Case Studies

John Ellis – Intermountain Healthcare

Utah health care system growth centers on smart sustainability

As part of efforts to imagine patient care of the future, John Ellis helped Intermountain Healthcare develop two rooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology, including advanced telemetry, real-time location services, in-room diagnostic equipment and electrically tinted glass.

However, Ellis, the corporate director of facilities management, says conversations are now more about the patients of the future because preventive and specialized health care is being provided in smaller clinics, offices or even at home.

John Ellis | Corporate Director of Facilities Management | Intermountain Healthcare

John Ellis | Corporate Director of Facilities Management | Intermountain Healthcare

It’s not that larger hospitals won’t need state-of-the-art patient rooms, but they probably won’t need as many.

“At Intermountain, we want to grow, not for the sake of growth, but so we can better serve the people we serve now and those we will serve in the future,” Ellis says. “The challenge is understanding what technology is viable and financially feasible and incorporating that into our clinical offerings and the next facility and project.”

Meeting growth demands

Salt Lake City-based Intermountain Healthcare is an integrated nonprofit network of more than 41,000 caregivers serving residents of Utah, Nevada and Idaho.

It had included 24 hospitals, 225 clinics, a medical group of 3,000 physicians and clinicians and its own insurance company. In April, the network expanded through a merger with SCL Health, adding eight hospitals and 160 clinics in Colorado, Montana and Kansas. Ellis says the details of facilities management integration will be determined later this year.

Even without the merger, the number of potential patients has increased as Utah’s population grew 18 percent from 2010 to 2020 and 1.7 percent in 2021, according to the U.S. Census. But increases like those may no longer necessitate more beds in a hospital.

“COVID-19 opened our minds to the possibilities of using advanced technology and remote care,” Ellis says. “We are already seeing that the patient of the future is more technologically connected.”

Those possibilities are evident in Ellis’s planning for a remote building operations center to manage Intermountain Healthcare’s facilities. He first envisioned it as a dedicated office; instead it will be virtual. Staff will use analytic software on laptops to monitor buildings and equipment across the health system and be onsite as needed.

“Making the [remote operations center] virtual saves building costs and promotes the idea that the team is intended to be agile,” Ellis says.

Ellis and Intermountain’s Energy Programs Director Lisa Dakis are developing the plan with KW Engineering and will implement SkySpark building analytics software. He expects to hire three engineers and three building automation technicians to launch the remote operations center later this year, onboarding 10 hospitals and large clinics that are prepared to use the software. He then expects to add two more people in 2023 and 2024.

Sustainable and smart

Ellis says the sustainable and “smart growth” principles he uses to manage building operations and maintenance aren’t always evident to visitors or even staff.

“Most of the public, and even facilities users, stop seeing the building at the paint,” he says. “They don’t see the space behind the wall and utilities in wall ceiling and plenum space. The challenge in new construction and remodeling is understanding what technology is viable and financially feasible and incorporating that into the next facility and project.”

John Ellis | Corporate Director of Facilities Management | Intermountain Healthcare

For instance, Ellis says Energy West Controls, providers of steam generating and monitoring products used for heating, cooling and sterilization, has enabled him to integrate cost-effective and efficient solutions. Steam trap monitoring has saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in wasted energy, and efficient heat exchangers provide safe, reliable and cost-effective hot water.

He also relies on InPro Corp., which provides surfaces from wall cladding and laminate products to new durable finishes for elevators. Intermountain’s elevators carry tens of thousands of passengers each year, so keeping them sanitary and in good working order is crucial to protecting the health of patients, visitors and caregivers.

“When we talk about growth, it’s often in terms of how we can improve our operations and our offerings to our patients,” Ellis says. “We want potential external growth opportunities to be smart, too. We look at them in terms of our mission, vision and values and the needs of the communities we serve.”

A caring career

A native of California and a U.S. Army veteran, Ellis earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University in facilities management in 1998. He joined Sodexo, a French food services and facilities management company, as its custodial operations manager at the University of Detroit Mercy in January 1999. He transferred in March 2000, to serve as construction manager at Keuka College in New York.

Ellis returned to Brigham Young in 2001, earning his MBA in corporate finance in 2003. While a graduate student, he had an internship in Daimler-Chrysler’s finance department and taught corporate financial analysis to undergraduate business students.

After earning his MBA, Ellis became assistant director for maintenance engineering with Crothall at Hillcrest Hospital in Ohio in May 2003. In August 2005, he became Sodexo’s director of facilities management at Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University’s campus in Prescott, Arizona.

In March 2010, Ellis was promoted to senior consulting project manager for Sodexo, a role that included consulting with Procter & Gamble to standardize maintenance procedures at their sites around the world.

“The reasons I got into health care facilities management are the same reasons Intermountain Healthcare is in health care,” Ellis says. “I like to make things better and help people feel better. I love that I can use my skills, abilities and experience to help people live the healthiest lives possible.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IV 2022 Edition here.

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