Memphis Medical News Healthcare Leader – Dan Hein, CEO of Memphis Orthopaedic Group

Battening Healthcare’s Hatches for the Perfect Storm

Jumping out of military aircraft can have far-reaching effects on a person. One example is Dan Hein who, after a U.S. Army service that included rappelling out of helicopters, became a fearless and focused champion of effective and accessible healthcare service in the face of formidable obstacles.

After an education that included a bachelor’s degree in biology from The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, and an MBA from the University of South Carolina, Hein pursued an 11-year career with the Army. He reached the rank of major prior to his return to civilian life in 2002, when he joined the Memphis Orthopaedic Group and played a leadership role in integrating three independent orthopedic groups into one practice — the MSK Group, which he currently serves as co-CEO.

The MSK Group has 35 physicians, eight mid-level providers and 25 physical therapists, with a total of 300 employees, and Hein regards his role in the successful 2009 merger that created it as one of his proudest accomplishments.

He credits his military school education and service background with the structured and focused approach to challenges that has led to his successes.

“I actually do well under circumstances with a lot of pressure and time constraints,” he said.

As an officer in the Army’s Medical Service Corps, Hein was involved with medical operations, support, logistics and personnel.

“It was a unique experience for me because I got to see healthcare from the perspective of the front-line medic on the battlefield, all the way back to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I was able to work in a lot of different environments and get a really good perspective of how healthcare is delivered on a broad spectrum. It enabled me to glean a lot of life experience in a very short time.”

His training included both airborne school and air assault school, where he learned to rappel out of helicopters; during his service in Central America, Hein learned to speak fluent Spanish as he accessed remote jungle locations with his team, flying in helicopters to set up temporary clinics.

The transition from military to civilian life was challenging, Hein acknowledges. “I went from a world with one model of healthcare delivery to a world that was completely different, and I had to learn from the ground up,” he said. “Fortunately I had good mentors, who educated me regarding technical aspects — the CPT codes and ancillary services. That’s a knowledge base that I had to acquire as we went along.”

Hein  quotes Gen. Colin Powell— “Leadership is the art of accomplishing more than the science of management says is possible” — and takes the responsibility seriously.

“Leadership is really about being a servant,” he said, “and one of my philosophies is that your ability to lead is only constrained by your willingness to serve. As leaders we’re servants to the organization, to the people in the organization, and to the owners and the physicians. If you have that mindset, you realize leadership is not about asserting power, it’s about inspiring and trying to elevate the performance and inspiring those around you to do well.”

It’s a philosophy that has propelled him to presidential roles in both the Mid-South Medical Group Management Association in 2008, and, starting next year, in the Tennessee Medical Group Management Association, where he currently sits on the board as president elect.

“Next year is a pivotal transitional year in healthcare,” he said, using the analogy of a perfect storm fueled by the three R’s: reform, reimbursement and regulations. “All are coming at us at such a rapid pace, and they’re coalescing with such intensity and energy all at the same time, it’s like a perfect storm in healthcare.  These dimensions have always been there, but right now they’re swirling at the same time, much more so than they ever have.

“When reform and its changes hit the ground next year, we’re going to have to learn how to operate in that environment, determining how our business models are going to work as we transition from fee-for-service-type payments to being paid for delivering value in outcomes.”

During the transitional process, he warns, practices will have to be adept at dealing with both types of reimbursement, which is where the value of belonging to a professional organization will be truly realized. As TMGMA president, his focus will be on arming practices with the set of skills they will need to navigate the new landscape.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to work in a new paradigm in healthcare, and none of us knows exactly how,” he said. “We’re going to have to rely on each other a lot more to glean expertise and insight from our peers and counterparts and learn from one another — because none of us in isolation is going to figure this out.”

That’s why he identifies himself as a huge proponent of people getting involved in these organizations, which also aid the individual’s professional development and their ability to excel in their jobs.

A certified medical practice executive, Hein is working on obtaining his fellowship in the American College of Medical Practice Executives, preparing his final paper on the merger of independent medical practices — based on his own experience.

He takes great pride in the group and the physician leadership team that thought ahead almost five years to consider how best to align themselves to combat the coming storm. “That was a conscious decision,” he said. “We did some very intense, purposeful things to put us where we are now; I feel that we’re positioned as well as we can be.”

Hein’s high energy level colors his personal life as well. Not content with one or two leisure interests, Hein does weight training, is a self-taught guitar player, enjoys landscaping, working with plants and cooking, and is writing a novel.

Most important, however, is spending time with his daughters, ages 16 and 18, and building on their relationship, which is one of the sources of his inspiration.

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