Patients' needs must be put first

Posted: February 18, 2013

Alan B. Miller, CEO and chairman, Universal Health Services Inc.  

Tenure: Founded the for-profit hospital firm. based in King of Prussia, in 1978.

Number of facilities: 227; 24 acute-care hospitals; 197 behavioral health facilities, 6 ambulatory centers.

Number of employees: About 67,000.

Financial data: Net income of $391.7 million on $7.5 billion in revenue in FY2011.

Currently reading:Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham.

Growth strategy. "We're going farther and farther out. We used to build 20 miles from L.A. Now we build 60 miles from L.A."

Leadership style. "I had reddish hair and a temper, and now I have whitish hair and much less temper. But I'm competitive."

On UHS's performance. "The organization grew from a startup to $7.5 billion [in revenue]. If the company's oriented to growth, and the people you hire are similarly interested in growing, then you can be in a fortunate position of having an extraordinarily well-performing company."

Priorities. "Shareholders come last. Patients come first. Any company that starts with the shareholders is going to fail. You try to satisfy the shareholders and don't put as much truffle sauce in the food that you're serving, pretty soon the customer says, 'This isn't what I really want,' and they go elsewhere. . . . People are smart - they go where there's real value. If they don't get that, they won't come back and won't tell their friends. But if you do it right, [the shareholders will] do fine and say: 'Do you want to expand? We're happy to invest.' "

Affordable Care Act. "The law has not been well-thought-out, so as each section gets implemented, the problems present themselves. There's a lot of scrambling going on. . . . The law said if you have 50 employees, you have to afford coverage. Many smaller businesses are saying, 'We have 37 people - we were going to expand, but if we get to 50 . . .' So now this is hurting expansion. It's very complicated because it is taking on 17 percent of the American economy. You shouldn't bang that together and hope it all works out. It's not the way to do proper legislation. The top priority [of UHS] is to bring the organization in focus with regard to the new laws."

UHS's involvement in helping veterans. "I was an officer in the Army and have a great deal of respect for our military. . . . We have a policy procedure that we try to hire veterans. Obviously, we have to hire people that have skills and aptitude for the job, but if there's any question about applicants that are close, we favor the veterans. We have focused on treating veterans with post-traumatic syndrome, and we just rebuilt a hospital we acquired in Kentucky that serves veterans where the facilities were not absolutely top-top."

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