Business Q & A

April 14, 2013

A conversation with Tripp Owings

Tripp Owings always figured he’d be a Wall Street man.

Tripp Owings always figured he’d be a Wall Street man.

“The thing I wanted to do growing up was work in finance,” said Owings, the recently appointed vice president of business development at Wesley Medical Center, which is owned by Hospital Corporation of America.

“So I pursued that dream and realized that dream really wasn’t what I wanted.”

What he calls a bit of luck – and experiencing the market’s plummet a few years ago – changed his career path.

“After about three years with HCA, I left for about five years and went into financial services and worked in a brokerage business when the markets melted down,” Owings said.

“I was evaluating where I was and said, ‘I think I made a mistake in leaving health care.’ Then I came back and worked for another not-for-profit system in Atlanta and got the opportunity to rejoin HCA and have been there ever since. So I never intend to leave health care again.”

Owings is a graduate of the University of Georgia and a 2013 MBA candidate from Mississippi State University.

When he’s not spending time with his wife chasing around their two sons, who are 5 and 1, Owings said he likes to spend time reading, playing golf and participating in short runs around town.

You grew up thinking you wanted to go into finance?

Absolutely. My father is an institutional bond broker for a large bank and so I grew up thinking I was going to be a Wall Street guy. And I was wrong.

What does your current job entail?

What I do is I look at the programs and services that we offer here in the hospital and determine is there a way that we can enhance those services and better meet the demands of the community. … I also look at partnerships with physicians or outside organizations.

Why did you decide to work for HCA?

It was a bit of luck, to be honest. I was in college and did an internship at a not-for-profit hospital in Atlanta and it just so happened that a friend of a friend was a hospital CEO for HCA at one of our hospitals in north Georgia.

As I graduated college, I got the chance to go out and talk with him in person and he passed my resume along. We had a new division office that was opening in Atlanta at the time and I got a job as a financial analyst there. I’ve loved HCA. There’s so much opportunity in the company. They really do a great job of working with employees.

So what drew you to this particular position and to Wichita?

I thought that I wanted to continue working on business development and strategic planning — that was a base of what I did at the division office in Tallahassee — and I wanted to continue to build on the skills that I learned there and I also wanted to get into a hospital — and a large hospital at that.

It’s great. We’re here at Wesley because it’s so large … there’s a lot of things we have in this community that makes it a really exciting role for me. Lots of partnership opportunities here in Kansas.

What to you is exciting about health care?

What’s exciting is that it’s ever-changing. The dynamic in the 10 plus years I’ve been in health care has been completely different. When I first got into health care, the thought of having a national health plan like we have now with the Affordable Care Act wasn’t even on the radar. … You have a paradigm shift taking place in how health care is going to be paid for in the U.S., so you’re constantly having to re-evaluate what you’re doing. What made sense five or six years ago may no longer make sense because the environment has changed drastically. Because the environment is always changing, the work is always new.

What are going to be some of the biggest challenges for for-profit hospital systems in the coming years?

The challenges that face the for-profits and not-for-profits are not that different. From a national perspective, how do you look at the Affordable Care Act, and you’ve got to keep improving quality measures because you’re not going to get paid as much by Medicare if a patient is readmitted within 30 days, and you’ve got sequestration.

Here, specific to Kansas, you have the Medicaid expansion question.

What’s next for Wesley?

No. 1 is the women’s project and spending $36 million to refresh that unit. That will start late summer and continue for 18 to 24 months thereafter.

The other things we’re looking at is cardiology, orthopedics, pediatrics. …

From a Galichia (Heart Hospital) standpoint, we’re looking at expanding out the services that they already offer. They do a great job in cardiology and (we will) look at adding orthopedics and senior-focused programs there as well.

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