Dr. Robert I. Grossman

Exclusive: Q&A with NYU Langone dean and CEO Dr. Robert I. Grossman

February 14, 2013
by Diana Bradley, Staff Writer
For the past five years, neuroradiologist Dr. Robert I. Grossman has been at the helm of NYU Langone Medical Center in Manhattan, serving as CEO and dean.

Recently, Grossman spoke to DOTmed News about the hospital's ambitious growth plans, what it takes to lead a major medical institution, and how Hurricane Sandy gave the hospital a chance to "come back stronger than ever."

What follows is an edited version of our interview:

DMBN: How long have you been CEO of the hospital and how did you get to where you are today?

I joined NYU Langone in 2001, and became the dean and CEO in July 2007.

I didn't have a linear pathway for this job. In my previous positions, I was never focused on being the dean/CEO; I was focused on doing what I did at the time. But, by some measures, all of my experiences and achievements have prepared me for this role.

DMBN: Why do you think you were chosen to be dean and CEO of NYU Langone?

I think you're chosen as a leader if you can deliver on your vision and your promises. There are many people who are highly competent, but it's about rolling up your sleeves and knowing how to make a decision a reality. Ideally, you want to have a vision for what you want your institution to achieve and then you must manage the components needed to fulfill those aspirations. It isn't good enough just to be a visionary.

Additionally, the board sought a candidate with a background in research and clinical medicine who would integrate the school and the hospital sides of the institution. By having sampled a lot of different opportunities, the experience I had was quite enabling, and provided me with a skill set that our Board of Trustees found appealing.

DMBN: What are some of your goals as CEO?

As dean and CEO I set out to fulfill an ambitious vision: to be a world-class patient-centered integrated academic medical center. Key to achieving this vision, and to distinguish ourselves from our competitors and enable sustained growth, we introduced five institutional shared goals to be met by 2015. These include breaking ground on the new, state-of-the-art 830,200 square-foot Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Pavilion; improving our financial margin; launching our new Curriculum for the 21st Century; increasing our National Institutes of Health-funded research awards; and growing our ambulatory visits to most effectively position us to meet the shift from inpatient to outpatient care for many services. I believe it is critically important to have-and achieve-goals. And it's not just a few people in administration accomplishing these goals; it's the entire body of the medical center. Our goals for NYU Langone are broadly communicated and discussed to ensure that everyone at the medical center is involved - everyone has to do their share and understand that they play a vital role in making NYU Langone one of the nation's premier centers for excellence in clinical care, biomedical research and medical education.

DMBN: What have been some of the highlights during your time with the hospital?

So much has changed-both at the medical center and in the world beyond-since I became dean and CEO of this great institution five years ago. We have grown in size, scope, and prominence-even at such an uncertain time for both the American healthcare system and the global economy. In 2007 I set an ambitious goal for NYU Langone: to become a world-class, patient-centered, integrated academic medical center. Since that time, we have undertaken projects that touch virtually every person and corner of our institution. Along the way we have faced challenges-some expected, others unforeseen-that might have derailed other institutions. But thanks to our faculty and staff's hard work and dedication, we are on track to achieve all of our goals. NYU Langone Medical Center has never been in a better position than it is now.

Some of our key initiatives include: The integration of the School of Medicine and the medical center; the implementation of Epic--the medical center's enterprise-wide electronic health record system; the restructuring of our Curriculum for the 21st Century (C21), including six dual degree options and a new, three-year M.D. degree; the opening of two major centers in Manhattan--the Center for Musculoskeletal Care (CMC) and the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health--to expand our ambulatory network; and creating the new division of medical ethics within the new department of population health.

Additionally, we want to be seen as a leader in health care quality, and as demonstrated by several objective metrics, we believe we (are). Last year we were awarded five stars for "Overall Performance" and ranked one of the top 10 academic medical centers in the country for patient quality and safety by the University HealthSystem Consortium (UHC). Additionally we ranked first among the nation's top academic medical centers for both overall recommended care and surgical care by whynotthebest.org, an online tool tracking performance on various measures of healthcare quality using CMS data. And we were just one of two hospitals in (New York City) awarded an "A" Hospital Safety Score by the Leapfrog Group for excellence in patient safety. The rating signifies the medical center's overall capacity to keep patients safe from infections, injuries, and medical and medication errors.

And, of course, we can't forget Sandy. While I will always remember the damage and difficulties Hurricane Sandy caused, what I hold on to is the many ways our community came together to overcome every setback. As time passes, I now see that Sandy's impact on NYU Langone presented us with an opportunity to come back stronger than ever. Sandy has given us indelible proof of the unity of purpose that binds us all together-the commitment to serve our fellow human beings in the best way we know how.

DMBN: What are the biggest challenges facing your hospital and the health care industry in general today?

A major challenge faced by all academic medical centers - especially those located in New York City - is patient satisfaction outcomes. There are several factors related to these scores that are difficult to control, including the severity of the diseases treated and the complicated cases addressed, and the many different cultural backgrounds of our patients and staff resulting in communication challenges and differing preferences for treatments and care delivery. For this reason, we place a strong emphasis on the evaluation and implementation of new programs and initiatives to improve the patient's overall experience at the medical center. Everything we do is designed to make our patients feel good about coming to NYU Langone and provide them with outstanding and high-quality care. For example, we now offer a new seven-day-a-week hospital initiative. By eliminating the nine-to-five-weekday-only service barrier, we're able to deliver more convenient care, and more importantly, better care to meet our patients' medical needs. Changes such as this one help to improve the overall patient experience and our patient satisfaction outcomes and delivers on our promise of excellence.

DMBN: With reimbursement cuts and the current economic issues going on, what actions has your facility taken to cut costs and curb spending?

We are focused on becoming a more efficient organization and creating value that translates to the bottom line. That drove our decisions to offer non-emergent services beyond normal business hours to become a true seven-day-a-week hospital for all patient needs; the deployment of a real-time, integrated reporting dashboard demonstrating key performance indicators/metrics across the entire enterprise; and the implementation of a Lean Six Sigma management initiative designed to improve workflow to identify and eliminate waste and inefficiencies in the many processes that are part of the health care experience. Additionally, we continue to be successful relative to new physician recruitment and increased ambulatory volume in our strategic areas, strong managed care contracting, and ongoing revenue and expense cycle initiatives. These strategies have been in progress since I've arrived and we are continuing to see the benefits from the work that we have done.

DMBN: Are there any "green" or eco initiatives at your facility?
NYU Langone kicked off a sustainability program in 2007 to reduce green house gases and reduce energy costs. We've implemented many optimization strategies that have saved us a total of $22 million since the start of our energy programs in 2005 and have reduced our emissions by 36.7 percent and energy consumption by 19.2 percent. With our top priorities being the safety, health, and satisfaction of our employees, patients and visitors, we're making sure our systems are working as efficiently as possible in a way that isn't harmful to the environment.

As part of this sustainability program, we began construction of a $200 million+ Cogeneration (co-gen) natural gas power plant nine months ago. This 71,000-square-foot plant was created to limit the medical center's environmental footprint, decrease energy costs, strengthen electrical distribution and reliability across the medical center's main campus, and support its campus transformation. It will provide 100 percent of the steam as well as most of the electricity requirements of the medical center through a highly efficient energy production process. The cogen plant is going to be 85-90 percent efficient, as compared to the ConEdison average grid efficiency of 30 percent.

DMBN: Does your hospital have any big announcements or developments on the horizon?

By 2017, NYU Langone will add about 2.3 million square-feet to its facilities. This includes transforming our campus by consolidating acute clinical care resources into a single, contiguous facility. As part of the process, NYU Langone is building the 800,000-square-foot Helen L. and Martin S. Kimmel Pavilion, scheduled to open in 2017, and the Hassenfeld Pediatric Center, a 160,000-square-foot pediatric hospital that will be housed within the Kimmel Pavilion. Simultaneously, Tisch Hospital, in operation since 1962 and the long-standing heart of the medical center, is being renovated in stages.

There is always a lot to accomplish and our focus always is on excellence.

DMBN: Any further comments?
What differentiates NYU Langone is our extraordinary group of physicians and employees who make us who we are. There is a unique spirit here and a culture that is hard to replicate. In fact, many employees have been here for 25 to 35 years. The people who work here care very deeply about patients and we are committed to achieving excellence in everything that they do. It's more than just a job to them - they are proud to be at NYU Langone, and their pride permeates that performance.

We are extremely passionate about the patient care we deliver and the results we achieve, but it isn't good enough to get good results one time - it's a journey toward continuous improvement. We're not perfect, but we do strive to approach perfection. That is one of the most important aspects of what we do here every day.

Click here to see the pictorial for NYU Langone Medical Center.