By Arya Hodjat | [email protected]
When Rina Bansal started medical school, she didn’t expect to see herself as an administrator, much less the president, of a major hospital.
But after more than a decade in the Inova system, Bansal was appointed head of Inova Alexandria Hospital on May 1, after having served as acting president since November and chief medical officer since 2016.
Bansal attended McGill University in Canada, where she was a member of the first graduating class of a new program that allowed her to get a doctorate in medicine and a master’s in business administration at the same time.
After graduating in 2001, she went on to complete a residency program at University of California San Francisco.
While Bansal’s longtime dream has been to start a nonprofit in a developing country like her native India, she’s spent most of her career immersed in the hospital system.
Bansal joined the Inova system in 2008 as a hospitalist in Inova Fairfax’s Department of Medicine.
“She’s got an unbelievable work ethic,” Susan Carroll, acting president of Inova Fairfax Medical Campus, said. “She’s very, very committed to always putting her patients first. And I think that she does an exceptional job at working at building relationships, specifically within the medical community.”
In 2010, Bansal was placed at the helm of the Inova Fairfax CNS Hospitalist Program, an internal medicine team in charge of neurology and neurosurgery patients. As medical director of the program, Bansal implemented various initiatives that improved continuity and coordination of care for neuroscience patients, according to Inova’s website.
“That was a big opportunity for Inova Fairfax at that time,” Bansal said. “It was a very novel program. … There was only one out of two or three in the country at that time, one of them being at UCSF, where I trained.”
The leadership role allowed Bansal to work with a specialized group of doctors, which was valuable experience given the increasing specialization of medicine, she said.
“You develop this competency, you streamline, you’re on the floors more often, you develop a close working relationship with the nursing team … and we were able to take care of a larger community than we could before,” Bansal said.
Before transferring to Alexandria Inova in 2016, Bansal also served as associate chief medical officer of Inova Fairfax and medical director of the Inova Telemedicine Program.
Now serving as president of Inova Alexandria, Bansal said she wasn’t looking to radically change the hospital’s day-today operations, but rather improve on the hospital’s already existing strengths.
Her time with Inova Alexandria has been met with challenges. In 2016 and 2017, the hospital was fined thousands of dollars from the federal Department of Health and Human Services for a high rate of patient infection and injuries that occur during hospital stays.
The hospital was one of 751 nationally to be penalized in 2017, incurring a fine of $580,009.
According to a 2018 Inova quality report, Inova Alexandria lowered its rates of bloodstream, catheter, c. diff and patient safety complications from 2017 to 2018.
David Cleary, a member of Inova Alexandria’s Quality Board, said the hospital had generally excelled in terms of safety standards.
“For whatever reason, there was a lapse a couple of years back,” he said. “When you have thousands of patients a year, it’s difficult to not have one slip by. But my goodness, they’re careful about that.”
Cleary said he was especially impressed with the hospital’s bookkeeping, pointing to their statistics on injuries and infections.
“If you’d go down there, they’d show you all the charts,” Cleary said. “It’s just mind-boggling, all the statistics that they keep.”
Bansal said such a focus was necessary.
“I think if you focus on patient safety, quality experience, you actually improve your outcomes, which will then help you decrease your cost,” she said.
Lowering cost of care is another major focus of Bansal’s. She said she wants Inova Alexandria to provide cost-efficient care, partly by building trust between patients and doctors. “
It’s not about, you know, saving money. It’s about how can we provide healthcare in the most resource efficient manner,” Bansal said.
As for following her early dreams of starting a nonprofit, Bansal said she hasn’t ruled it out yet.
“I’m open to any opportunity. But I’m waiting for my kids to go to college,” she said, with a laugh.