What New England’s 2nd-Largest Healthcare Provider Learned from Henry Ford

Jun 23, 2015 - 5:00pm

Senior Editor, Digital Content


1913 photo of a Ford Model T assembly line.
1913 photo of a Ford Model T assembly line.

The head of New England's second-largest healthcare system delivered some frank talk about the U.S. healthcare system and what we can learn from one of America's best business leaders.

"Health care reform is a complete misnomer. We're not reforming health care. We're expanding access," Ralph de la Torre, president and CEO of Steward Health Care declared, at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's CEO Leadership Series.

De la Torre, a cardiac surgeon, took over as head of Steward in 2010 as Obamacare was first being implemented.

His company Steward Health Care is driving health care innovation and expanding access by operating as an Accountable Care Organization (ACO). Instead of being getting revenue via a fee-for-service model, ACOs receive payments based on quality of care.

If the health care provider is "responsible for the entire patient... you needed a model that's not based around fee-for-service," de la Torre said.

Steward's solution is a fully-integrated system. This includes hospitals, physicians groups, home health care, urgent care, wellness programs, etc. All the components work with each other to remove redundancies, share data, and improve quality.

This isn't new. It's applying a proven business model to health care delivery. "We're creating a vertical," de la Torre proclaimed, "It's Henry Ford all over again."

Henry Ford combined the many individual processes needed to make a car--steel, glass, rubber, engines--into an integrated whole that controlled costs and improved quality. This allowed him to sell inexpensive cars to middle class families. In a similar way, vertical integration could provide more access to health care.

While Steward Health Care is having success in New England, de la Torre acknowledges "there's no one-size-fit-all for America." He sees regionalism as the best fit for America's diverse health care needs.

As for the upcoming Supreme Court decision, King v. Burwell, which could end many of Obamacare's tax subsidies, de la Torre said, "There needs to be a transition phase in which people do not lose their health care, or we could see our entire health care system be disrupted."  

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.