Executive Spotlight Q&A: Eric McMillen, CEO of Ochsner-Baton Rouge

Photography by Don Kadair

Eric McMillen

Position: CEO, Ochsner-Baton Rouge

Age: 45

Family: Fiancée and two children

Hometown: Lanse Aux Pailles, Louisiana

Education: Master of Business Administration, University of Louisiana at Lafayette; Bachelor of Science in Rehabilitation Services, Louisiana State University Medical Center-New Orleans; Managing Healthcare Delivery Modules I, II, II, Harvard Business School

What was your very first job, and what was the biggest takeaway from the experience?

Growing up in a rural area, many of the jobs were labor intensive. My first job was helping my father harvest crawfish until I was ready for college. It taught me the value of working hard for what you earn.

What led you to choose to go into the medical field?

The medical field directly impacts people’s lives and that is extremely rewarding. My degree is in Rehabilitation Services, but the business side of health care is where I can have the most impact. The challenge of staying ahead of national trends and bringing unique services to the market are big reasons why I chose this field.

What is one thing about your job that might surprise people?

Most people don’t realize that any CEO or leader relies heavily on the team around them. Ochsner-Baton Rouge’s success is a direct result of having a dedicated and talented team of people of all levels and roles to assist in the decisions we make. These decisions affect entire communities, so we want to make sure to incorporate input from everyone in our organization.

How do you motivate and reward the employees you oversee?

Our employees are talented enough to work anywhere, but they choose Ochsner. They show up day-in and day-out and make a positive difference in people’s lives. I am extremely grateful for that. Whether it’s a hand-written thank you note to those employees and leaders who have gone the extra mile or another form of public recognition for a job well done, it is crucial to show how appreciative Ochsner is for their service. We view these programs as essential because they provide team members with the recognition that they deserve.

Ochsner has made some big announcements in recent years in Baton Rouge and appears to be making a play to play a larger role in local healthcare industry. What are Ochsner’s long-term strategy and goals in the Baton Rouge market?  

At Ochsner, we are always looking for ways to bring care closer to home for our patients and to improve the overall health of the surrounding parishes.  As an example, our recently opened Cancer Center features clinic offices, chemotherapy and radiation oncology and is available to patients throughout our region. We are also investing more than $100 million to expand our services, increasing primary and specialty care in the areas that need it and offering extended hour appointments to improve convenience for our patients. It’s all centered on bringing care closer to home. And with MyOchsner, patients have access to their medical records, can communicate with their physicians and make online appointments. This helps families balance the need for medical care with their work and family schedules. Another important component is to continually improve the technology needed to make the healthcare experience more convenient for patients. Epic, our electronic medical record system, follows your care anywhere in the Ochsner system, regardless of what physician you see and what clinic you visit. Patients tells us how much of a benefit that is for them.

Why is it important to attract new physicians to the region?

Overall, there is a shortage of physicians across the country and here in Baton Rouge is no different. As our population increases, hiring new physicians is extremely important to keep up with the need for services over the next decade and beyond.  

Why does Ochsner feel it’s important to be an active part of the Baton Rouge Health District?

Coordinated care and sharing best practices is vital to the Baton Rouge community.  The BR Health District is assisting in this by working with the healthcare providers here to look at integrating healthcare with the goal of lowering healthcare costs.  Providers have a common goal to work together to improve healthcare, not only here in Baton Rouge, but across the entire state.

What is the greatest personal or professional obstacle you have overcome, and how did you do it?

In 2008, Ochsner acquired Summit Hospital. At the time, Summit Hospital did not have the best reputation of hospitals in the area. As an organization, we reviewed the entire patient experience and invested in facilities and technology. Our staff challenged itself to raise the bar to produce better outcomes and to ensure compassionate care was delivered each and every time. Patients have choices for their healthcare, and we want them to choose Ochsner. Less than 10 years later, the care provided at Ochsner Medical Center-Baton Rouge ranks among the top in the nation as reported by independent organizations such as Truven Health, Becker’s, CareChex and Leapfrog. In fact, we are one of only 10 hospitals in the entire country to receive the 2017 Everest Award for quality and performance. This culture of “quality and safety first” could not have been possible without our dedicated physician team and staff who are continually focused on the patient.

Who inspires you and why?

My parents have always been such an inspiration to me. They both worked very hard all of their lives. They also continually encouraged me and my siblings to care about getting an education and taught the importance of having a job we enjoy going to every day. Because of them, I strive to be a good father to my kids just like they were to me.

What other leadership roles or volunteer efforts are you involved in?

I am a board member of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber of Commerce, the Livingston Parish Economic Development Council and also involved in the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative and the Baton Rouge Health District. Additionally, I’m a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Where are your favorite things to do in your free time? 

I enjoy spending time with my family, and being outdoors. Hunting, fishing and grilling are some of my favorite pastimes.

You’re taking me out to lunch in Baton Rouge. Where are we going?

J. Alexander’s. It’s very convenient, and they have a great Thai Kai salad there.

What’s your usual morning routine to get your day off to a good start?

Before work every morning, I’m on the treadmill by 5:30 a.m. catching up on the day’s news and sports. After that, it’s getting ready for the day.

You just finished a major project or marked a big milestone at Ochsner. What lies ahead?

At Ochsner, we realize that the population of the Baton Rouge area is continuing to grow, so we always identify and plan on new ways to provide care closer to home for our patients. We are excited to offer a new medical office building, micro-hospital and surgical center along the Interstate 10/Bluebonnet/Siegen corridor scheduled for completion by 2019.

What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken, and what’s the next vacation you’re planning?

I took my family on a Disney Cruise last year to Tortola and the British Virgin Islands. The next vacation down the line is hopefully Hawaii.

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