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A winning 'Formula': What health care can learn from Formula One racing

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Brad Hollinger poses with three Formula One race cars in his Mechanicsburg-area garage. The cars include, from left, a 1997 Williams Formula One driven by Jacques Villeneuve, 1991 Bennetton Formula One driven my Michael Shumacher and a 2003 Jordan Formula One race car.
Brad Hollinger poses with three Formula One race cars in his Mechanicsburg-area garage. The cars include, from left, a 1997 Williams Formula One driven by Jacques Villeneuve, 1991 Bennetton Formula One driven my Michael Shumacher and a 2003 Jordan Formula One race car. - (Photo / )

Brad Hollinger has been a fan of Formula One Racing since he was a kid in the 1960s watching Jackie Stewart and Jim Clark on Live World Sports. A few years ago, he became a co-owner of the Williams Martini Racing team, based in Grove, England.

It is a relationship he is leveraging for the unlikely benefit of Vibra Healthcare, the company he heads as president and CEO. Based in Lower Allen Township, Cumberland County, Vibra operates 64 acute care and rehabilitation hospitals throughout the country.

“I was able to mesh a passion for racing and motor sports with a business,” said Hollinger, who believes the health care industry could benefit from Formula One business processes.

Hollinger cited the example of a pediatric hospital in Scotland whose leaders were concerned about the rising mortality rate of patients.

They called on Williams to evaluate their processes and come up with a better method for intervening in situations when a child flatlines. Williams determined that there was a duplication of effort, and that crash carts used in responding to emergencies weren’t put together and positioned properly to be both fast and efficient, two factors that are crucial in saving someone’s life. Based on the observations by Williams, the hospital designed and implemented a new process in which everything was positioned properly and everyone knew what to do and how to do it.

“We intend on doing the same thing with Vibra,” said Hollinger. That means “looking at our input processes and how our nurses engage with our patients, and reviewing our processes to ensure that we’re very cost effective and efficient but also delivering the best outcome for the lowest price.”

Vibra is also working to enhance its telemedicine capabilities by studying how Formula One utilizes telemetry to measure up to 1,250 data points on a moving car going up to 230 miles per hour during a race.  

The competition between racing teams is fierce, Hollinger explained. “Their business processes, therefore, need to be world-class.”

For instance, a team of 26 people is able to change four tires on a race car moving at 65 miles per hour in about two seconds, so the people involved need to think creatively, make decisions and devise solutions quickly, and rely on technology to its greatest advantage.

The Williams Martini Team in particular has one of the best names in Formula One, said Hollinger. It has won nine world championships, second only to Ferrari. A key to its success is a company it created, Williams Advanced Engineering, which commercializes the technology and business processes used in races for use in various other industries such as defense, aerospace and transportation.

“So you have the Formula One team but you also have a very successful commercial organization on the other side,” said Hollinger. Vibra is currently in the process of reviewing and implementing data and analytics with the help of Williams and a health care consulting firm, Benjamin & Bond.

Vibra itself was born in 2004 with the acquisition of six underperforming hospitals (three inpatient rehabilitation centers and three long-term acute care hospitals) for which Hollinger and his team could “Vibratise” operations and business development. The name Vibra, which Hollinger admits was a colleague’s idea, is a play on words, meaning vibrant and vivacious, a nod to the role the company plays in restoring people back to life — or the racetrack, as the case may be.

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