CEO Report – Adding Value to Your Membership

Posted on March 01, 2021

“If people like you, they’ll listen to you.  But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.”
― Zig Ziglar

MHA CEO Brian PetersSeveral months ago, I celebrated my 30th anniversary with the MHA. As you can imagine, the operating environment for our association has changed dramatically from the day I first walked in the door as an intern working for legendary MHA President Spencer Johnson. I shared an office with another intern by the name of Amy Barkholz, who of course is now our MHA General Counsel. Amy and I used typewriters to compose memos, sharing a bottle of white-out to correct any mistakes (she didn’t make many, but I sure did). There was no email, no voicemail, no internet and no Zoom calls. Smoking was permitted just about everywhere, including inside the MHA offices. Different times for sure.

As I reflect on the last few decades, it is clear to me that one of the MHA’s strengths has been a diversified business model. And as I look to the future, there is no doubt that this diversified model will become even more important. Allow me to explain.

The MHA is widely known as an advocacy organization and, by any metric, we have consistently been among the very best in this regard. Whether it is the legislative, regulatory or legal domain — at both the state and federal levels — we have the connections, experience and clout to make good things happen for our members and the patients and communities they serve. 

But not every challenge confronted by hospitals and health systems lends itself (at least not solely) to a solution in the public policy arena. In a military situation, sometimes you need the Army, sometimes the Navy, sometimes the Air Force (or the Marine Corps or Coast Guard)  — and sometimes you need all the above, working closely together in harmony. In our world, the equivalent “three-legged stool” is the traditional 501(c)6 trade association (or as Spence used to call it, the “junkyard dog” always advocating for our members), but also a 501(c)3 nonprofit arm — the MHA Health Foundation and MHA Keystone Center, and a for-profit arm known as the MHA Service Corporation (MHASC).   

Through the Foundation, we have been able to provide outstanding educational programming, including issue-specific webinars, major conferences and events, an Excellence in Governance Fellowship and a Healthcare Leadership Academy. Through the Keystone Center, we have been able to provide nationally and internationally renowned leadership in the field of safety and quality improvement. And through the Service Corporation, we have been able to meet the unemployment compensation needs of our members through our Unemployment Compensation Program (UCP) and their healthcare data needs through our Data Services division. More recently, our Endorsed Business Partner Program has created even more capacity to meet new challenges in the healthcare operating environment.

To be more specific, since the pandemic began and caused staffing upheaval, the UCP has seen a dramatic increase in the number of cases filed. Representing over 300 employers in Michigan and numerous other states, the UCP last year alone processed over 70,000 unemployment claims, and saved client organizations tens of millions of dollars, while directly addressing the unemployment fraud that has become rampant in Michigan and throughout the country.

Our Data Services division is home to four decades of hospital data with the Michigan Inpatient Database and Michigan Outpatient Database. Their flagship products — Data Koala and Community Benefits Tracker — are used by more than 500 healthcare entities nationwide to formulate market strategies, track community benefits and improve care quality. The Data Services team has also played an integral role in our state’s pandemic response, working directly with our members and the state to collect and compile key data metrics that are used to guide our state’s strategy and response to the spread of COVID-19.

The launch of the MHA Endorsed Business Partner Program in 2018 was an important step in identifying business partners for our member hospitals and health systems that provide the highest quality products and services in key strategic areas, including staffing, workplace safety, financial services, 340-B drug program management and more. We currently have 14 business partners that have been carefully and thoroughly evaluated, ready to work with our members to address some of the most pressing issues of the day.

Lastly, as an association we obviously create and disseminate a very large number of communications, ranging from advocacy reports to event invitations and much more. Years ago, we decided that, rather than contract for this work to be done off-site, we would not only keep this business in-house, but look to serve the needs of our members as well (after all, every hospital has numerous events and annual fundraising galas, and we have produced the materials for more than a few). Today, we offer our world-class Graphic Design & Print Services to both our association members and a very large and growing list of external clients that includes the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. We have even handled the governor’s holiday cards! I consistently receive positive feedback from clients related to the quality, pricing and customer service that our team provides in this space — and I am confident that they are the best in the business. 

Bringing all this together: think about the issue of workplace violence — a growing problem whereby nurses and other front-line caregivers are put in harm’s way. We attempted to address this problem through our advocacy arm, supporting legislation that would create new penalties for those who commit acts of violence in a healthcare setting. But we also addressed it through the Foundation, offering educational programming that featured expert speakers and case studies, and through the MHASC, as MHA Endorsed Business Partner HSS provides violence prevention consulting services tailored specifically to hospitals. Because we know that one-size-fits-all legislative mandates are usually not the optimal way to govern the delivery of healthcare, we have been able to lift up the extraordinary work of the Keystone Center as a more effective path forward to improve patient safety for Michiganders. The examples of the importance of the “three-legged stool” could fill far more space than this column will allow, but you get the point.

But wait — there’s more! Not only do our members benefit from our diversified business model in the ways described above, but because these other arms of the MHA continue to generate their own revenue streams, they have helped to ensure a strong, effective association while eliminating the need for sizeable dues increases. In fact, MHA dues today represent a significantly smaller portion of our member hospitals’ total expenses than they did back when Amy and I were wrestling with typewriters and white-out.

Across the entire MHA enterprise, we are committed to our shared mission to advance the health of individuals and communities. And we are also committed to a culture of trust. When you do business with us, you are doing business with an organization that has now been around for over a hundred years.  Now more than ever, I can assure you that our entire team understands that we must demonstrate value and earn the trust of our members and clients, every single day, in everything we do. 

And I have never been prouder of them for doing exactly that.

As always, I welcome your thoughts. 


  • CEO Report – Adding Value to Your Membership

Tags: MHA Keystone Center, Brian Peters, Amy Barkholz, Data Services, Spencer Johnson, MHA Service Corporation, MHA Foundation, Unemployment Compensation Program, Endorsed Business Partner Program

Posted in: MHA Rounds

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