Healthy dialogue

As CEO of Provident Healthcare, alumnus Bill Nooning considers communication powerful medicine.

By Roger Fillion

Publish Date: April 18, 2016

Photo by Mark Woolcott 

Founding a health care company may seem like a stretch for someone with a background in accounting, but for Bill Nooning (B.S. accounting ’74), his decision was rooted in a very personal – and painful – experience.

At 85, Nooning’s mother underwent quadruple bypass surgery – a particularly delicate age for such a major medical procedure. The real challenges came after the surgery, however. Nooning’s mother was admitted to a long-term acute care facility where a doctor told him, “She’s never going home. From our perspective, she’s going to be in long-term care for the rest of her life.” That statement contradicted what doctors had told Nooning at the original hospital.

“Without any communication between the various doctors along the way, you’re at the mercy of the system,” said Nooning a decade later. “When you leave one place of practice, they wash their hands of you.”

While in the long-term acute care hospital, Nooning’s mother was given an apparatus to help treat a leg wound she received as a result of the surgery. The apparatus was too large to work properly, something Nooning told the doctor and the staff. Despite numerous visits by different doctors daily, the device sat unused for two weeks, until Nooning’s mother passed away.

This experience served as a catalyst for Nooning’s establishment of Provident Healthcare in 2005 following a successful career as a consultant to health care-related businesses. With a patient-centered approach to primary care, the Provident physician network serves individuals in the Denver metropolitan area, operates two clinics, and provides care in skilled nursing and rehabilitation centers, assisted living facilities and at Swedish Medical Center. The network’s 11 physicians and care providers follow patients from the clinics through Swedish to 10 skilled nursing and rehab centers. They have access to patients’ online medical records 24/7. They communicate.

Nooning learned the value of dialogue at MSU Denver, which he chose to attend largely because of its affordability and because major accounting firms were recruiting and hiring the University’s students.

With the help of two faculty in the Accounting Department – Russell Bean and Patricia Duckworth, both deceased – Nooning learned about the field and much, much more. “They taught me how to be an accountant but they also taught me about being a person in the business world,” he said.

That meant networking and – you guessed it – communication, a skill Nooning advises today’s MSU Denver students to master in order to be successful in their careers.

“Take a speech class. Students don’t do that and when they [graduate] they’re not prepared to put themselves in a position to address individuals – either in large groups, small groups or when networking,” he said. “It’s like putting money into Apple 40 years ago. It will pay off dividends the farther you get into your career.”