the University of Tulsa. "As an undergrad I was drawn to leadership and impacting groups of people, from team sports to fellow students in college organizations," he remembered. After earning his Bachelor of Science, Aduddell was introduced to healthcare administration while pursuing his MBA from Oklahoma City University's Meinders School of Business. "While the idea of being a provider wasn't necessarily a draw to me, I was very intrigued by the healthcare delivery system and the teams that it takes to ultimately provide that care," he said. "I fell in love with that."
Aduddell went on to serve as vice president of CHRISTUS Health before accepting the role of president of Bone and Joint Hospital at St. Anthony, SSM Healthcare. In 2012 he joined Catholic Health Initiative as president of St. Vincent Infirmary in Little Rock and was soon appointed to executive vice president and chief operating officer of CHI St. Vincent. The following year he was named market CEO of CHI St. Vincent, where he continues to lead a ministry committed to whole-person healing. "There's the science of medicine component, but there's also the spiritual and healing component that goes beyond physical healing," he explained. "Being part of a team and contributing to the system, making sure it's supported and cared for to provide physical as well as spiritual care, is something that has inspired me for the past 25 years, and is really why I get up every day."
Since 2012, the organization's footprint has grown to include acute care facilities in Hot Springs, Morrilton, Sherwood and Little Rock, as well as CHI St. Vincent Little Rock Diagnostic Clinic. CHI St. Vincent also has established management partnerships with Conway Regional Health System and in 2019 launched the $17 million CHI St. Vincent Arkansas Neuroscience Institute in Sherwood. Led by Ali Krisht, MD, the center offers world-class neurosurgical care and serves as an education and research center for students, residents and neurosurgeons from around the globe. "We're very fortunate, because it's rare that a community and hospital of our size is able to bring together five or six neurosurgeons who can also host conferences, learn from one another and share pioneering techniques and practices," Aduddell said.
Shortly after arriving at CHI St. Vincent, Aduddell became instrumental in development of the Arkansas Health Network (AHN) - now the largest and most successful accountable care organization in the state. The clinically integrated network initiative builds on the strengths of participating providers to improve patient health, increase efficiency and enable physicians to succeed in today's changing health care payment and delivery environments. "Since the beginning of the Affordable Care Act, there had been discussion at all levels about the cost of healthcare spiraling out of control, and a focus on quality and value of care rather than just volumes," Aduddell said. "It's taken us a decade and nobody in healthcare would say that we're where we need to be, but we've made great strides." Today, AHN has ushered in a much-needed shift through its physician-led board and contracts with government payers, local insurers and employers to help improve wellness while decreasing costs. "I've seen it go from a concept eight years ago to over 100,000 Arkansans we're taking care of in some sort of value-based model," Aduddell said. "We're just at the beginning, as organizations are trying to find ways to incentivize the workforce to be healthier and invest the dollars they're saving."
Like most healthcare organizations, CHI St. Vincent was forced to shift efforts in 2020, and is now prioritizing vaccine rollout to protect staff and community members: To date, the system has administered more than 6,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. "While COVID is unprecedented, our story began at St. Vincent because of something similar - the yellow fever epidemic - and the courageous young Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and Sisters of Mercy who responded to the needs of their day," said Aduddell. "Now, 130 years later, we're trying to answer that call and follow their example." Aduddell's team recognized early on the pandemic would be a marathon and worked proactively to address PPE and staffing needs amid an already critical nationwide nursing shortage. "We're just now in the middle of this battle," he said. "Everyone's tired and ready to go back to normal life, but we really need to remain vigilant. This is the moment - the surge we've heard about for many months is really here. We've all been preparing to get here, and we're blessed that we've had 10 months to prepare. We can't let our guard down." The pandemic also has fueled discussion about nationwide critical care capacity, which Aduddell said is often misunderstood. "People don't realize that, even in normal times, we don't have many critical care beds empty," he explained. "It's pretty normal for a healthcare system to manage critical care capacity close to 85 percent, so when something like this hits, it doesn't take much for us to hit 95 or 100 percent."
Despite recent challenges, Aduddell said CHI St. Vincent's mission remains as strong as ever: The system has proceeded with addition the of a cardiac cath lab and continued renovations to hospitals and clinics and is recruiting more providers to expand their robust general surgery program. By late 2021, they'll also welcome the addition of an addiction recovery program at CHI St. Vincent Infirmary. "Our mission as a Catholic, not-for-profit ministry is first and foremost to care for the poor and vulnerable, and it's what we do every day and continue to do, regardless of the financial implications that COVID has had," Aduddell said. "We're also continuing to improve on our quality journey to deliver the highest quality care possible and making sure we create a supportive environment for coworkers and physicians, to give them resources to provide high quality care." He also looks forward to finding new ways to deliver affordable, value-based care across communities.
Despite his success, the CEO is quick to attribute any accomplishments to his team. "I view my leadership style as a coach," said the father of four daughters. "I've spent a large amount of my adult life participating in coaching and youth athletics, and I take a similar approach to work. I want to surround myself with the best team members possible and make sure everyone understands their role and is given the resources they need; to run the game plan and get out of the way. Our support staff, co-workers, nurses and doctors are delivering incredible, compassionate care every day to the communities we serve, and they get all the credit."