By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM

FARGO – Timothy Sayler left Fargo-Moorhead more than 30 years ago after graduating from Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Now the Wishek, N.D., native has returned as the chief operating officer of Essentia Health’s West Region.

It’s a homecoming from another standpoint, inasmuch that Sayler started his career with Altru Health in Grand Forks, where he held a variety of positions over a span of 27 years, ending as chief operating officer.

Timothy Sayler, the new chief operating officer for Essentia’s West Region, stands on the hospital’s sixth floor in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Before joining Essentia, where he started Monday, Sayler was president and chief executive officer of the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston, Idaho.

Sayler arrives in the midst of a $60 million expansion project at Essentia, an additional 28 beds that also will double the capacity of the emergency room when completed in 2015.

New requirements, including quality benchmarks and patient satisfaction surveys, will occupy his administrative attention, but Sayler was reluctant on his first day on the job to say much about his objectives.

“That will be put together with collective wisdom and knowledge,” he said.

He described health care as being in transition, moving from a “sick care” environment to one where health providers are held responsible for caring for a population of patients.

Essentia Health, which long has combined clinical and hospital care, a so-called integrated approach, is well positioned for that new environment, Sayler said.

Increasingly, health providers will be paid for delivering good patient outcomes, not merely providing services regardless of results, a gradual move away from the traditional “fee for service” payment system.

“Really it’s going to be delivering value,” Sayler said.

Health providers in Minnesota and North Dakota, where the multispecialty approach to medicine famously adopted by the Mayo Clinic has long been embraced, are equipped to do that, he said.

Essentia will continue to add providers to increase depth and breadth of services and meet patient demand, Sayler said.

The health care landscape has become more consolidated and less fragmented than it was when he started three decades ago.

“You see a different environment,” Sayler said. “It’s changed dramatically in those 20 or 30 years.”

Essentia Health is unusual because 60 percent to 70 percent of its services are delivered in clinical, outpatient settings, “which is very significant for an organization like this,” Sayler said.

“Which is a good thing,” he added.

By contrast, many health care organizations are “hospital centric,” he said.

As for rival Sanford Health, which is building a new $494 million medical center, Sayler said: “There’s opportunity for both organizations.”