Outgoing AzHHA Leader John Rivers Talks About The Past, Present And Future Of Health Care In Arizona

After more than 23 years as president and CEO of the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA), John Rivers announced he will be stepping down in January of next year. Arizona Business Magazine asked Rivers about his tenure at AzHHA and the challenges facing the health care system.

How has the Valley and state’s health care industry changed in the 23 years you’ve helmed AzHHA?
Health care in Arizona barely resembles what it looked like 25 years ago when I first arrived. In fact, I think it is better in every respect. Hospitals in particular are more sharply focused on cost-containment strategies, physician integration, patient safety and, of course, providing cutting-edge medical care to their patients. Hospitals have also made giant strides in better management of their human resources, particularly nurses, who are the heart and soul of good hospital care.

How has AzHHA’s mission changed over the years to adapt to the Valley and state’s evolving health care industry?
Our primary mission remains political advocacy, although the complexity and difficulty of doing that well has increased exponentially. The tremendous diversity among types of hospitals, and the even greater diversity of personalities among our CEOs, requires a great deal of adaptability on the part of the association CEO.

What are some of the biggest challenges you see facing the health care industry today?
All of us in health care are facing tremendous uncertainty about our future. Congress is on the verge of re-writing the book on government’s role in health care, and at the state level we face the greatest budget crisis in our history. With the federal and state government already purchasing about 70 percent of the hospital care in Arizona, our world will no doubt change dramatically. At a minimum, our future will require us to be more accountable, more transparent and more integrated. Also, we’ll see a seismic shift away from the revenue enhancement model to a cost-control model.

What would you say are some of AzHHA’s greatest successes over the past 20 years?
I think we have been very successful in our political advocacy and our record more than speaks for itself in that regard. More than that, I tend to define our success in terms of achieving our mission with competence and integrity — and keeping our focus on what is best for health care in Arizona and what is best for the patients served by our institutions.

Do you plan to stay involved in health care, and how?
I will definitely stay involved in a number of charitable and community service activities in which I currently participate, but I have no plans to remain involved in health care except as a citizen who cares profoundly about all that we do. I’ve spent the past 40 years of my life in health care, 25 of them in Arizona, and it’s time for me to move on and enjoy life in ways that I have not had time to do up until now. There’s more to life than driving to the office each morning and I intend to live my other dreams while I am still in good health and able to do so.

www.azhha.org

Arizona Business Magazine

January 2010