Deb: We wanted to spend a few minutes reflecting on the past year. It has been a remarkable year for sure. The theme of this issue of HCA Healthcare Magazine is what it means to “go to work.” When you think back to a year ago, the pandemic was just on the horizon. How were you preparing the organization to get to work?
Sam: This time last year, we were experiencing very little COVID-19 in the country and very little COVID-19 inside of HCA Healthcare. We were not sure exactly what was going to materialize, but we had been preparing. We started doing some early preparations, and I think it was March 13 when we sort of shut down the company, if you will, in compliance with many government requirements. As we got deeper into the first stage of COVID-19, our preparations accelerated, and our impressions of what was going on were changing and requiring us to adjust. We are still making a few adjustments in how we are handling COVID-19. But it was a lot of early preparations at that point — things like clinical protocols, education, some understanding of what it might mean to our facilities, and so forth.
Deb: You mentioned the adjustments — and I think “pivot” might be the word of the year. When you think about those adjustments and the pivots, what were some of the more significant ones we made after March 13?
Sam: We established two clear objectives: keeping our people safe and then protecting the organization. That actually clarified a lot of things. We had to protect our people — our physicians, our colleagues, our caregivers — so they could be there for our patients. I think that clarity forced a lot of pivots, but those pivots became people working on the two objectives in ways that maybe they did not in the past. I am proud of what our teams accomplished.
Deb: There is a lot to be proud of, specifically in what the organization and our people achieved last year. What rises to the top in your mind?
Sam: I am most proud of our colleagues and what they did. I did not get to visit a hospital for probably 90 days. That is the longest in my career. I was eager to go, but I knew everybody at that point was preparing for and responding to COVID-19. After about 90 days, I could not take it anymore, so I started to visit our facilities. I think I visited maybe 40 or 45 hospitals in 120 days, and it was incredible to see what our people were accomplishing. Their professionalism, their compassion, their competence, and their confidence were inspiring and humbling for me. I think that is who we are as an organization. Our people step up and deliver when they need to. The communities depend on our organization. Patients depend on our organization. Our physicians depend on our organization. Our families depend on it.
Deb: Fast-forward to now. I would not say the pandemic is behind us by any means, but we are starting to look forward. When you think about the company, our initiatives, and our people moving forward in 2021 and beyond, where do you see us going? Where do you see that we need to focus?
Sam: Our mission is going to remain the same, and I think our core strategy is going to remain the same. One opportunity for us as an organization, as I look forward to the next decade, is to introduce technology into our facilities in a totally different way, in order to deliver better care to our patients. The second thing is partnerships. I think we have a unique opportunity to embrace partnerships and work with other organizations in a way that helps us accomplish our mission.
Deb: So if you were to leave our colleagues and our physicians with one message about last year and how we are moving into this year, what would it be?
Sam: I would like to thank them for everything they have done. They have delivered for each other. They have delivered for the patients. They have delivered for the community. I know people are tired. I am hopeful that they can find ways to decompress and then ultimately recharge their batteries, because I do think we are going to see a lot of demand for healthcare. We are going to be needed — as we always are — so I hope they can come back ready to do what they have been doing, which is delivering great care.
Deb: Well, gratitude is a great note to end on. And with that, I would like to thank you. I know that all of our colleagues would like to thank you as well for your leadership. It has been an incredible honor to work for this company during this time.