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Fresh off its IPO, Charlotte-based health care alliance Premier Inc. aims for broader reach

With an infusion of $874M from its IPO last month, Charlotte-based Premier Inc. looks to grow and influence the health care discussion

By Celeste Smith
cesmith@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/01/22/44/1e41PZ.Em.138.jpeg|474
    Peyton McCollum -
    Susan DeVore, president and CEO, Premier, Inc. The healthcare improvement company, which works with 57 percent of the country’s community hospitals, recently undertook Charlotte’s largest-ever IPO.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/11/01/22/44/J2NBG.Em.138.jpeg|210
    Peyton McCollum -
    Susan DeVore, president and CEO, Premier, Inc. The healthcare improvement company, which works with 57 percent of the country’s community hospitals, recently undertook Charlotte’s largest-ever IPO.

More Information

  • Premier CEO Susan DeVore
  • About Premier Inc.’s Charlotte connections

    • The company has had a Charlotte presence since 1969, with predecessor SunHealth.

    • Premier’s 1,550 employees nationally include 910 based in Charlotte.

    • CEO Susan DeVore says company leaders sit on advisory boards for UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics and master of health administration program. DeVore, who attended middle and high school in Charlotte, holds a UNC Charlotte undergraduate degree in business administration.

    • DeVore sits on the executive committee of the Charlotte Chamber.



With health care companies scrambling to keep costs in check, data is more important than ever.

And Charlotte-based Premier Inc. plays a key role in providing health systems with information that leads to better care and outcomes with lower expenses, president and CEO Susan DeVore says.

The solutions company shares clinical and operational data and strategies culled from its membership, which includes 2,900 community hospitals, and nearly 100,000 providers, from nursing facilities to pharmacies.

Now, Premier’s reach can potentially grow broader because of the company’s initial public offering last month. The health care company raised $874 million when counting an additional 4.2 million shares available to be sold to the underwriters, according to Thomson Reuters. Now, 80 percent of the company is owned by hospitals and health systems.

“We needed access to capital to continue to build the technologies that we needed to build,” DeVore said during a recent Observer interview at Premier’s headquarters in Ballantyne.

“We’re now going to reinvest that capital so that we can continue to improve the health of ... communities, and do it at scale,” DeVore said.

“It will be much more efficient, and it will allow them to share and connect their information. We’ll be able to accelerate the transformation of health care.”

The shares, initially priced at $27 per share, closed Friday at $30.91

DeVore, 55, talked to the Observer about how the rapidly changing health care landscape affects what Premier does, and what health care looks like from the company’s vantage point. Comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: How does your business model fit in with the health marketplace?

A: We’re a Charlotte-based company, but we have a very big national reach, so we have health systems that interact with us that cover about 57 percent of the health care systems in the country. So what we’re trying to do is really unite what is a very fragmented health care system nationally, and lower the cost of health care, and improve the quality, safety and outcomes. We do that by leveraging all the data we have on all these health systems, and by helping them improve. So we consider ourselves a health care improvement company.

I’m a mom and a grandmom, and I have three kids and two grandkids, and 35 nieces and nephews. What we all want is a health care system that’s connected and that’s integrated and that provides everything that we need from the time our kids are born until the time we die. We’re just trying to find all the ways to make that more effective. It’s a big challenge.

Q: Does the data you collect play a role in national discussions on health care?

A: It absolutely does. We think we have the most data assets in health care nationally. We have clinical and cost data on 25 percent of all the hospital patients in the country. We have labor data, which is the cost of labor in health care, on about $30 billion of labor spend in the country. We have thousands of hospitals where we have labor data, clinical data, supply chain data and cost data, which allows us then to have it all sitting on a platform, and allows us to mine the data to find the opportunities for improvement in our health systems. And what that also does is, it allows us to have summary data to use to inform Washington about the things that might work and not work to transform health care.

We have almost 1,000 hospitals that (specifically) provide clinical and cost data. It’s cleared, all ‘de-identified,’ and respects all the privacy concerns. That data indicated to us that sepsis, which is infections, is the No. 1 cause of deaths in hospitals that could be prevented. So we went to work, nationally and locally, on what are all of the best practices health systems can implement to lower the number of sepsis events in their hospitals. And now it’s No. 14.

We do that with waste in health care. We do that with the overuse of X-rays. We do that with virtually every part of the health care system if it looks like it could influence cost or quality. And so the data assets are a real asset to the country.

Q: How does the federal Affordable Care Act affect Premier and your member hospitals?

A: The Affordable Care Act fundamentally is trying to shift the payment and delivery system in health care from what was a fee for service to some kind of a global payment model, which means these health systems need all kinds of different capabilities. They need information systems that talk to one another. They need people who take care of patients from the beginning to the end. They need partnerships with others in the community. So there’s a lot of pressure on how they improve their own efficiency. It’s going to be on the backs of providers to really implement the changes that are necessary to drive the cost down and to improve the quality and safety.

Q: Do you or Premier have an opinion on how the ACA rollout has gone so far?

A: The health care system does need to be reformed from the inside out, so we think it needs to be reformed with providers and patients together. We think the Affordable Care Act is a framework in which you do that. There are parts of it we like and parts of it we’re not so crazy about. But the bottom line is that if it isn’t this, it’s going to be something else.

Q: As far as being 20 percent publicly owned, what are some of the opportunities and challenges with that?

A: It is giving us access to capital that I don’t think we would have had. It’s giving us access to borrowing money that will be easier than it would have been as a private company. At the end of the day, if I could keep the health systems providing strategic guidance to me, as owners in the company, and I at the same time could get capital to do the things we need to do, to grow, and to deliver more value to the health systems, that was the goal. So I think we’ve accomplished that.

I feel very passionately that this work is really important. I don’t think we can leave the current health care system for our future generations. We are very focused on long-term sustainability of the health care system. So I feel so lucky to be here and to be running Premier at this point in history.

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