Leadership Interview: Andrew J. Daniels, MHA, FACHE, Chief Executive Officer, Memorial Regional Health, Craig, Colorado

Andrew Daniels has served as CEO of Memorial Regional Health in Craig, Colo. since 2016. He holds a master’s degree in health care administration from Ohio University and a master’s degree in project management from DeVry-Keller Graduate School. He was the vice president and chief operating officer at Avita Health System in Galion, Ohio, and vice president of non-clinical operations and information systems at Galion Community Hospital from 2006 to 2016.

Ascent: Colorado's Hospital Transformation Program (HTP) is designed to enhance hospital engagement with their communities. How does this dovetail with your vision for Memorial Regional Health?

Daniels: Over the past year, our board of trustees began thinking strategically about population health in our community. We looked at data and utilization of the emergency room, and hired a director of population health. Then we started the practice of making sure care planners in the hospital made sure every patient had an appointment with a primary care doctor for follow-up care before they left the hospital. Now, we’re even doing that in our ER, so if you need to see a primary care physician for a follow-up, you’re plugged in with one before you leave. 

We also developed an alternative to the ER. We have a rapid care clinic sitting right in front of Walmart in Craig to provide a low-cost alternative for people who need to be seen immediately. It’s as close as you can get to an urgent care center. but without charging urgent care rates. We coupled that with a retail pharmacy that opened in 2018 with free delivery services in our community. 

We didn’t have a home health or hospice service here, so we’ve also added that. We just got our accreditation for hospice; we’re the only accredited hospice service in Moffat County.

We’re trying to have touchpoints in primary care and connect the dots between points of care. 

When we learned about the HTP, we really wanted to get out in front of it. One of the things we realized is there are a lot of great organizations doing a lot, but if we could better coordinate those services, it would be a more efficient use of resources for all. So we had our first meeting September 9—before we were required to—and we invited schools, churches, human service and charitable organizations, the community college—all the organizations that serve the Craig and Moffat County population. We just had our second meeting this week.

Ascent: What are some of the ways you're connecting with community organizations to support better population health?

Daniels : One great example is our work with our school district. We have a contract for school-based health. When we looked at immunization rates, we found that they’re really low—50-60 percent, compared to the state average of 72 percent. So we’re planning to start offering immunizations at the school to help bring those up. That was an immediate fit. 

Ascent: How do you think the Hospital Transformation Program will help the communities you serve?

Daniels: I’m not truly sure what’s going to happen. We were heading down this path before HTP was announced because we have an objective and an obligation to service our patients in the most effective way we can. I’m cautiously optimistic that it will not become a punitive program to health care organizations. I want to be cautiously optimistic that it will succeed in finding new ways to deliver care in the most effective way possible. But, in any case, we’re going to continue to do what we’re doing.

From a policy standpoint, there is a certain reality in a rural, frontier community that we can only be so efficient. Our overhead to run a 24/7 ER is fairly fixed. I wish the policy makers in Colorado would understand the difference between rural and frontier health care versus the Front Range. It’s hard out here. We’re important to these communities. This is where the food is grown, where the natural resources come from, and there needs to be health care out here. Fair is not equal, and that’s the message I keep sending.