Josh Crabtree: ‘Doing what’s best for patients’

Doctor now oversees Sanford Health clinic operations, with role in telehealth

Dr. Josh Crabtree sits along the wall beside a countertop talking with a patient who has his back to the camera.

Josh Crabtree is the senior vice president of clinic operations at Sanford Health. Here, he shares his background working for Sioux Valley Hospital and Sanford Health, emphasizes his belief in the importance of patient-centered care and reminds us of the essential role communication plays in a large organization.

Early life and educational background

Josh Crabtree grew up in Ellendale and New Ulm, small towns in southern Minnesota separated by about 75 miles.

From there, he traveled a few hours northwest to Morris, where he attended the University of Minnesota. There he earned his degree in biology as a pre-med student.

Having completed his undergraduate education, Crabtree then headed up to Lake Superior, where he enrolled in medical school at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. Thereafter, he moved to Minneapolis for rotation work before returning to Duluth for family medicine residency training.

A long history with Sanford Health

Crabtree’s first position out of residency training — the only one he’s held other than his current position — was with Sioux Valley Health in Luverne, Minnesota, roughly 30 miles east of Sioux Falls.

“It’s a great group of people — partners and staff. Luverne has had a long tradition of being a strong medical community, so once I got there, I really had no reason to look anywhere else,” Crabtree said.

Connecting mission to strategy

After practicing in Luverne for just over 16 years, at what eventually became Sanford Health, Crabtree was asked to take on a new role in administration this year as senior vice president of clinic operations.

In this position, Crabtree’s overall mission is to connect Sanford Health’s operational strategies with the clinicians that provide care for patients. This covers a wide range of areas: enterprise departments, behavioral health integration, integrated models of care across the continuum of care, and virtual care and telehealth.

With regard to virtual care and telehealth, Crabtree served a central role in Sanford Health’s recent launch of TytoHome and the TytoApp, an at-home diagnostic kit and corresponding phone application that are creating “the house call of the future.” This service will be particularly important for those in remote areas, pediatric populations and people with mobility issues.

In considering what he enjoys about his work, Crabtree most appreciates the relationships his work allows him to develop — both in his clinical work with patients as well as his administrative work.

Creating the best patient experience

In reflecting on accomplishments, Crabtree points not to an achievement of his own but the health care organization of which he’s a part. “I am most proud to work for a patient-centered organization that is physician- and clinician-led,” he said.

Looking ahead, Crabtree has a clear long-term vision. “I have a 20-year goal to make sure that Sanford Health has processes in place that allow our clinicians and staff to efficiently and seamlessly take care of patients with the highest quality and best patient experience.”

Crabtree believes that taking care of patients should be at the center of everything we do. He’s reminded of something a mentor once told him: “If you can do what’s best for patients in their time of greatest need, then everything else will take care of itself.”

Family life and farm life

Crabtree is married with three children, two boys and one girl. He thinks his family has enabled his success. “My wife has made all of the accomplishments in my work life possible,” he said, adding, “She is the CEO of a five-person organization and has done a fabulous job.”

“My children have supported their father by understanding when I have to be away from them helping others in difficult situations. That is a gift to have children that are able to see beyond themselves.”

Spending time with family is what Crabtree identifies as his main hobby. Together, they like doing things outdoors, particularly enjoying days at the lake.

They also live on a family farm that is populated with “bison and other critters.”

Something larger than ourselves

In such a large organization, Crabtree, having spent his entire career here watching it grow, believes we should all understand and appreciate the importance of communication.

Beyond that, Crabtree said, “We should never forget how very special and rewarding it is to be part of something larger than ourselves as individuals.”

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Posted In Faces of Sanford Health, Network:Luverne, Rural Health

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