Signature Style

From the Spring 2009 edition of Vanderbilt Business

James Hoffman

James Hoffman

James Hoffman, MBA’83, has spent more than 25 years in the health care industry. Today he is Senior Vice President of Signature Hospital Corp., based in Houston.

In the course of his career, Hoffman has developed definite opinions about the state of health care and health care delivery.

“The dirty secret of health care is that we actually do have universal coverage,” Hoffman says. “It’s true that there are 40 million uninsured Americans, but they do get health care. If you show up at an emergency room with a life-threatening condition, that hospital—by law—will take care of you.

“But somebody will pay for it,” he adds.

Hoffman joined Signature, which owns three community hospitals, because of what it does differently from other companies.

“Every hospital will tell you that their goal is to deliver the highest quality patient care,” he says, “but I haven’t seen anyone actually document or measure that quality.” Signature Insights is the company’s proprietary software system that improves safety monitoring and reporting, which in turn improves the quality of health care that the patient receives.

“In the past, hospital staffs have been reluctant to file reports when mistakes are made,” Hoffman says. “But we’ve learned that mistakes generally occur because the system is flawed—not the individual. We fix the system instead of penalizing the individual,” he adds.

Signature has also adopted “lean” processes modeled after Toyota. “It’s a common sense approach to increasing efficiency,” he says. “Today the average nurse only spends about 30 percent of his or her time with patients. We want to know about the other 70 percent.” By studying and actually diagramming nurses’ routines, Signature has increased efficiency. The same processes have been put to use in outpatient areas as well, helping patients by more efficient layouts and fewer forms to fill out.

Whether through innovative software or improved processes, Hoffman is helping Signature put a personal stamp on hospital care, and that’s encouraging news in an increasingly impersonal world.