Long-Distance Learner

Dennis Robb is smarter, wiser and 4,000 miles away from Cincinnati

Editor’s note: Where do JHC’s past Contracting Professionals of the Year go? Up. We are checking in with the people we’ve recognized since 2007. This month: Dennis Robb.

Dennis Robb

Throughout his career in healthcare, Dennis Robb has tried to grow every day. Today, as CEO of HealthTrust Europe in Birmingham, England, he’s still at it.

Robb was named Contracting Professional of the Year by the Journal of Healthcare Contracting in 2009, when he was vice president of supply chain management for the Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, a partnership of five Cincinnati healthcare organizations. (The alliance dissolved in 2010.)

He joined HealthTrust Europe in November 2015 as chief operating officer, and was named CEO in March 2018.

“After a successful career in the United States, covering neuroscience, hospital operations, service line administration, executive leadership and serving as the chairperson of a national contracting and supply chain organization, I was presented with this potential international leadership role,” he says, speaking about the move to HealthTrust Europe. “The burning question: Can the strategies and disciplines assembled over a lifetime translate to a different culture, in a different country, away from a place of comfort and familiarity?” The answer? Yes.

HealthTrust Europe is a subsidiary organization of HCA Healthcare that serves 146 acute hospitals and 138 non-acute sites across England. Included are public as well as HCA Healthcare-owned hospitals and diagnostic centers. “We partner with over 100 NHS Trusts and fully engage in a committed GPO model with 20 Trusts,” he says. “Additionally, we are the proud provider of total spend management for internationally acclaimed HCA Healthcare hospitals in London.”

(NHS Trusts are public sector bodies that provide services on behalf of the National Health Service in England and Wales, including hospital services, community services and other aspects of patient care.)

“Our value proposition – improving quality, safety, service and price for all contracted products and services – is achieved by engaging our healthcare partners and our awarded suppliers.”

Neurosurgical experience
Robb began his healthcare career as a neurosurgical nurse and later as an executive director of the Neuroscience Institute at the University Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio. He joined Health Alliance of Greater Cincinnati in 2000 as vice president of its neuroscience service line; eventually he was named executive vice president of supply chain management.

While in Cincinnati, he was recognized not only for supply chain excellence, but also for his work on local, regional and national diversity programs in healthcare. In 2008, he received the Federation of American Hospital’s Corris Boyd Leadership Award, which honors an individual or company that has made an outstanding contribution in fostering leadership and workplace diversity in the healthcare industry.

“This passion and commitment has carried throughout my healthcare career and into the UK,” he says, speaking of diversity. “The [Official Journal of the European Union] process in the UK is designed to open the bidding opportunity for all qualified candidates who can meet the value proposition. Additionally, I have continued to volunteer and mentor small and medium-size diverse suppliers throughout my career.”

Learning experience
Not surprisingly, Robb is soaking up experience and knowledge in his current role in the United Kingdom.

“The professionals at each Trust provide compassionate and state-of-the-art care,” he says. That care is delivered free of charge in academic medical centers, regional referral centers and community programs. “As the U.S. approaches 52 percent of publicly funded healthcare (Medicare, Medicaid, Accountable Care), I feel like I have a window to the future of international acute and community care.”

Living in another country comes with challenges, particularly separation from family and friends, he says. “The United Kingdom and Europe represent some of the finest people and places I have ever visited, but as that great philosopher, Dorothy, stated in Oz, ‘There’s no place like home.’”

Meanwhile, there is much learning to do, and plenty of new discoveries to make.

“Early in my career I adopted scientific curiosity, personal mastery, the principals of the Learning Organization, continuous quality improvement, the disciplines of Lean and Six Sigma, and the outstanding negotiation series at Harvard Law School,” says Robb. “As I left the bedside, I never stopped listening and enabling the doctors and nurses who do the work – listening to their frustrations and supporting their accomplishments.

“I believe that has kept me focused, open to new ideas and, perhaps, wiser as a healthcare leader.”