Women Leaders

Irene M. Koch, Hospital for Special Surgery

Irene M. Koch

Legal Strategy

Editors’ Note

Irene Koch has held her current post since April 2015. Before this, she was Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Healthix. She has also been Executive Director for Brooklyn Health Information Exchange, Deputy Counsel, Health Information Technology and Associate General Counsel for Maimonides Medical Center, Associate Counsel for NYS Department of Health, and Associate Attorney with Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP. She received her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and her B.A. in Biology and Society from Cornell University.

Institution Brief

New York-based Hospital for Special Surgery (hss.edu; HSS) is internationally recognized as the leading independent academic medical center specializing in orthopedics, rheumatology, and their related specialties. The hospital pioneered the modern-day total knee replacement and continues to build on its success in all areas of musculoskeletal healthcare, in the advancement of cutting-edge research, and the development of innovative approaches to diagnosis and treatment, all of which contribute to its global leadership. Outstanding results in quality of care and the patient experience have created a growing demand for its services, with people coming to HSS from across the country and throughout the world. HSS is the first hospital in New York State to achieve its fourth consecutive designation as a Magnet® Hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, the gold standard for nursing excellence. It is the only hospital in New York State that has maintained a significantly lower infection rate than the state average for hip replacement five years in a row. HSS is the official hospital of the New York Giants, New York Mets, New York Knicks, New York Liberty, and the New York Red Bulls. It is also the official hospital of New York Road Runners for the New York City Marathon. In 2013, HSS was named the first National Medical Center of the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) National Medical Network. In this capacity, HSS is an official hospital for U.S. athletes. HSS is also one of only three hospitals in the United States designated as a Medical Center of Excellence by FIFA.

How do you define the role of Chief Legal Officer in an organization such as HSS?

The role of CLO at HSS involves tending to the past, present, and future of the organization. Part of the work arises from prior HSS operations, transactions, and commitments that require follow-up action and vigilance. The CLO is involved in practically all aspects of the organization’s day-to-day activities through advising internal clients about legal and regulatory matters and working with staff to promote compliance and minimize risk. A sizable part of the role involves planning ahead, keeping abreast of developments and anticipated changes in applicable laws and regulations, and providing support for future strategic opportunities.

What are the key issues that you address when it comes to HSS’ business?

HSS is a very complex organization and presents a wide variety of legal, regulatory, compliance, and risk-management issues in an ever-changing landscape. With increased reliance on information technology, a great deal of focus is spent on issues related to technology, privacy, and security. Our core business centers on hospital operations and research, so a significant portion of our work is on issues related to those areas. As the healthcare environment evolves, novel legal and regulatory issues emerge with respect to new business and expansion opportunities. Recently, we have been working on several international matters that require analysis of applicable legal parameters in new jurisdictions.

What excited you about the opportunity to join HSS in this role and made you feel that it was the right fit?

Having most recently spent time in my career building and operating a health information exchange – an exciting and innovative solution to sharing data in support of improving coordination of care – I was adamant that my next opportunity should similarly be in a fast-paced, challenging environment, amidst a talented, creative, and energetic team. Having also had a background in various aspects of healthcare law, I was interested in utilizing my professional background in a leadership role. The position of CLO at HSS seemed like the perfect fit for working with world-class talent, innovative ideas, and high-level issues and challenges.

Would you discuss the strength of your team in the legal area for HSS?

I was very lucky that my predecessor put together an incredibly talented, ethical, energetic, and cohesive group of individuals in the Legal and Risk Management Departments. Each of the attorneys in the Legal Department has expertise in several areas of healthcare law. Similarly, the Risk Management team is knowledgeable and personable, and well-respected at HSS. I’m gratified we have continued to operate in a trusting and supportive environment that encourages teamwork. Everyone feels comfortable sharing ideas on a regular basis and consulting with one another as necessary.