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Western Pennsylvania Hospital News, July 2003

VHA's Rae Reynolds--
Dynamic Director Oversees Members Services

Written by John Fries

When a health system or health care alliance is formed, member hospitals generally enjoy a number of benefits. For the alliance providing the advantages, there are challenges as well. Most important is the need to ensure that members are realizing the intended benefits and are satisfied with them.

In the case of VHA Pennsylvania, we're talking about 42 hospitals of varying sizes spread across two state--Pennsylvania and West Virginia--so monitoring and accountability becomes a pretty major responsibility.

Fortunately, Rae Reynolds, one of VHA's directors of market management and member services, is available to make sure that everything continues to run smoothly. It nearly always does, thanks to Reynolds, who has served in her current capacity since moving to Pittsburgh from York, Pennsylvania four years ago.

The Pittsburgh resident attributes her success to her ability to effectively build and grow relationships and provide excellent customer service.

"Relationships mean everything," said the affable Reynolds during a recent conversation. By her estimate, she spends nearly 80 percent of her time developing and nurturing relationships between VHA and its member hospitals (with the other 20 percent spent on studying the health care market, customer service recovery, and trouble shooting). She interacts with the hospitals' senior executive teams and VHA business suppliers, and is always looking for ways to serve VHA members' needs, contain their costs, and create efficiencies from a non-supply chain perspective.

She said the best way to help VHA's members is to "place them first, and provide the best member satisfaction possible." That includes listening to their issues, linking them to VHA services, and ensuring they receive the satisfaction they deserve.

"At VHA Pennsylvania," she said, "we utilize the concept of 'Mass Customization' in which we plan, develop, and offer services based on each of our members' unique needs. Mass customization takes a bit more time, but we find our members appreciate this approach. In today's challenging health care market, hospitals are very focused on accomplishing their goals. My job is to support them in accomplishing those goals."

Reynolds is experienced in this arena. Prior to coming to VHA, she worked for the Wellspan Health System in York, PA, setting up and managing physician practices. Given all the issues that have been nagging the medical community over the past several years, including the ongoing struggle with rising malpractice insurance premiums, there's been a rapid growth in the number of physician management organizations. This allows doctors to concentrate on practicing medicine, while leaving the business arrangements in someone else’s capable hands.

It's a very demanding situation, and one in which Reynolds excelled. The experience of handling physicians' business needs prepared her well for her role at VHA.

"At Wellspan," she said, "my position was very operational. At VHA, it's much more about relationship building, a continual process that requires time and patience. It took me a while to develop the patience part of it," she says with a laugh.

After accepting the offer to join VHA, Reynolds also had to adjust to not only working in a different part of the state, but to working with different hospitals, all of which have their own personalities.

"It would be great if health care executives would collaborate even more than they currently do. I'm trying to bring them closer together," she said.

Reynolds, who was born and raised in Trenton, New Jersey, earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Spelman College in Atlanta, and a master's in Health Services Administration from The University of Michigan's School of Public Health.

For many people, attaining a master's degree is academic achievement enough, but not Reynolds. On the personal side, she recently pursued--and earned--a diploma in neuromuscular massage therapy from the Pittsburgh School of Massage Therapy. This makes her a health care administrator by day, and a health care provider with a small clientele in her free time.

One of the ways Reynolds unwinds is by learning new and interesting things. She greatly enjoys taking a diverse variety of classes for fun and personal enrichment, and on many a weekday evening, she can be found at Community College's Allegheny campus in the pursuit of such avocations as swimming, cooking, acting, home repairs and real estate courses.

She's also an avid fan of the theater, regularly attending productions at City Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theater and Kuntu Repertory Theater. Her community service work includes being a Big Sister in the Big Brother Big Sisters of Pittsburgh and holding office as Secretary for the Urban League's Young Professionals of Pittsburgh.

At VHA, her goals include increasing the cohesiveness among member hospitals and finding new ways for them to work together, so they're individually more efficient.

"We're helping them do this through such support mechanisms as councils, task forces, collaborative initiatives, and more," she said. All of which is administered and coordinated by the very dynamic Rae Reynolds.

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Copyright © 2003 by John Fries, Pittsburgh, PA.
Please direct all correspondence to JohnFries@aol.com.