Steward CEO promises a 'Southwest Airlines' approach to medicine

Keep your eye on Steward Health Care System CEO, Dr. Ralph de la Torre. According to an in-depth, sometimes fawning Boston Globe profile, he is poised to become one of the most influential players in Massachusetts' medical industrial complex. And it's possible that he may create a model that gets picked up nationally.

He has promised to create a "Southwest Airlines" approach to medicine by building a huge network of lower-cost high-quality community hospitals that could be replicated elsewhere in the country. "My goal is to fix healthcare," he said.

What he creates would be a departure from what other large hospital systems like Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic have created, he said at a healthcare conference in January.

De la Torre already has managed to achieve more than most. After a decade as a cardiac surgeon, he became CEO of the struggling Caritas Christi hospital chain. Perhaps his biggest achievement of the past year was persuading Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity company, to buy a group of community hospitals that were drowning in debt, while simultaneously getting something out of the deal for all of the stakeholders, which included the SEIU and the archdiocese. Next on the agenda, he wants to create a highly integrated accountable care organization by investing in IT and the bricks-and-mortar hospitals.

To learn more:
- read the Boston Globe profile