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Posted: November 01, 2011

Top Company 2011: DaVita

Winner in the health care category

Mike Cote

TopCO_DaVita.jpg

It doesn't sound like a promising business model when the CEO says one of the company's primary goals is to have fewer people need its services.
Kent Thiry likely won't see his company move toward that goal any time soon. The Fortune 500 dialysis company takes care of about one of every three of the 350,000 dialysis patients in America.

"Unfortunately, we're still a growth industry, fueled by diabetes and hypertension primarily, which are growing throughout America," Thiry says. "We have that basic demand growing because of all the diabetics and hypertensives out there and the aging of America. That's one of the big drivers."

Nearly 85 percent of DaVita's patients pay for their treatment through Medicare and Medicaid, Thiry said. Thus, the growing federal deficit and the potential changes in health-care payments have him concerned.

"To the extent we start losing reimbursement there, it gets difficult for us to do a good job," he says.

At DaVita, Thiry is also known as the "mayor of DaVita Village," a title that alludes to its homespun and collaborative nature. The company, whose name, logo and core values were selected by its employees, has been named four years running to WorldBLU's Most Democratic Workplaces list.

"Every eight weeks we have a Voice of the Village call, where I get on the phone with a lot of senior folks," Thiry says. "There are about 2,500 people on each of those calls scattered around America. They get an update and ask any question that they want. And everybody gets to hear how the leadership answers those questions."

DaVita is building a 14-story headquarters at Denver's Union Station that will house 900 employees when it opens late next year. Its growing presence in Colorado and decision to move its corporate office here is regularly touted by political and business leaders as the brand of economic development Colorado needs to attract.

"We chose (Denver) after a whole lot of thinking, not only for what it is today but for what we believe it could be. It has a healthy electorate and a high level of civic engagement among its business, educational and not-for-profit leaders," Thiry says. "People still get in the room and talk about solving problems together. In a lot of American cities comparably sized, that doesn't happen."

Thiry credits some of DaVita's success to luck but also to hard work.

"We've really focused on our teammates, and by creating a better life for them they've decided to dedicate a lot of their energy to creating a better life for our patients and the physicians who support those patients," he says. "It really rests on a premise of creating a distinctively healthy work environment, and a lot of good things have flowed from that in addition to that good luck."

DaVita's philanthropic efforts include programs to help troops overseas, scholarships for the children and grandchildren of its employees and medical missions to bring kidney care to countries that need it.

"We believe in our trilogy of care: caring for our patients, not only clinically but in terms of compassion, caring for each other with that same intensity and then caring for the world," Thiry says.
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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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