WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 24, 2018) – The American Hospital Association (AHA) today announced that the Justin Ford Kimball Innovators Award will be awarded to Dr. Nicholas Wolter, M.D., the retired chief executive officer of Billings Clinic in Billings, Mont. The award recognizes people or organizations that have developed or introduced an influential, innovative approach to health care financing and/or health care delivery to improve access or coordination of care. Dr. Wolter will receive the award at a ceremony at the AHA Annual Membership Meeting on Monday, May 7 in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Wolter, a pulmonary/critical care physician, served as chief executive officer from 1997 to 2017. Early on in his tenure, Billings Clinic developed a vision to perform at best in nation levels in patient safety and quality, and initiated a Personal Service Excellence program aimed at both outstanding patient and family, as well as staff experience. Over time, numerous third party recognition and honors in these areas were received by Billings Clinic, including Magnet designation. During his tenure, Billings Clinic also developed a major priority to support outstanding rural health care, including helping rural partners recruit and retain physicians, other providers and executives. Billings Clinic assisted three of its partners in replacing outdated infrastructure with new hospital and clinic facilities. Billings Clinic also fostered and facilitated adoption of integrated health care records and financial information technology and supported its rural partners in implementing best practices for safety and quality performance and for adoption of value-based purchasing and population health practices.
While CEO, Dr. Wolter also supported other innovations including an expansive rural telemedicine network, early adopter approaches to behavioral and mental health care delivery, incorporating evidence based design and healing environment principles into facility design, use of lean and six sigma tactics to reduce cost and to improve health care delivery design and the use of complexity concepts such as positive deviance and relational coordination to improve safety performance and team performance. Billings Clinic also led advances in medical education and leadership programs for physicians, nurses, other professionals and staff. Billings Clinic launched the first Internal Medicine Residency in Montana in 2014 with a focus on general adult medicine including practice in rural communities.
“Dr. Wolter is an accomplished physician, a champion for rural health care and a nationally recognized leader in health care delivery innovation,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “Under his two decades of leadership, the Billings Clinic was at the forefront of health care innovation, improving access and the quality of care to patients and communities across his region, which served as an example to the rest of the hospital field.”
Billings Clinic and Deaconess Medical Center of Billings merged in 1993, becoming one of the first mergers in that era of a physician multispecialty group practice and a not-for-profit community governed hospital formally merging. In the early years after the merger, both clinical and financial integration were accomplished and developing a unified culture was a priority. During Dr.Wolter’s tenure, Billings Clinic became the largest health care organization in Montana, employing over 4,000 people, including a 450 physician and provider multispecialty group practice, a 304 bed hospital, a 90 bed nursing home and in a joint venture with St. John’s Lutheran Home, both home health and hospice services. Billings Clinic also grew to manage 11 critical access hospitals, five of which have joined Billings Clinic in formal governance relationships.
Dr. Wolter is a former member of the board of the American Hospital Association (AHA) and of the American Medical Group Association (AMGA). He served two terms as a commissioner on the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) and twice served as chair of the board of the Montana Hospital Association. In 2004, Dr. Wolter was recognized by the Medical Group Management Association as Physician Executive of the Year. He was named by Modern Healthcare as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare in 2010 and 2011, and by Modern Physicians as one of the Most Influential Physicians in Healthcare in 2011 and 2012.
Dr. Wolter continues to serve on the Scottsdale Institute Board of Directors and remains very active on the American Medical Association Professional Satisfaction Committee. He is a frequent national speaker and participant on panels and committees addressing health policy issues, including hospital/physician integration and physician leadership development.
Dr. Wolter received his B.A. in English at Carleton College, his M.A. in American Culture at the University of Michigan, and his M.D. at the University of Michigan Medical Center. He completed his internship and residency in Internal Medicine at Bassett Healthcare in Cooperstown, New York, and returned to the University of Michigan for a fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Pulmonary Medicine.
Colin Milligan - (202) 638-5491
Marie Johnson - (202) 626-2351
About the AHA
The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which include nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks, other providers of care and 43,000 individual members. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at www.aha.org.