Kenneth G. Simone, DO, FHM, grew up as the son of a revered pediatrician. As a child, he often accompanied his father on hospital rounds and house calls, developing an appreciation for the “old-fashioned” medicine his father practiced.
Already inspired to follow in his father’s footsteps, Dr. Simone became even more convinced of his calling when the physician-patient roles were reversed: His dad developed a kidney disorder that cut his career—and ultimately his life—short. “His illness and my exposure to hospitals added to my desire to pursue medicine,” Dr. Simone says. “It instilled the drive to help others, to make a difference in someone’s or some family’s life.”
He has done that by developing multiple private medical practices, building the hospitalist program at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor, Maine, and offering consulting services to more than 100 practices.
“It has always been my nature to challenge myself and put myself in situations that take me out of my comfort zone,” says Dr. Simone, president of Hospitalist and Practice Solutions, a practice-management consultancy in Veazie, Maine. “I enjoy building things from scratch, creating, rebuilding, thinking outside the box, and networking with other healthcare professionals.”
Question: What made you decide to start Hospitalist and Practice Solutions (HPS)?
Answer: HPS was established because of the demand for my services. Initially, word spread locally and then regionally about the work I did at St. Joseph Hospital. As a natural offshoot of my growing interest in helping other programs, HPS became a national consulting firm.
Q: Why did you think this venture could provide a valuable service?
A: I believed there were more effective healthcare delivery systems with which to provide both quality and cost-effective medical care. As time went on, I gained a very unique perspective working as both a hospitalist and referring PCP in private practice. This experience, coupled with my work as an administrative director for a hospitalist program, allowed me to develop applications to help hospitalist programs on a broader basis. I realized the advice I offered to other programs consistently rendered a positive effect.
Q: Which do you find more enjoyable: building a hospitalist program from the ground up or rebuilding a struggling program?
A: I truly enjoy the challenges of both equally. Projects that involve building a program de novo appeal to my creative side. These projects enable me to work with professionals to build a customized program that meets the needs of the community.
Q: What challenges are unique to each?
A: Rebuilding an established program involves critical analysis of the current program to identify what has gone wrong, what has been successful, and what will work in the future. It calls upon one’s skills to build consensus and instill trust in the process because the stakeholders may be apprehensive to have a consultant critically review their program and hospital. In many instances, conflict management is necessary.
In both the creation and rebuilding of an HM program, it is imperative to implement strategies that guide the program to future success. Both projects also require strategic planning and the development of tools and tactics that emphasize collaboration and collegiality.
Q: Do the failing programs you help to rebuild have characteristics in common?
A: Common themes include lack of planning and consensus-building before program start-up, inadequate tools and strategies to support effective practice management, and failure to align the hospitalist practice and sponsoring hospital’s goals and vision. Another common problem is the absence of a hospitalist recruitment and retention plan, which may lead to provider turnover and program instability.