Summit CEO Tim Young, Healthcare Hero Honoree, Highlights Organization's Quality Focus

Tim Young: Creating new models for patient care

CEO, Summit Medical Group

By Laura Ayo

Monday, September 2, 2013

When people visit Tim Young’s Facebook page, they see post after post about leadership development.

“I think leadership makes all the difference in an organization,” says Young, 46, CEO of Summit Medical Group. “I think it really separates us and separates organizations from their competitors if they have strong leaders.”

When a group of physicians approached him in 1995 with an innovative idea to form a physician-managed primary-care group, the former medical technologist and laboratory manager jumped at the opportunity to lead like-minded people who wanted to be at the forefront of changing the way health-care services were delivered.

“What attracted me was that they had an interest in a bigger footprint — a bigger organizational design for health care for the region,” he says. “We were taking a leadership role in our industry and taking a risk (to develop) a sustainable model that could make a difference in terms of the quality of care that was provided.”

Summit Medical Group has grown in the past 18 years from 37 physicians at seven locations in Knox County to nearly 220 physicians in 11 counties. Summit physicians complete nearly 1 million patient visits annually.

At the same time, Summit established a central lab, a Sleep Services Center, four ancillary testing centers, five physician therapy centers and three after-hours Express Clinics. In collaboration with Dr. Jesse Doers, Young helped develop Statcare, a hospitalist/pulmonologist group to treat hospitalized patients.

Dr. Larry Brakebill, chairman of Summit Medical Group, was impressed with Young soon after he was hired to work in the laboratory in Brakebill’s medical practice in 1990. Within two years, Young was the practice’s administrator.

Brakebill was among the founding physicians of Summit Medical Group.

“We’ve always wanted to be the leaders in health care,” Brakebill wrote in nominating Young as a Health Care Hero. “How big a part of that is Tim? Huge. Huge.”

Colleagues say they owe Summit’s steady growth in size, patients and geographic reach to Young’s ability to work well with others and develop leaders through programs like Leadership Summit that aims to help physicians hone their communication, interpersonal and conflict management skills.

“We invest in them so they become more competent at the leadership aspects they are thrust in,” Young says. “It’s one of the best programs we’ve developed.”

Another Summit founder, Dr. Douglas Leahy, says Young’s talent also lies in anticipating industry shifts and positioning Summit to manage change and thrive in a quickly evolving industry.

Young has been the group’s CEO since it formed — something rarely seen in the health care industry — and is a certified medical practice executive who holds memberships in several professional organizations.

“On a national basis, Tim’s views on quality and health care delivery have been significant to focus the direction of health care reform,” Leahy wrote in Young’s nomination.

Board members participate in an off-site retreat twice a year in which they analyze the decisions they’ve made and prepare for what they expect in the future.

“There’s probably not anything I like better than strategic planning,” he says. “I believe you invent your own future and if you spend time anticipating what’s ahead, you don’t feel as if you’re reacting. You feel like you’re leading in a proactive way.”

That commitment has allowed Summit to grow at a manageable pace.

“We were not willing to grow at a pace that was not consistent with the level of service we wanted to provide,” Young says. “Now we have a much more comprehensive vision of how we might impact health care in our region and, perhaps, even on a national scale.”

In July, Summit subsidiary Summit Health Solutions was accepted as an Accountable Care Organization in the Medicare Shared Savings Program, part of the industry changes resulting from the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Summit invested about $1 million in the new health care model that includes assigning to elderly patients “care coordinators,” who work with the patients, caregivers and medical staff on health and lifestyle needs. A care coordinator, for example, would ensure that medicines prescribed by different providers do not adversely interact.

The Affordable Care Act envisions such an approach will result in a savings to Medicare, and is providing incentives to Accountable Care Organizations, like Summit, that implement it. Summit has expanded on the government’s intention by using the model with all its elderly patients.

Summit is the largest ACO of five approved in Tennessee. Its partners are Covenant Health and Tennova Healthcare.

“Summit Health Solutions has deployed and is now operating one of the most comprehensive, evidence-based Care Coordination programs in the nation,” Young says. “We have gained national recognition as a leader among our peers and we’re operationally far ahead of our peers.”

Young says the organization has demonstrated value beyond its original contract.

“We’re proving how savings can be shown through quality measures, something of great value as health care transitions to providers being paid for value instead of volume,” he says. “As we continue to refine our focus to care coordination and physician engagement, we’re clearly showing that we’re well on our way to achieving the goal of better care, lower cost. We will ultimately set the standard as our peers, and the nation, will continue to look at our progress and success.”

Health care reform is also creating a platform that allows groups like Summit to be more collaborative and share more information than ever before. “As a result of that, we’re working together better as a collective team,” he says.

Summit has also been a leader in adopting electronic prescriptions, digitizing medical records, developing one of the largest hospitalist programs in the country and seeking recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

“We are raising the bar as it relates to quality of care (by volunteering to undergo) rigorous review by third parties to prove to our marketplace that we are the best in what we do,” he says.

The organization is a growing employer, with the ACO designation alone leading to the creation of 40 jobs.

“We’ve made a significant impact in bringing a very creative class of people who are highly competent professionals and bring well-paying jobs in our marketplace,” he says.

In keeping with Summit’s expectation that its executives volunteer their time and expertise within their communities, Young has been a staunch supporter of Leadership Knoxville since before his membership in the 2003 class. He has served and led several committees within the organization and will serve as its chair in 2014, the organization’s 30th anniversary. “We are celebrating the accomplishments of the numerous folks who have been inspired to make a community difference because of their experiences with Leadership Knoxville,” he says.

Young sees his work with Summit as dovetailing with Leadership Knoxville in that both are about service.

“And it can only be as successful as the community is successful,” he says. “The keys to my success are to surround myself with a fabulous, excellent physician group and leadership team — people who are committed, believe in what we do and go above and beyond what we need to do to be successful.”