clients | case study

The Tucson Medical Center: Seeing a Bright Future

“Mark Harrison served as an independent financial consultant to the TMC Healthcare Board of Trustees when we conducted an extensive review of strategic partnering options. Mark demonstrated excellent clarity on what the real issues and risks were as we evaluated options. I valued his input and often looked to him as a check as our plans developed. I would strongly recommend Mark in his consulting role for other complex healthcare organizations.”
Susan L. Ernsky
Former Board Chair
Tucson Medical Center

The Tucson Medical Center (TMC) was ready to make a bold leap into the future—the only problem was, it didn’t know precisely what that future would look like.

Committed to remaining a top-quality medical center, TMC knew that a bright future for itself would have to include certain elements: equipment upgrades, a state-of-the-art electronic medical records system, and facility improvements to allow more efficient provision of care at its attractive, though sprawling, 612-bed single-level campus. Each of these vital elements would require significant capital investment at a time when TMC was experiencing lagging financial performance. Further clouding the picture, TMC was undergoing turnover within its executive management.

The board called in the team of Nygren Consulting and Mark Harrison of Apex to help it evaluate the potential strategic capital partnerships that appeared necessary to reach the future it wanted. The assignment was tailor-made for the team’s expertise, as it involved guiding the board through an institution-defining moment that required knowledge of governance, health-care operations, finance, business combinations, and leadership issues.

To ensure quality decision-making that would clearly fulfill the board’s responsibilities, the team took two initial steps. After designing an interview protocol, Harrison and Nygren interviewed board members to articulate broadly the mission of TMC and then translate that mission into critical factors (e.g., a desire to retain TMC’s community-based special needs programs) that would guide its decision making. Next, to provide a baseline for evaluating potential partnerships, Harrison worked with the management team to develop an “independent scenario” built on reasonable assumptions regarding its investment needs and future financial performance.

The board had not previously undertaken a rigorous examination of its potential future as an independent medical center, and a funny thing happened while it did. The picture of its uncertain future cleared up quite a bit. Management’s turnaround efforts began to bear fruit, and the independent scenario showed the board the amount of spending it could make on upgrades, electronic medical records, and facility redesign. It gave the board a concrete vision complete with a campus development plan. In the meantime, with its financial performance improving because of its new focus, the board received some attractive partnership offers.

In the end, TMC’s choice was only difficult because of how favorable its different options had become. Returning to its mission principles—and going forward to its bright future—it ultimately took the route that it felt best served the community and stayed independent.