The Class of 2019 profiles the women and men who joined the AHA board this year.

Providing better behavioral health care services is a national priority for Rod Hochman, M.D., president and CEO of Renton, Wash.-based Providence St. Joseph Health. And he has made his commitment to the issue crystal clear.

When Providence Health & Services joined forces with St. Joseph Health last July to create Providence St. Joseph Health, the first thing Hochman did was to announce that the new organization would serve as a “catalyst for change for the many who struggle with mental health stigmatization, diagnosis and treatment.”

Bolstered by the combination of the two health systems, Providence St. Joseph Health created the Institute for Mental Health and Wellness to identify and advance innovative solutions in mental health. The health system also established the Foundation for Mental Health and Wellness to support research and start-up operations for raising awareness about mental illness and improving treatment.     

Hochman says the coming together of the organizations has given Providence St. Joseph Health the scale necessary to achieve increased operating efficiencies, expand the scope of its services and tackle critical community issues like improving mental health care.

“We think mental health care is a national problem, but we also think it is an issue that we are more likely to solve by bringing the scale of our combined resources to the communities we serve,” says Hochman, who joined the AHA board on Jan. 1.

He says the AHA can play a strong role as an advocate for comprehensive mental health care policies and as a resource for tools and information that can help hospitals and communities better address behavioral health needs and coordinate care for treating mental and physical conditions.

Providence St. Joseph Health is a nonprofit health and social services system that serves as the parent organization for more than 100,000 caregivers, 50 hospitals, 829 physician clinics, senior services, supportive housing and many other health and educational services across Alaska, California, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Hochman joined Providence Health & Services in 2012 and served as its president and CEO. Before joining Providence, he was president and CEO of Swedish Health Services in Seattle.

Under his leadership, Providence St. Joseph Health has aggressively pursued population health management strategies, which seek to reduce the cost of care by improving quality and addressing the social determinants of health like socioeconomic status, employment, housing and access to health care. Those social factors play a significant role in a person’s health outcome. 

“We are a Catholic health system and we have been in the population health business as a matter of mission,” Hochman notes. “Other organizations have caught on to the importance of addressing the social determinants of health, but we have been at this for a long time.”

The concept of population health also is at the heart of new value-based reimbursement models like bundled payments and accountable care organizations (ACO), which put providers financially at risk for patient care. Providence St. Joseph Health has developed a number of ACOs across its system, and has operated a health plan in Oregon for more than 30 years that has nearly 800,000 members, as well as a health plan in West Texas with more than 160,000 members.

Hochman says the drive to build a continuum of care that rewards value over volume is not likely to abate because it is what consumers demand. Building that continuum of care requires hospitals, physicians and other caregivers to work more closely together than ever to control costs and increase quality, he adds. 

Hochman chairs the AHA’s Regional Policy Board (RPB) 9, which includes Alaska, California

Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. The RPBs, which meet three times a year, provide input on public policy issues considered by the AHA board, and also can serve as ad hoc policy development committees.

A former member of the AHA’s Section for Health Care Systems’ council and several of the association’s advisory committees, Hochman is impressed with the AHA’s ability to forge consensus among its broad and diverse membership on contentious issues. “The AHA does a masterful job of listening to all the voices and finding common ground,” he says.  

Hochman calls the AHA “a learning organization,” and says he will enjoying sharing ideas and insights with his colleagues on the board. “I look forward to learning and to contributing as much as I possibly can to make sure that the health of the hospital and health system field is as strong as it can be, given the changing times we are living in.”