Billy Hayes

Q&A with Billy Hayes, CEO of Northside Hospital Cherokee

January 31, 2017
HealthCare Business News recently interviewed Billy Hayes to find out more about his background and the soon-to-be-opened new Northside Hospital Cherokee.

HCB News: What inspired you to get involved in health care?
When I was first starting out in my career, I never envisioned myself entering the realm of health care. My background and education were firmly planted in accounting. However, after spending a few years in accounting positions in other industries, and a bit of arm-twisting from my mother and sister, who both work in health care, I finally decided to give it a chance. And I haven’t looked back since.

HCB News: How long has the process taken to open the new facility?
I have been at Northside Hospital Cherokee for 12 years, and since my arrival we’ve been working toward this goal. Actual planning has taken four years. We started by addressing accessibility needs, working with the State DOT to build a four-lane highway that connected I-575 to the new site location. Once the road was complete, we laid the groundwork for the infrastructure and site work. Construction of the replacement facility began in March 2015, and we are on schedule for a [May] 2017 opening date.

HCB News: What was the impetus behind opening the new facility?
Cherokee County is one of Georgia’s five fastest growing counties by population. The original Cherokee Hospital facility was opened over 50 years ago in 1962, and is undersized in terms of its ability to meet the population’s future needs.

HCB News: What were the biggest challenges you faced to get the facility built?
There were, and still are, many challenges in constructing a replacement hospital, especially when you consider the build began in the midst of a recession. Understanding your community needs, knowing the right time to start, staying within budget, preparing for potential government actions and anticipating economic recovery are just a few of the daily concerns the team and myself faced during the process.

HCB News: Are there any unique features about the hospital’s campus?
Building a hospital from the ground up has given Northside staff the opportunity to think about efficient floor plans and layouts, accessibility from major roadways and space to grow, if needed, and aesthetic ideas borrowed from hotels for a more comfortable patient experience. Three features are important to note in those respects:

• Wayfinding will also be much easier than in traditional hospitals. The recurrent design of nurse stations as the “anchor,” along with visual color cues, will assist with departmental and floor changes.
• The replacement facility will have excellent visibility from major roads and thoroughfares, and there will be ample room for further expansion as the community’s needs grow. The new facility’s footprint is currently 50 acres of a 300-acre lot.
• Our patient rooms are specifically designed to hide visual clutter. The replacement facility will include in-room sleeping accommodations, storage for personal belongings, nursing boards, handrails from bed to toilet room and roll-in showers.
HCB News: Are there any specialties the hospital will focus on?
It’s important to note that the new Northside Hospital Cherokee is, in fact, a replacement hospital, meaning all specialties and services offered at the previous location will be available at the new facility. However, since the replacement hospital is significantly larger than the current one, we will be able to expand services for cancer care through Northside Hospital’s Cancer Institute, orthopedics and surgery services.

HCB News: What is your patient demographic like?
As a nonprofit hospital, Northside Cherokee treats patients from all walks of life, regardless of financial status or background. We believe that the new facility is an opportunity to expand certain service lines for our existing patient base and also to connect with new demographics in north Georgia, west metro Atlanta and the surrounding areas.

HCB News: Is there any state-of-the-art technology — either medical equipment or health IT technology — at Northside Hospital Cherokee that you’d like to talk about?
The new facility will employ a pharmaceutical robot called ROBOT-Rx from Aesynt. It will help our pharmacists prevent medication errors, reduce pharmacy labor and lower medication inventory. It will also automate medication storage, selection, return and restocking functions, while supporting accuracy, control and compliance. Most importantly, the robot will help eliminate time-consuming tasks for Northside pharmacists, freeing time to focus on clinical care.

HCB News: How did you go about getting the new facility staffed? What’s attracting employees?
We have been actively recruiting for physicians, nurses and administrative staff. Luckily for us, Georgia and Cherokee County are attractive places to live and work, given the warm temperatures, low cost of living and easy access to the comfort of the city.

HCB News: Are there any concerns about the likely repeal of all or some of the Affordable Care Act?
Whenever administration change occurs at the federal or state level, there will always be some apprehension about future health care legislation. I am optimistic that the incoming administration understands the needs and concerns of both health care providers and patients, and will work to meet the needs of both.

HCB News: How do you think health care will change in the next decade?
I think we will continue to see consolidation among hospital systems as they continue to acquire physician practices and outpatient centers. However, I think smaller hospitals and hospital systems will struggle to sustain operations in the face of increasing government regulations and the growing presence of managed care organizations.