CEO Focus

Leading Growth in Lean Times

McLaren St. Luke’s focuses on fundamentals, teamwork and fiscal responsibility.

By Topic: Leadership Strategic Planning Decision Making


There is no doubt the pandemic has challenged even the strongest hospitals and health systems, exhausting staff, destabilizing finances and putting growth plans firmly on the back burner.

Though McLaren St. Luke’s is not immune to these challenges, the 300-bed community hospital is also primed for growth. With strong quality outcomes, engaged employees and tremendous community support, St. Luke’s has served the growing Toledo, Ohio, suburb of Maumee for more than 100 years.

In August, the hospital was acquired by McLaren Health Care, an integrated health system with 15 hospitals and health plan operations across three states. The partnership provides additional resources to support the hospital’s long-held vision of expanding services to allow more people to receive care close to home.

As a result, McLaren St. Luke’s is embarking on an ambitious growth project, investing more than $100 million to modernize the facility and support new and expanded technology
and services, including trauma care, enhanced cardiology and cancer services, and an updated intensive care unit.

By seeking out partnerships with small, independent hospitals and large physician groups, McLaren St. Luke’s senior leadership is working to expand services to fill unmet community needs in a fiscally responsible manner.

Growth in any climate requires a careful evaluation of risk and reward. This is especially true in a pandemic, when time is a precious commodity and resources must be used wisely with a constant eye on the safety of patients and staff. Growth strategies, then, require precision and flawless execution. At McLaren St. Luke’s, executives are taking a back-to-basics approach, relying on discipline and a commitment to the fundamentals of quality patient care, teamwork and fiscal responsibility as the hospital embarks on a new chapter of growth.

People First
First and foremost, a hospital’s success for achieving growth in uncertain times hinges on its ability to earn and maintain the trust and support of its employees and physicians. This is even more important during the pandemic, as caregivers make significant sacrifices to care for patients and one another, week after week, month after month.

Employees and physicians need to know that the administration is in their corner and that growth will not come at their expense. Clear and decisive leadership communication builds consensus quickly and shares not only the organization’s broader vision but also a road map for getting there.

And with so much noise, it has never been more important for leaders to rely on the expertise of managers to inform decisions that both address immediate needs and support the organization’s longer-term vision. McLaren St. Luke’s values empowering leaders and using their knowledge to form a complete picture that allows leadership to make informed decisions and effectively communicate with their teams as they navigate uncharted waters.

Clinical Excellence as a Cornerstone
While it may not be a typical growth strategy, McLaren St. Luke’s is making the standardization of clinical practices a cornerstone of its expansion plans. Anchored by the belief that adherence to evidence-based protocols produces better outcomes, the hospital is pursuing several important designations to support staff in their efforts to deliver a higher level of care, safely and reliably.

In addition to becoming one of only 13 hospitals across the country to earn certification from DNV GL Healthcare as a Primary Plus Stroke Center, McLaren St. Luke’s will be pursuing national verification of its trauma program from the American College of Surgeons. These certifications ensure caregivers have received rigorous training in care protocols proven to yield the best patient outcomes. Our leadership team regards these designations as not just an opportunity to expand key service lines but, more importantly, an opportunity to strengthen core competencies to meet vital and often time-sensitive patient needs.

McLaren St. Luke’s has redoubled its focus on hardwiring processes to address issues shared in daily safety huddles. While these practices often enhance operational metrics, such as 30-day readmissions, their true value is the ability to inform care at the bedside and have a lasting impact on the patient’s health.

Making clinical quality the organization’s True North provides a strong foundation for growth across the enterprise, impacting everything from staff development and patient loyalty to market share gains in core service lines.

Responsibly Meeting Community Needs
Much like getting quality right, being a good steward of resources is critical at every stage of growth but especially so during lean times, when organizations face many competing priorities.

As part of McLaren Health Care, McLaren St. Luke’s now has the ability to leverage the system’s collective size and scale to reduce expenses and improve efficiencies. This allows the hospital to achieve greater purchasing power, improve supply chain operations and add technology.

These advantages cannot be underestimated in today’s environment, but looking beyond the balance sheet to achieve growth amid limited resources is a wise strategy. For McLaren St. Luke’s, that means a focus on enhancing (not duplicating) services that already exist in the market. By seeking out partnerships with small, independent hospitals and large physician groups, McLaren St. Luke’s senior leadership is working to expand services to fill unmet community needs in a fiscally responsible manner.

For example, the hospital is leveraging clinical resources available through the McLaren Health Care network to explore adding of needed oncology services and rebuilding its cardiovascular program. Though no organization can be everything to everyone, concentrating expansion efforts in areas where McLaren St. Luke’s can add clinical value allows the hospital’s leadership team to make the most of limited resources.

As the pandemic tests the limits of many organizations, the crisis does not have to be a deterrent for growth. With a strong vision and a commitment to the fundamentals, McLaren St. Luke’s is seizing this moment to execute strategic growth opportunities and find new ways to fulfill its mission.

Jennifer Montgomery, RN, FACHE, is president and CEO, McLaren St. Luke’s, Maumee, Ohio (