President of Strategic Growth and Development
, LifePoint Hospitals
It's good to have a plan … and a backup. Although working as an Intensive Care Unit ward clerk during college, Joné Koford intended to apply to law school.
"A business law class completely turned me off … in retrospect, it may have been the professor who turned me off … but that and my immediate love for the hospital environment convinced me to choose healthcare over law."
Koford grew up in Northern Utah around the industry. Her mother and mentor, Eva Jean Law, set the tone for professionalism. "She was a stellar representative of the nursing profession and hospital administration." While Koford has a deep appreciation for caregivers, she said, "I watched the nurses and knew I didn't have the desire to do the clinical end, but I was fascinated with the management aspect."
With law school scrapped, she applied to the University of Colorado and received a master's degree in hospital administration. Her first opportunity was with a large tertiary facility associated with the Mayo Clinic. She then moved back to Utah where she worked up the ranks to hospital CEO.
"I had an opportunity to come to Nashville when offered a position as a regional vice president for HealthTrust — a spin-off company of HCA," she recalled. Koford's duties with HealthTrust later moved her back to Utah where she remained for several years. After that company was purchased by Columbia, Koford and several colleagues were involved in a start-up venture. "Everybody should have the opportunity to do that once," she noted.
In 2001, she returned to Nashville for her "second tour of duty" … this time with LifePoint Hospitals. She stepped into her current position in late 2009. "This company has given me so many opportunities. I'm fortunate to have had such varied and challenging experiences."
LifePoint focuses on non-urban markets and typically expands through acquisition. "Oftentimes we are presented with an opportunity where a hospital hasn't had access to sufficient capital and other needed resources," she explained. "When LifePoint partners with that facility, we immediately look for ways to improve access and build community confidence by adding new services, updating equipment and recruiting additional physicians. Our focus is on helping hospitals be more … not less … to their communities," she added.
"I am passionate about being part of an organization that ensures quality care is a given regardless of the size or location of the facility and where excellent customer service is the expectation," she continued.
At the heart of her work is a mindfulness of the end user. "I never forget the business we're in … and that's caring for patients." She noted that when a healthcare company focuses on providing a great work environment, is responsive to physicians and other providers, and remembers patients and families, then financial success follows.
Like many busy executives, Koford strives to maintain a balance between her professional and personal life. "As women, we tend to focus on what didn't get done rather than the positive things that did. It's an ongoing battle," she said.
Koford focuses on her two great daughters — Kelsey is at the University of Tennessee, and McKenna is a junior at Battle Ground Academy. Like their mother, both girls are athletic, and the family enjoys outdoor activities and traveling together.
Although Koford has enjoyed success, she is adamant it's also important to embrace the missteps. "Be sure to choose a company that will allow you to fail on occasion — if you're not making a few mistakes, you're probably not trying hard enough. An environment that will not allow failure breeds insecurity and mediocrity. It's not a setting that will challenge you to be your best."