It’s one of Northern California’s oldest health care systems, taking its name from Sacramento pioneer John Sutter and its first hospital site near Sutter’s Fort. Today, Sutter Health employs about 48,000 people and runs 24 hospitals and 33 outpatient surgery centers in more than 100 cities and towns in California and Hawaii. This month, it ushered in its first woman CEO, Sarah Krevans, a longtime health care executive.
In her buttery-yellow offices at Sutter’s headquarters on Sacramento’s Garden Highway, Krevans, 57, talked with The Sacramento Bee about her new job, medical technology and other interests. Here are some excerpts:
Q: You’re taking the reins of one of the region’s biggest health care systems, one that recently opened a huge new hospital center in midtown Sacramento. What are some of your new initiatives?
A: We’ve almost completed our conversion to electronic medical records. Only one hospital (Crescent City) is not up and it’s in progress. We can share data very seamlessly. We have 1.2 million patients who have access to their own medical records online. And we’re increasing the functionality of what they can do online on a daily basis. All of our patients can get their lab results online, their radiology reports online, they can email their doctors. But now it’s starting to be much more than that, in terms of appointment scheduling and other kinds of interactions. ...
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We also just got a contribution from a couple of very generous individuals to start a systemwide Biobank (which collects blood samples from consenting patients that will be linked to data on treatments and response to treatments). It will help precisely identify patients (by genomics) and target the appropriate intervention for them. Some people hear the term “personalized medicine” and think it’s “Do I prefer to be called Sarah or Sally?” But it’s also that we know that some drugs are never going to work on patients with certain genotypes. So how can we avoid trying them and finding they don’t work and instead go directly to the drug that’s going to be the most efficacious?
A lot of the patients we serve represent a microcosm of patients in the United States. We do a lot of clinical trial research in partnership(s), with pharmaceutical trials, with physicians as principal investigators in their own research. … We’ve brought together our research enterprises and are starting to look at what can we do together as a system and make our data available (to researchers inside and outside Sutter Health).
Q: How are you using new medical technologies?
A: We have the privilege of living and working in one of most innovative areas of the world, Silicon Valley. We just (hired) our first chief innovation officer. Part of his role is to work with people who have good ideas inside the organization and also partner with outside organizations who may be experts in their technological area but don’t know how to make their ideas work in health care. A lot of people are developing apps for health care, but then are puzzled why nobody uses them.
We’ve brought in a number of companies to do some experimentation with us. For example, we’re working with a company that has a portable monitor that’s lightweight, no more uncomfortable than wearing a vest. ...We’ve had some experiments with an ingestable tracking sensor where you swallow and it communicates your vitals (to doctors). ... We’ve had an ongoing pilot program using Google glasses for physicians to wear in the exam room. The glasses were successful in a very small pilot program, so we’re spreading it (to other hospitals). Let’s say my doctor is seeing me and says, “How’s your asthma doing? Let’s do a pulmonary function test” or “Let’s pull up your last three test results.” Now, she used to have to go over to her computer screen. This way, she and I can be talking and she can be doing that (simultaneously) without going to her computer. The glasses can connect directly to transcription (for doctor’s notes).
Q: Have you had patient complaints about physicians too attached to their computers?
A: It was one of the common concerns we’ve heard from patients about implementation of electronic medical records. We’ve heard from patients, families, physicians and nurses who’ve felt like they were looking at the screen instead of each other, so we’re constantly looking at what we can do better. ... It’s a learning curve for all of us.
Q: You’re one of very few women CEOs in the U.S. health care industry. Why are there so few women and do you see yourself as a role model?
A: I think there are very few female CEOs of any organizations of this size, whether they’re in health care or any other field. So I don’t think it’s unique issue in health care. I feel I’ve been very lucky in my career and I’m very happy to be here. I have no chip on my shoulder. But I’d like to see us to continue to think about how we make advancements for people of every background, not just gender.
Q: What do you do for fun, recreation?
A: I run, half-marathons mostly. I’ve done a couple marathons but decided they were too much time and wear and tear. I run regularly, 10 miles on weekends and on weekdays before work with friends, usually three miles. I like to read and to cook when I have time. ... I’m usually reading a fiction book and a work-related book. One of my passions is foster care and I just re-read a great book about aging out of foster care, “The Language of Flowers” (by former Sacramento resident Vanessa Diffenbaugh).
Sarah Krevans, Sutter Health president and CEO
Sutter ties: Krevans joined Sutter Health in 1999 as senior VP of managed care. From 2012-15, she served as chief operating officer, overseeing daily operations at 24 hospitals, 34 outpatient surgery centers and five physician medical foundations. Following retirement of Sutter’s longtime executive Pat Fry, she became president/CEO on Jan. 4. Her new salary has not been disclosed; in 2014, as Sutter’s COO, she earned $2.1 million in total annual compensation.
Background: A native of Baltimore, Krevans holds a Boston University bachelor’s degree and UC Berkeley master’s degree in business administration/public health. At 29, she became Maine’s acting director of Medicaid programs. In 1987, she moved to California to work for Kaiser Permanente, eventually becoming senior vice president of the five-county Sacramento Valley area.
Personal: Sacramento resident; married with three college-age children.