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New leader prepares to take reins at WellSpan

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Roxanna Gapstur, next president and CEO of WellSpan Health
Roxanna Gapstur, next president and CEO of WellSpan Health - (Photo / )

When Roxanna Gapstur takes her post as the next president and CEO of WellSpan Health, she will be not just the first woman to lead the York County-based health system.

She also is the first nurse.

“As a nurse, there is a strong sense of advocacy for patients and families,” said Gapstur, who was selected this fall after a nationwide search.

A working understanding of the relationship between patient and caregiver, paired with years of experience as an administrator, were skills that set Gapstur apart during the search process, according to Steven M. Hovis, chairman of the WellSpan board and an attorney at York-based law firm Stock & Leader. He said the initial call for the post earlier this year resulted in hundreds of inquiries.

Hovis said Gapstur’s “rich clinical background” as a nurse and her experience as a health care administrator stood out.

At a glance:

Who: Roxanna Gapstur, next president and CEO of WellSpan Health in York Township, York County
Professional background: Health care leader; worked in ambulatory care, outpatient and hospital operations; hospital president and senior vice president, merger and acquisition and care coordination
Education: Bachelor’s degree in nursing, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, Minnesota; master’s and doctorate degrees in nursing and research, University of Minnesota 
Favorite hobbies: Outdoor enthusiast, hiking, biking, kayaking, reading and film 
Favorite film: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” 2000 release, starring Jim Carrey 
Book currently on your nightstand: “The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels,” by Michael D. Watkins 
Person you’d most like to meet (living or dead): Eleanor Roosevelt, because of her remarkable life and contributions

“The No. 1 quality we were looking for was not only someone who understood, but also fit within the WellSpan culture. That was our primary goal,” Hovis said.

Indeed, Gapstur said the health system’s culture was part of the draw for her.

Gapstur said her early dealings during the interview process with the WellSpan team demonstrated traits she values, such as transparency, humility, trust, respect and the involvement of previous leaders.

She is expected to start at WellSpan on Jan. 2.

A growing system

Gapstur comes to WellSpan from Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in Minnesota, where she was president. Park Nicollet is part of HealthPartners, a nonprofit health system based in Bloomington, Minnesota, that includes eight hospitals, 1,800 employed physicians and more than 100 care locations.

She is taking over for Dr. Kevin Mosser, who is retiring after 30 years with a health system that has grown under his leadership. Named president and CEO in 2013, Mosser was the first physician to lead WellSpan.

Five years ago, WellSpan operated three hospitals and 50 patient care locations. Now, after a series of acquisitions, it has eight hospitals and more than 140 patient care locations in Adams, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties. The system most recently added the assets of Summit Health, based in Franklin County, under an affiliation that closed this fall.

WellSpan also faces stiff competition from a relative newcomer to the region, Pittsburgh-based UPMC, which swept into Central Pennsylvania in 2017. UPMC is building a new hospital on WellSpan’s home turf of York County to replace the former Memorial Hospital.

What the experts see

Convenient. Familiar. Local.

These three words describe the forces reshaping health care throughout Pennsylvania and across the nation.

According to Patrick Michael Plummer, a business professor at Penn State Mont Alto in Franklin County, the push for easy access to providers is a nationwide trend, aided by health care consolidations and acquisitions.

On the convenience front, health systems are adopting digitized patient health records under federal mandates that took effect in 2011.

Plummer said the cost of digitizing patient information through electronic health record (EHR) systems and managing big data were among the factors behind health care consolidations.

Spreading out the upfront cost of medical records systems across multiple facilities reduces the overall expense.

“If I spend a million for an EHR system for one facility, I absorb all the cost. If I spread out a $1 million investment across 10 facilities, I [maximize] the investment,” Plummer said.

Health system consolidations also create leverage for negotiating better insurance reimbursement rates, ultimately resulting in lower costs to health care consumers, said Chad Meyerhoefer, a professor of economics at Lehigh University’s Rauch Business Center in Bethlehem.

Meyerhoefer also noted that adding physician assistants and nurse practitioners to practices has helped ease the gap between patients and care services and lessened the burden of routine care for medical doctors.

— Melinda Rizzo

Once at WellSpan, Gapstur said she plans to learn as much as possible about the organization and about all aspects of patient care. She said it was important for health networks to provide a broad range of services as close to patients as possible.

Easy access and patient/provider rapport development over time helps patients become more familiar and comfortable with those providing their care – and more likely to follow medical advice for prevention and treatment.

And she noted that WellSpan recently began using medical records software from Epic, a system with which she has years of experience.

“Information from Epic about populations of patients will create opportunities for better preventive health [care], quality, and safety,” Gapstur said.

Gapstur said WellSpan also stands out because of its strong teaching tradition with multiple residency programs and fellowships. The programs are available at WellSpan York Hospital, which also offers an emergency department residency program and Level 1 trauma center.

Gapstur said she looked forward as well to working with the family practice and residency programs at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon County. She noted primary care and residency programs were among WellSpan’s strengths.

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