KFNN with Bob Roth and Ron Guziak

Bob Roth and Ron Guziak in the KFNN studio.

Last week, Sun Health President & CEO Ron Guziak was a guest on KFNN radio’s Health Futures program, joining host Bob Roth to discuss continuing care retirement communities, Sun Health Foundation, Care Transitions, the Banner Health – Sun Health relationship and the future of Sun Health.

“Our objective is this: whatever you want to be, where you want to call home, we will help you be safe and comfortable in an environment that best meets your needs.”

(Listen to the full podcast here or read the transcript below.)



BOB: Good afternoon, my name is Bob Roth and you are listening to Health Futures: Taking Stock In You–your weekly show right here on Radio 15 10 AM, 99.3 FM and MoneyRadio1510.com. I want to talk about health futures. This is a show that’s been on the air now for 19 months, a long time, and we’ve been bringing in some great guests to you in health care or health-related professions. If you are just tuning in for the very first time, this show is about how our aging adults population can live a healthier, happier life.

I can’t do the show without bringing an extraordinary guest on to talk about many services and resources we have in our community. Our guest today is no exception. He is an invaluable resource to our community and I want to take a second to welcome Ron Guziak from Sun Health Services. Welcome to the show, Ron.

RON: Thank you, Bob! I love the introduction and living longer, happier and healthier is so close to our vision for Sun Health to be the leading advocate for healthy living. We are on the same page with what we’re trying to promote and how we are trying to use our companies to promote those aspects for seniors, but individuals of all ages.

BOB: I have the opportunity to write for a monthly publication called ”Loving Life After 50” and you know it’s interesting, because I wrote in this article to forget nursing homes in 55+ communities–older adults really don’t want them.

They want to age in place.

No sooner that came out then I received a phone call from a 93-year-old gentlemen in Lake Westfall. He listens in Sun City West and told me, “I take offense to that.” I said, “What do you take offense to?” He said 55+ communities. “My wife and I chose to live in one of those for 25 years and that is our home.”

He’s exactly right and I wanted just to share this with you, Ron. That is really what Sun Health Services does. You have the ability for aging adults to age successful in place, in their homes and I would love for you to share a little bit about Sun Health Services with our listening audience.

RON: Thank you for that question, so we look at what you have just been describing in two ways;

  1. We have an operating business that provides an option for people who want to be in a tighter- knit community, called Continuing Care Retirement Communities.
  2. And then we also have the health services and wellness programs that we provide to the broader communities of Sun City and Sun City West (primarily Sun City Grand and the surrounding areas) that focus on health and wellness.

So our objective is this: whatever your choice where you want to be, where you want to call home, we will help you be as safe and as comfortable in an environment that best meet your needs.

We know that surveys around the country suggest that seniors–whomever we want to call a senior–the surveys indicate that 90% of older people want to stay in their home, whether it’s in an age-related community or the original homestead living near their family. Where to live is a personal choice, but there does come a time when there’s a need for specialized services, specialize care, care coordination… Not just the health care aspect, but the other aspects of being safe and comfortable, and in a secure environment.

Sometimes this can be provided in their personal residence and other times, people choose to look for a campus of like-minded individuals where a lot of the services are right at their fingertips, such as our campuses: Grandview Terrace, The Colonnade and La Loma Village. I like to tell people who are shopping our continued care communities that “you will never have to call the plumber again.” There are some great advantages to moving into our campus where you’re really well cared for.

BOB: You know Sun Health has been a fixture of the Western society–or should I say the Northwestern quarter for Arizona, Maricopa County–for a long time. Its beginnings were deeply rooted with Del Webb’s creation of Sun City back in the 1960s. When you think about where you’ve come since the 1960s, the beginnings of Sun Health and what you have accomplished with Sun Health Senior Living, community wellness and more, it’s been nothing short of phenomenal.

RON: It’s a great story and a great transition from one type of business operation to another. I’ll be glad to share the excitement of what this means now to the residents that we cherish as friends and neighbors.

BOB: Ron, you’ve had a chance over the last five years to really learn about this great little town that was created by Del Webb and this community, because it really is a tightly-knit community and I would really love for you to share with our listening audience about Sun City and Sun Health.

RON: And so obviously very tightly tied to the community. Back in the late 60’s, there was a movement of residents realizing they needed health care services, because the population had grown so much. It really was quite a hike from Sun City into the downtown Phoenix area to get health care services. The Boswell family that owned all the land that Del Webb built on donated significant dollars, and thus we have the Boswell Hospital name. It was the first hospital facility built and opened in 1970.

A decade later, we added Sun Health Corporation, added to Del Webb Hospital and Sun City West as their communities continue to grow. Through that time period from the 70’s, 80’s and into the 90’s, every imaginative service you could develop in a sophisticated healthcare system was added to the Sun Health Corporation. With Medicare as the primary funder, the organization realized there were going to be some major hurdles moving forward. We were fortunate, the board was fortunate, to find an incredible operating partner, Banner Health. Through an acquisition, they changed the complexity of Sun Health into a new organization, which gave over the responsibility of taking the hospitals that has been developed–and we’re such a cherished aspect of the community that the community really built from the ground up with a lot of philanthropy–that got turned over to Banner Health.

Banner Health has done a great job operating the hospitals, but it created a whole new business opportunity for Sun Health and, as a result, we’re almost a 50-year-old company that we have basically re-created in the last several years. This has given us the opportunity to have mergers and acquisitions of the senior living communities mentioned: Grandview Terrace, The Colonnade and La Loma Village.

It’s also allowed us to begin to use our resources in a very unique way to find missing links and gaps in services that individuals would benefit from. Not just health care provider services, but wellness services. We now have a community education program with about 2,000 people on a monthly basis walking through our education programs at our Centers for Health and Wellbeing. We are very proud of how we’ve done that outreach and how, through that process, we’re teaching people to care for their health.

BOB: That is something you do for yourself?

RON: When you receive health care, that’s something that somebody does to you. We want people to care for their health, they can do it for themselves and that’s a great mission that we have. It’s not easy, but we are very focused on that.

BOB: When you sit down and think about Sun Health, let’s just take the residents of Sun City, for example–they are informed enough that they want to live a healthier, more active life, the 55+ communities if you would–it’s not just a “go and sit” community. They are very active.

RON: I was with a friend, a 95-year-old friend yesterday, and her passion is lawn bowling. She was very upset, because in the past 2 or 3 months she had a hell of a health issue where she was not able to participate in the sport. Of course, summertime probably limits it with the heat, but she was very proud telling me that she was going to be able to get back on to the lawn bowling court in another few days. She showing up and, at 95, what a great idea that I can do whatever I want to do, just the same way I did it when I was 75 or 55 or 45, and enjoy my friends in the competition and have that as an outlet. There are so many examples of things like that, obviously there’s a golf course, there are recreation centers and everything in between in those communities.

BOB: But to my point, they have chosen to live there because that’s what they want. They want a healthier happier life. Del Webb had a great social experiment, that is basically what it was,  moving all these people into this one concentrated area. When you look at Sun City, it shouldn’t surprise you, but 74.9%, 75% are 65 and older in Sun City and that was the concept behind it. It was a 55+ community chosen for the socialization, for the activities. When you sit down and think about it, Sun Health Senior Living is perfectly in that space because you have created these communities to offer the same type of vision that Webb had. Correct?

RON: The housing is there and the rec centers and all of that, but there does come a time–usually in the late 70’s or early 80’s—where many people say, “You know, I’ve had an incident, a health incident, but I really like not to have to worry about the yard, the pool, the roof of the house, all the utilities.” And that’s the magic of the Continuing Care Retirement Communities. We like to think of it is all governed by the Department of Insurance, so here’s the concept: most insurance that we buy, we hope we never use. We don’t want to use our car insurance, because that means we had an accident. We don’t really want to use our health insurance, because that means we have an illness. We don’t really want to use our life insurance, because that really goes to somebody else, not us. When you come into a Continuing Care Retirement Community, you’re essentially buying insurance that you’re going to use for yourself from day one.

Now, think about that as a benefit, as opposed to the other types of insurance that we spend a lot of dollars on, but hope we don’t have to use the benefits.

Our Continuing Care Retirement Communities are a great option for people who are ready for that independent lifestyle in a very safe, secure, comfortable environment.

BOB: Alright, you and I are in this field, so we know what Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) means, for the listeners here listening today, explain that to them, so that they can fully grasp that. I love how you talked about it, you made an analogy about insurance, because you are really only talking about moving once, correct?

RON: Correct, Continuing Care Retirement Communities are a product governed by the Department of Insurance, so that’s the safety factor that we have to provide to the state that we’re able to actually provide this offering. A resident who lives with us on a campus gets a place to live, food service, housekeeping, the utilities–basically, they are moving into an apartment with their own furniture. Beyond that, life is pretty simple in terms of requirements. There’s a car service that can take them to their doctor appointments, there are activities directors and a beautiful clubhouse activity center, so there are ways for them to  socialize with friends. It really creates a whole different atmosphere for an individual and a lot of it is around sociability, but it’s also a comfortable safety net. For the family, the children of these individuals, it provides an  environment they know their parents will be well-cared for and, as their health changes, they can moved to skilled nursing, memory care or custodial care as part of the process. That’s the commitment that we have as part of the continuing care.

BOB: Typically families–and I’m talking about husband-and-wife coming together–if one progresses into one of the other areas (assisted living or skilled nursing), the beauty of continued care is the other spouse is still there on campus and they can be frequently visit. They can be a part of it until they get better and come back home.

RON: That’s true, we see that often. That’s a blessing to the individuals and it’s a blessing to the extended family, knowing that the parents are cared for.

BOB: I really want to talk about food services, because I’m a foodie and I know that you’ve got some incredible chefs at your senior living communities, Ron, because I’ve had some meals they have prepared. Talk to us a little bit about the food services at those communities.

RON: Bob, we know two things; one of the greatest satisfiers is a great meal and one of the greatest dissatisfiers is a bad meal. So we only have one choice, we have to have great meals! I eat at all three campuses on a periodic basis and we do have some great innovative chefs. It’s not a cafeteria where you can prepare the same cycle of food over and over and over again. The residents really want variety. They want quality and healthy menus and those are the things we really focus on. It’s a big deal for us to have a variety of options for the residents and a high quality of meal service that we take great pride in. We make sure we’re at the top of our game in that area. It’s very, very important.

BOB: Well, I know that you’ve been at the home for a little more than five years now and you’ve made a huge transformation. Ron, I want the listening audience to learn a little bit about you and how you came to Sun Health, and a little bit about your background, because you are not from Arizona. Tell us about Ron Guziak.

RON: Some of my background might be a little boring, Bob, but I will touch on a couple things. My first job out of college, I was actually sports information director at a small university in New England. It was a Monday and our game was on Saturday, I had never been in a press-box before and it was my first year on the job. My boss took me up there and said, “this is what’s going to happen on Saturday. We won our first game by one point into the season and in the last home game of an undefeated season, we had representatives from all the major New England papers, from Boston to Hartford to New York Times. We had pro scouts, who assumed there must be somebody out on the field that is a good player, since the team was undefeated. It was quite an experience to have that as my first option for my initial sports activities.

I worked in healthcare in Chicago at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and administration at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital in Texas. Most of my career in healthcare was in California, with a couple of significant health systems and always in the administration, marketing, fundraising and public relations. When I heard about the opportunity at Sun Health, I thought many, many times we had created programs around serving the community and, for whatever reason, the budget just didn’t allow us to continue some of those really worthwhile programs. I understood the opportunity at Sun Health was to take the resources from the sale of hospitals, and actually create programs that we could sustain over a period of time. Our board bought into that, which is why we now have this unbelievable education program we’re offering.

We have a Care Transitions program funded by an innovation grant from CMS Medicare that it is a number one care transitions program in the country, based on their statistics that they give us, so we know we are doing a terrific job of helping people stay out of the hospital from a re-admission standpoint. We use that education back to what I said earlier about teaching people to care for their health, so once they leave the Care Transitions program, they move into the education areas of their interests and that’s where we’ve seen tremendous strides in medication management in diabetes care, in COPD, so many areas that people have a chronic issue, especially the elderly where we been able to actually change lives. It’s exciting that we can maintain those programs, because we have the financial capacity, it’s the right thing to do and it’s serving a community and serving it well.

BOB: When you talk about care transitions, the affordable care act implemented several years ago was really the impetus for so many hospitals and healthcare institutions to figure out a way to really cut back on these re-admissions. Ron, I would really love for you to share a little bit more about Care Transitions, because it is a big buzzword. It’s saving money for health plans, it’s saving money for local government, it’s saving money for the federal government and the best part of it all is that it’s providing great outcomes by making people accountable. I really would love for you to dive a little bit more in care transitions.

RON: We focus on the patients at Del Webb and Banner Boswell–two hospitals that are in the program we’re working with. We’ve adopted a best practice program that is well-known around the country and we’ve adapted it specifically for the senior population. We start with the RN at the first home visit within two days after hospital discharge and, essentially, the idea is understanding the medication, understanding the discharge instructions, checking the home for safety issues, for fall prevention, all the things that we all understand are very critical, but just making sure that that happens in a timely manner and that the individual and the family involved begin to understand the educational piece and how important it is to them to follow the discharge instructions. Basically, that’s what we are trying to do. Then it’s continual follow-up, giving them a place to call and get answers to questions as they arrive, so it’s a safety program. It’s terrific, in terms of really creating an environment that nobody really wants to go to the hospital to begin with, so why would they want to go back the second time?

The Care Transitions program has impacted hundreds of people in the two and half years that we been operating.

BOB: And you’ve got CMS supporting this and, as you said, it has the by far away the best outcomes.

RON: Life care has the strongest reduction of re-admission of any of the programs in the country, from about 20% down to six or seven percent.

BOB: It’s because of what’s happening in the home that these people are coming back into the hospital.

RON: Absolutely.

BOB: So it is really important for us to get out into the home. Sometimes, the home is the reasons why people get re-admitted to the hospital and I love the fact that you guys are really utilizing this incredible Care Transition program. The metrics that you’re getting right directly from CMS were about 20% before you started the program, now they are about six or seven percent.

RON: Correct.

BOB: And that has a lot to do with your people. When you really look at Sun Health Services as a not-for-profit, you are the commander-in-chief, you have Sun Health Senior Living, you’ve got Sun Health Community Wellness, and Sun Health Foundation?

RON: It’s a great organization. I had a  personal experience with the Care Transitions program, because five weeks ago I had a total hip replacement. When I left the hospital, they gave me about ten pieces of paper in a loose folder and said, “here, take care of yourself when you go home.” The Care Transitions nurse came to my house the day after I was discharged with a really nice binder with very specific instructions, looked around the house, checked me out and made sure my wife understood the instructions, as well.  It was a great comfort and the follow-up has continued for the 30 days. Once many people have experience with the care transitions, they admit that they need help in other areas. They’ve had an incident in the hospital, but maybe they have a chronic illness of some sort. I mentioned diabetes, so that’s how we’ve been able to transfer patients from a home experience into our Center for Health and Wellbeing. We get them into a class about their chronic condition, where they really began to understand they can actually care for their own health. They really get the message that, if they do these certain things, they are in charge and that’s a huge, huge difference. We’re glad to provide that service over and over and over again to the community.

BOB: And I wanted to just ask a question quickly, Ron… If somebody wanted to reach out, especially about the transitions program or the health and wellness program or even the senior living, who do they contact?

RON: We’ve got a great website, http://www.sunhealth.org. On that website, you can go to any of the specific areas mentioned.

BOB: I’m on there right now and it’s easy to navigate.

RON: Our Center for Health and Wellbeing has a new publication with 100,000 circulation called LiveWell. It goes out on a monthly basis and buried within that publication is about four or five pages of information specific to all of the classes that we offer through the Center for Health and Wellbeing. We just initiated that this summer, so the sunhealth.org website has a lot of information on all the things that we do, including the foundation, senior living and the Center For Health and Wellbeing.

I will talk about the Sun Health Foundation a little bit, because that’s a key part of what we do. We are the philanthropic arm for the two hospitals in Sun City, Banner Boswell Hospital and Del E. Webb Medical Center. We are still the fundraising arm for those two facilities and we are proud to be playing that role. We also continue to raise funds for the Banner Sun Health Research Institute and its body donation program. The basic science studies that go on there are world-renowned. There’s information about those programs on our website and you’ll hear about many things specifically related to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, etc. that have been world-class studies at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute.

There are ways to find out more about the foundation programs on the website. We have a gala and we have a golf tournament. Bob, you’be been very generous through your personal commitment to some of our advances and we appreciate that support, as well as so many companies in the local area and the individuals. Just to give you a scope of the support we receive, thousands of people have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the Sun Health Foundation–over $300 million over time–to support the health and wellness programs that we’ve been describing, and all the other services.

BOB: Phenomenal.

RON: So this is a rich tradition of philanthropy and volunteerism.

BOB: It takes a village and you’ve got the village, I mean you really truly do. I get to tell you the Research Institute and I had one of your research doctors on our show. You say world-class? There’s nothing that even comes close to it.

RON: Well-kept secret.

BOB: And it’s been in existence for over 30 years.

RON: Yes.

BOB: Initially I think the body donation program was just brains, but you guys are doing stuffs on hearts, you’re doing studies for Parkinson’s, and more. You get these bodies less than two hours after they passed away. Nobody collects tissue like you guys do, because the hospitals are strategically really close to the institute. One of them is right across the street. They bring the bodies in and they are able to harvest the organs, the tissues and everything that they need in an expeditious way.

RON: The brain and body expedition has been going on for a couple of decades. People actually enroll. They are tested on an ongoing basis, they receive different kinds of physicals so that they can actually understand the progression of illness, whether it’s in the body or a dementia type of issue. Out of that program, they supply researchers around the world (about 200 different researchers) on innovations tissue from the brain and body donation program. It’s a benefit to very many people and many research projects.

BOB: There is so much that I want to ask you, but I know we are coming up at the end of our show. Ron, I’m going to definitely have you back, but one thing I want to ask you is this–where do you see Sun Health five-to-ten years down the road? Any new programs that you see offering? Sun Health has gone through a metamorphosis, if you would, with what’s the best for the hospitals and focusing on the senior community, wellness and some of the other great things that you guys are doing… But where do you see us going in the future?

RON: We’re really focused on collecting data and all of the programs we offer, because that way we can launch these to a different scale and be part of a greater community of people with like-minded ideas around health and wellness. We’re pretty new at all of that, but we’re collecting a lot of information, a lot of data so that we can really show the value proposition of those programs. That’s something we’re very committed to doing in the long-term, growing the concept of health and wellness. In terms of our senior living campuses, each of our three continued care communities in Arizona are going through transitions and growth. At some point, I suspect we will be looking for other opportunities to grow in new locations. It is exciting because we have opportunity to continue serving a broader community.

BOB: Every year, you extend an invite for me to join you in the foundation Board of Directors meeting. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of that. When I talk about a village, attendees are a who’s who in our community. You give the events of what’s going on in Sun Health and what the future look like and, really, I talk about a village, it takes a village. It takes a community. Bravo.

RON: We enjoy having the broader community come in, educate us and learn together, so our annual board and stakeholder retreat meeting is primary for us.

BOB: Ron, I appreciate your being on the show. You’ve given our listeners some great insight to Sun Health and the resources it offers our community. You are doing great five weeks post-operation with your bionic hip. Make it a great day, make it a great weekend and thank you, Ron Guziak. You’re listening to Health Futures: Taking Stock In You.

RON: Thank you for having me.

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