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Billings Clinic CEO shares vision

Seger, Billings Clinic CEO
Posted at 1:31 PM, Jul 10, 2023

Billings Clinic CEO shares vision

In 2014 as he was going through a leadership training course for his then-new role as Regional

Chief Medical Officer for Billings Clinic, Dr. Clint Seger was asked to write a brief message about what motivates him. His response was two simple words: “I help.”

It’s a straightforward statement that has driven him through his career, from an aspiring physician during medical school, to serving as a rural hospitalist in Wyoming, to his role as CEO of Billings Clinic, the region’s largest independent health system.

“The way I grew up, if somebody needed help it didn’t matter what their need was or the sacrifice it might mean to help them,” Seger said. “We just helped. I still believe that means we have to protect people, care for them, and do the right thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s my own family, our patients, the people I work with or all of Billings Clinic. When I get up every day, that’s what I’m thinking about.”

‘Our biggest risk’

Since moving into the CEO role and after nearly a decade as Billings Clinic’s Regional Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Seger has watched the entire health care industry face epic change. According to the American Hospital Association, overall hospital expenses have increased nearly 20% since 2019. The use of contract labor to provide needed services has jumped 138% due to the lack of qualified staff. At the same time, hospital expenses for that labor have increased a staggering 257%. Financial challenges, changing payment models, supply chain disruption and national staffing shortages have all combined to create major challenges for all health care organizations, including Billings Clinic.

Meeting those challenges head-on is something that Billings Clinic has been focused on. This has involved what Seger describes as “incredibly challenging decisions” that are necessary to put the organization in the best position to continue providing excellent care to patients long into the future.

“The absolute highest risk to us as an organization isn’t the challenges we’ve been talking about,” he said. “It’s that we continue to stay the same and not adjust, not advance care, and not advance who we are. If we stay the same, that’s our biggest risk. We aim to provide the highest level of health care, in partnership with the rural communities in our region, to ensure we are taking care of people as close to home as possible.”

Rural partners, innovative care

Growing up in Buffalo, Wyoming and then practicing as a hospitalist physician in Cody, Seger views partnerships with rural communities and hospitals as a critical part of making sure that people don’t have to travel far for the health care they need. That’s especially true in Montana and Wyoming, where local critical access hospitals are an important point of care, at times hundreds of miles from larger hospitals.

In addition to directly operating clinics or hospitals in six Montana communities and one in Wyoming, Billings Clinic has partnerships with 18 affiliates. The goal of these partnerships is to support rural hospitals so they can remain independent and locally governed while giving them access to the resources and expertise of all of Billings Clinic and, when needed, providing assistance or guidance on a wide range of needs.

“There’s a way to deliver health care in our unique geography that’s both better and different,”

Seger said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s in remote eastern Montana, northern Wyoming or Billings, we are not there to take over and send all of the patients to Billings. We are there to bring expertise and resources, and to create a true partnership that supports each community in making decisions to elevate care locally.”

That’s the same approach that continues to drive a pair of major initiatives for Billings Clinic – the journey to becoming a Level I Trauma Center, and the proposed combination of Billings Clinic with Kalispell-based Logan Health.

These strategies each stem from that same commitment to elevating the level of health care available to everyone in Wyoming, Montana and the western Dakotas. In the case of Level I Trauma, it’s about making sure that the highest level of care is available in an emergency whenever someone needs it; while the proposed Logan unification aims to create an independent Montana-based regionwide system that expands, grows and supports services in communities served by two of Montana’s largest health systems. Both efforts are well underway, and Billings Clinic anticipates significant developments on both fronts over the summer of 2023.

‘We thrive because of people’

Through the COVID-19 pandemic and post-pandemic challenges, Seger has experienced major changes in the health care landscape. It’s been a tough few years, but he’s also felt a constant strength through all of it.

“We thrive because of people and teams who are passionate about taking care of patients,” he said. “They take care of us and they hold each other up. We have to keep building a place where people are supported to grow and thrive.”

Seger credited Billings Clinic’s status as the only hospital in Montana to receive both CMS 5-star Quality Rating and a Leapfrog ‘A’ grade – both important national benchmarks for safety and quality – to the people who work there. He noted that they’ve built and maintained those accolades through hard work, compassion and an eye toward patient needs. And that ties directly into his vision for the future of Billings Clinic and how he sees the organization getting there.

“I have to care for and help our staff so they can do what they do best – take care of patients who come to us for care,” he said. “I could go on all day about how amazing our people are. I’m here to help them and help Billings Clinic so we can collectively make sure everyone has access to the highest quality complex, specialty, and primary health care, no matter where they live.”

Billings Clinic HealthLine
If you have health-related questions or need assistance finding a physician who is right for you, talk to a registered nurse through the Billings Clinic HealthLine by calling 406-255-8400 or 800-252-1246. Learn more at www.billingsclinic.com.