MUSC Health Midlands feels the momentum in finance, service and quality care wins

April 08, 2024
Outdoor view of a hospital with a flag out front.
MUSC Health Columbia Medical Center Downtown. Photo by Julie Taylor

The MUSC Health-Midlands Division is enjoying the kind of momentum hospital leaders elsewhere might envy. “This is not happening very many places across the country in a time period where health care is getting tougher, and places and margins and financial sustainability is going down. We're doing the opposite at a scale that you don’t see in many places these days,” said CEO Matthew Littlejohn.

The Midlands Division, which includes hospitals in downtown ColumbiaNortheast Columbia and Kershaw and an emergency and imaging site in Fairfield County, has “moved the financial needle in a major way in the past year,” Littlejohn said, referring to an increase in revenue and an increased discipline in costs while offering more services and great patient satisfaction. “So it is a big deal.”

MUSC bought the four sites in 2021. Leaders said it was part of the Medical University of South Carolina’s mission to serve patients throughout the state, establishing a footprint not only in cities but also communities with a rural feel, such as Kershaw.

But the purchases weren’t intended to maintain the status quo. Littlejohn said the hospitals were ripe for improvement. That has led to significant expansions in services so people can get more care close to home. 

Headshot of Matthew Littlejohn. 
Matthew Littlejohn

“A lot of what we’ve been doing in the Midlands is becoming more well-rounded and balanced as an organization. So, we’ve added new options for patients that historically have not been here, whether it be urology, colorectal surgery, retina surgery, plastic surgery. That’s all new for us.”

Littlejohn said the Midlands team has also cultivated a culture of discipline when it comes to measuring success. “That’s really helped us get in a groove.”

Littlejohn, who previously served as network CEO at Community Health Systems in Tennessee and director of strategic planning and project management at Bon Secours Health System in Greenville, South Carolina, has found his own groove back in his hometown. 

“I feel like coming into Columbia, being from Columbia, it’s one degree of separation. I feel like everybody here knows me or knows a friend or knows my family. And I think that has caused the team to buy into change quickly and get on board with what we’re asking them to do. It’s allowed us to expedite this improvement plan.”

That plan involved developing a unified vision of what the hospitals could and should be doing to serve their communities and patients best. “I think now, if you were to ask any of our leaders, they know exactly what success looks like for their area.”

Midlands’ success is reflected in recognition. For example, MUSC Health Columbia Medical Center Downtown is considered high-performing on a national scale in the areas of heart failure and hip replacement by U.S. News & World Report.

Littlejohn said the other Midlands sites are doing great, too. “Columbia Medical Center Northeast and Kershaw Medical Center have also seen a lot of success. And they’re focused on all the right things as well.”

He’s proud to see hospitals in the area he grew up in doing so well. After all, he knows some of the patients who use them. 

And Littlejohn has a message for the public. “What we want patients to know is that we are very focused on providing the highest-quality care. And at the end of the day, they don’t care that volumes are growing and finances are improving. I think what patients care about is quality.”

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