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President/CEO – Ahead of His Time

How the Visionary Leadership is Helping Change the Face of Health Care in The Region

As President and CEO of Mercyhealth, Javon Bea has consistently made headlines for launching innovative ideas as he fulfills his vision to bring a wide range of quality health care services closer to home for northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin residents. Now, he’s using his 30-year history of creating, growing and developing a successful health system to transform health care in Winnebago County.

A Pioneer in Health Care

In 1989, Bea was recruited to Mercy Hospital in Janesville, Wisconsin. At the time, Mercy Hospital was a single, standalone hospital that was struggling just to make payroll. Bea quickly began making sweeping changes. His vision: Bring health care close to home by creating a vertically integrated health system that would recruit from around the country, employ the best primary and specialty care physicians available and give patients outstanding coordinated care. It would be a “one-stop shop” for all health care services. He pioneered a “physician partnership model” and designed a custom culture of excellence that promotes both clinical and service quality initiatives. His physician partnership program was so innovative that he was sought after to present at national conferences from coast to coast.

“When we began employing specialty physicians under the physician partnership model” I developed, it was not at all a common practice in the health care industry, so physicians in Janesville, Wisconsin had a difficult time accepting it,” he says. “But we knew we were headed in the right direction, and that what we were doing would improve the way health care is delivered in our service area.” Focused on providing services for patients from birth through end of life, Bea expanded the organization to include multiple hospitals, a wide range of specialty centers of excellence, patient clinics, home care and hospice services, and a wholly owned and operated health insurance company.

Over the next few decades, Mercy became a national leader in the integration of heath care services, with an unwavering commitment to bringing the highest quality physicians, services and technology to the region.

Bea didn’t stop there. Unwilling to settle for the status quo, he continued to pioneer new options to provide a higher level of care to patients. Besides building a network of primary clinics in Rock and Walworth counties in Wisconsin and McHenry County in Illinois, and hiring medical specialists so patients wouldn’t have to travel for care, Mercyhealth built the first freestanding emergency department in Wisconsin in Lake Geneva; developed its own family medicine residency program in Janesville; and brought in the most advanced technology available close to home. Ahead of his time, Bea also integrated medical records across the entire organization so patients would have one electronic medical record no matter where they received care; created a regional emergency medical services (EMS) training center that has trained thousands of paramedics and EMTS; pioneered the MD-1 Emergency Response Program to bring hospital-level care directly to the scene of accidents and medical emergencies; created a tactical training center to help train SWAT and other first responders; and introduced the InQuicker online scheduling service for urgent care and emergency room visits.

The health system’s efforts paid off. In 2007, Mercy received the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award — the highest award for quality and organizational excellence — from President George W. Bush in the Oval Office.

Bea has always been passionate about giving back to the communities Mercyhealth serves, as well. In the mid-1990s, he noticed a large number of patients coming into Mercy’s Janesville ER who didn’t have a permanent address to list on their paperwork. They were living in their car or on the street. Knowing the organization could do more than care for their health care needs, Bea opened the first known hospitaloperated homeless center in the nation in 1996. The Janesville facility has provided short-term emergency shelter to more than 6,300 individuals — half of whom were children — since it opened.

What is Vertical Integration?

A key factor to Mercyhealth’s growth and success is the full vertical integration of its comprehensive health care services and physicians.

A vertically integrated health system offers patients complete coordinated care for all services – hospital care, primary and specialty physician care at clinics, home health care, etc. This type of integration provides, in essence, “one stop” for all a patient’s health care needs. This way, patients can have one medical record and one bill for total coordinated care within the same organization, as opposed to fragmented care when patients visit different doctors at different organizations, all with different medical records.

“We offer patients access to comprehensive services and physicians, all within one coordinated system,” says Bea. “At Mercyhealth, patients can see their primary care physicians as well as any specialists they might need, such as cardiologists, neurologists, dermatologists, etc. Patients can visit a sports medicine clinic, or pick up durable medical equipment at one of our facilities, before heading to a Mercyhealthsponsored health presentation or class. Patients have one medical record, no matter which Mercyhealth providers they visit. We truly provide a continuum of services in the most convenient and cost-effective way possible for our patients.”

A Seamless Transition

Bea saw an amazing opportunity to improve the health and well-being of the greater Rockford region by merging with Rockford Health System. The joining of these two complementary health systems in 2016 has made for a vibrant renaissance.

Mercyhealth has committed more than $1 billion to improve access to primary and specialty care services in and around Winnebago County. In the last two years, it has expanded, renovated and built clinics to meet the needs of people throughout the region.

At the Mercyhealth Rockton Avenue campus, Bea has invested tens of millions of dollars into renovations, including the opening of an orthopedic center of excellence, a renovated cancer center, an expansive prehospital and emergency services center, robotic laboratory technology, and so much more.

At Mercyhealth’s Riverside campus, work on the $505 million facility is moving along quickly, with the January 5, 2019 opening well within reach. This new campus will serve as the regional hub for highly specialized care for children and adults, including Level I trauma services, a state-designated Regional Perinatal Center that provides the highest level neonatal and high-risk pregnancy care (a designation that has been in place for more than four decades), hybrid operating rooms, and the most advanced hospital facility in the region.

“This is our way of ensuring that Rockford-area residents receive convenient, expert care no matter what side of town they live on,” says Bea. “Both campuses will be staffed by highly trained physicians, nurses and other providers who will provide life-saving, compassionate care when every minute counts. And at both campuses, patients will be treated like a member of our family.”

A Vision Fulfilled

At the core of Bea’s vision is a passion to improve the health and well-being of residents and make our community a better place to live. The recent developments in Rockford — and the region — fulfill the vision of a native born Rockford leader who saw the unmet needs of his community and the opportunity to make lives better for millions of people throughout northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

As taken from Great People. Great Stories Summer 2018 issue.