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Wednesday, Aug 17, 2022
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Health Care Special Report: Bedside Tales

Steven Valentine, 61, has had a front seat for the technological revolution in U.S. health care. The resident of Bell Canyon is president of Camden Group, an El Segundo consulting firm he has grown from a staff of six to some 100 employees at offices nationwide. Valentine, who has a master’s in public administration and a certification in health services administration from USC, spoke to the Business Journal about the changes, why health care prices only seem to go up and why there will be fewer hospitals in the future. Question: What are the most immediate changes hospital patients are experiencing? Answer: The first is electronic medical records. Now, when a patient sees a doctor, the doctor is inputting into a computer all the information that can be shared with other care professionals. What does this mean for the hospital? For administrators, it’s investing in the technology. All of these upgrades cost a lot of money. In addition, hospitals will need to undergo renovations to be more seismically compliant with California requirements. That will also lead to less hospitals. Less hospitals? The renovations are a huge capital investment. Yes, there may be longer waits at hospitals, but we will also have less catastrophic events as mobile medicine helps doctors keep betters tabs on their patients. What do you mean? The mobile technology today doesn’t even scratch the surface. In the future, people will load data from their phones that doctors will have access to. This will lead to e-visits where a doctor could have live vitals on a patient from their own home. How have these changes affected the kinds of projects you are working on? When I started, hospitals were constrained by the government wanting to control costs. If a hospital wanted a CT scanner, they had to get government approval. If a hospital wanted to run an emergency room, they needed approval. So I spent a lot of time working on getting those approvals. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has a vision of a connected facility that can speed and individualize treatments in the near future. Is that a possibility or an entrepreneur’s dream? It’s a big idea. And the thing with entrepreneurs is they often have great vision, but need to wait for economics to catch up. It’s a possibility, but it’s years and years away. Do you think ObamaCare will ever live up to its promise of efficient, effective and universal care? ObamaCare has done a lot of good things. It helped get insurance for some people that needed it, but it also has been a pain for a lot of people who already had insurance and needed to change plans or doctors. What would live up to expectation? Well, I think a lot of people expected free insurance, as if the government was just going to give them insurance. I think it’s nearly impossible to please everyone because you have certain people that expect free insurance, certain people that are willing to pay and then certain people who want to be left alone and are good with what they have. Why do you believe health care prices are so high? There’s a lot that goes into it. Labor is extremely expensive. Hospitals are staffed by highly educated and trained people. Secondly, organized labor has done well at requiring certain staffing levels, so there are a lot of these high-cost people working at any time. Can you give a particularly egregious example of health care overcharging you know of personally? I personally can’t, but you hear the stories of $10 for a band aid or $1,000 for an emergency room visit. But people don’t realize that comes from the costs to run the hospital. A hospital has to have the emergency room fully equipped and staffed with people 24/7. What about minimally invasive surgery with quicker recovery times and fewer side effects. Why haven’t these developments resulted in lower prices? They actually did drop at the beginning, but overall prices in the industry have risen. As hospitals cost much more to build, own and operate, that has contributed. Also inflation. How will advances in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries affect consumers? Generics have obviously been a great help at saving the consumer and the hospital money, but there are so many more drugs available now. And no one will invest in the new drugs if they can’t get a return on investment. Same with inventions. Is it difficult being a health care consultant when you are not a trained doctor? Not really. Doctors are usually pretty easy to engage with. Does it matter you don’t talk doctors’ language or have you taught yourself enough over the years to get by? Over the years you pick some up. But they rely on me for my expertise and I really on them for theirs. Have you ever been a hospital patient and what was that like? I have never been hospitalized. Is health care consulting a growing field? Would you recommend young people get into it? It’s a lot of work. Variety becomes the spice of your life. For someone looking for a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job behind a desk, it may not be the best. You have to be passionate and willing to put in the hours and all the time. I take calls on a Sunday night sometimes and work late when I travel. Describe your typical day. I usually wake up at 4 a.m. and go play racquetball. I get to the office around 7 a.m. and will have conference calls, meetings and other appointments. I try to get out by 6 p.m., but on days I travel it can run till 9 p.m. If you had to do anything different in your career, what would it have been? You may not believe it, but nothing. I consider myself to be one of the most fortunate people in the world to have worked in this field and grown Camden from a small company in Torrance with six employees to one of the biggest health care consulting firms in the country. I wouldn’t change anything. What do you do to relax? I like golfing with my wife. That can take up Saturday and Sunday mornings. I also like being outdoors. We travel up to Mammoth Mountain for skiing and hiking. And I live in Bell Canyon and it can be very rural and relaxing to be outdoors nearby. I also love wine. One last question, tell the truth. Do you get anxious when you go to the doctor? No, not at all. I usually have a good understanding of what’s going on. And once I talk to the doctors, they can tell that I know what I am talking about. This interview has been edited for space and clarity. Steven Valentine Title: President Company: The Camden Group, El Segundo Born: Oct 2, 1953, Santa Monica Education: bachelor’s in Health Sciences from San Diego State University, master’s in public administration and certified in health services administration from USC. Career Turning Point: Joining the Camden Group and building it from 6 consulting staff to a national consulting firm with over 100 employees and offices located across the country. Most Influential Person: Bill Simpson at National Medical Enterprises. “He spent lots of time with me teaching me about healthcare, how to analyze information relevant to healthcare, gave me opportunity, believed in me.” Personal: Lives in Bell Canyon with wife Martyann. Has two daughters and one grandchild. Hobbies: Golfing, racquetball and skiing. Traveling to Cabo San Lucas and Mammoth Mountain.

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