Health Care’s Next Frontier

Novant Health’s chief consumer officer talks about running hospitals in the age of Medicaid cuts and Obamacare
As chief consumer officer for Novant Health, Jesse Cureton has spent much of his time working on rebranding the company that owns Presbyterian Hospital.


As chief consumer officer for Novant Health, Jesse Cureton has spent much of his time working on rebranding the company that owns Presbyterian Hospital.

Jesse Cureton comes here a lot. When he walks into Napa on Providence, the hostess apologizes. “If I’d known you were coming in, I would have saved your usual table,” she says.

She’s serious. He actually does have a regular table.

“I’ve already been here twice this week,” the Charlotte native says, a little sheepishly. “The food is quite good.”

Cureton, executive vice president and chief consumer officer for Novant Health, joined the company in January and has spent most of his time on rebranding. The Winston-Salem-based Novant formed in 1997, when two hospital systems merged. Now the company runs medical facilities in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Georgia.

In the Charlotte area, Novant owns Presbyterian Hospital, three other medical centers, and dozens of clinics. Until this year, many of those facilities had their own branding and names. Now there’s a new logo—a bold, purple “N” with a colon symbol that forms the outline of an “H”—and new names for Novant’s facilities. Presbyterian Hospital is now known as Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center.

Looking around the restaurant, a little more than a mile from the hospital, no fewer than four people are sporting Novant clothing or name tags. Cureton, wearing a gray suit and pale-pink shirt with a monogram on the left cuff, orders grilled salmon and mixed vegetables. It sits on the plate, silverware untouched, while he gestures with his hands.

“We were an organization that was represented by 400 different brands,” he says. “The employees like the notion of one organization, one culture. It makes it easier.”

Plus, he says, the new logo carries a message. “After a colon, there is a question. There is a dialogue. We want that dialogue to be about wellness and about health care.”

This year, much of that dialogue happened through a political filter. Provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act have begun to take effect, but the state legislature rejected federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage under the new health-care law. Republicans, including the governor, say they will not expand the system until it’s more efficient.

“[Legislators] have, to some degree, disenfranchised a population in your state, and you’re not providing health care for them,” Cureton says.

He argues that the decision comes from lawmakers’ fundamental misunderstanding of the health-care industry. “The fact that we would even have that as a discussion screams to me a lack of connectivity and understanding of what we do.”

The future reality for hospitals—declining revenue from reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid patients, the poor, and uninsured—means executives will need to redefine health care’s business model.

Cureton says Novant will move toward a structure that focuses more on wellness and preventative care, separating patients into three categories: those who are well, those who have a propensity to get sick, and those who are chronically ill. Keeping customers in the first category is far less costly than treating regular, expensive ailments.

“When you have that segregation,” he says, “you’re working towards keeping people healthy. It’s really more of a wellness philosophy instead of a ‘When I get you in, what can I bill you for?’” 

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