After a career that spanned more than 40 years of executive leadership experience serving national health insurers and hospital systems—including stints as chairman and CEO of Anthem, CEO of Catholic hospital systems Trinity Health and Centura Health—Joe Swedish “retired” in 2017.
Not that he ever slowed down. He still stayed on as Anthem’s executive chairman of the board until last May, will stay on as one of the insurer’s senior advisers through May 2020, and in August 2028, he became co-founder and partner of Concord Health Partners, a private equity firm focused on strategic investing in healthcare portfolio companies.
“I really had the great experience of being in the healthcare industry for 45 years and arguably have seen many cycles, a lot of challenges and a lot of successes,” he says. “But nonetheless, we still have an industry fraught with a lot of issues regarding unaffordability, significant access issues, and there’s still a long way to go regarding improvement and quality both by ways of service and safety.”
With Concord Health Partners, Swedish aligned with like-minded partner James T. Olsen, a 23-year healthcare investment banking vet and former managing director and group head of Jefferies and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, two leading investment banks in healthcare. The two co-founders plan to invest in technology and solutions that have the potential to enhance the value of healthcare with lower costs, improved quality, and expanded access to care.
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“Having come to a stage in my career where I could easily pivot to certain choices that individuals make when they give up a career, I felt that I now had the opportunity to give back in a meaningful way to an industry that was very good to me and incredibly significant as a key contributor to the health and welfare of our society,” Swedish says. “We are hoping to develop a platform tapping into the financial services sector that could tackle challenges of affordability, access, and quality.”
Swedish is hopeful that Concord Health Partners will make an immediate impact in the industry that he believes needs the strength of innovation to transform it into something the American public would significantly appreciate.
“The formation of Concord Health Partners was made possible because of the innovation momentum,” he says. “Never before in the history of medicine have so many opportunities come forward in so many unique ways where innovators have the opportunities to radically transform how care is delivered. I’m hopeful that in some matters that we can be a contributor to the improvement of healthcare by targeting these innovations looking for ways to come to market.”
Still in its early stages, Concord Health Partners has an outlook that will leverage alignment among collaborative enterprises that are investors in health systems seeking to make a difference.
“It’s an alignment of colleagues and collaborators with desires to capturing these innovations,” Swedish says. “It’s not about investments per se, but about creating a go-to-market opportunity for the innovators that can fit nicely into the fabric of these health systems that are seeking to create a more efficient, effective delivery system.”
Building a career
The son of Eastern European immigrants, Joe Swedish was raised on a Virginia farm and studied at a Catholic Junior ROTC military college preparatory high school before going on to attend the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and obtaining his master’s degree in health administration from Duke University.
In 1973, he made a personal commitment to combine his interests in business, law, and policy in a way where he could serve people and saw healthcare as the epitome of how he could achieve that goal. He has been in healthcare ever since and over 45 years has never wavered in terms of his career focus.
Early in his career, he served as president and CEO of Winter Park Memorial Hospital and Park Health Corp., in Winter Park, Florida; president and CEO of Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Virginia; and senior vice president of Memorial Mission Medical Center and CEO of its subsidiary Horizon HealthCorp.