Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Bucket List

Happy New Year! Many folks will be saying that the next few days. As the New Year tumbles in, we all start thinking about new beginnings and resolutions …which got me thinking about my bucket list.

The 2007 movie The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman (one of my favorite actors) and Jack Nicholson, did not disappoint viewers. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you probably know the basic premise: make a list of all the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket” and start checking those things off the list.

I made such a list many years ago. Then I lost track of it. I made another list three years ago with the goal of completing at least one aspiration each summer. Three years ago, I focused on starting a wine cellar. I have always enjoyed a good bottle of wine. It really is one of life’s truly simple pleasures. I did not want a pretentious cellar or even one with expensive wines I would never want to drink. I just wanted a place with good wine I could share with friends and family at any and every occasion. (That reminds me of another movie I want to mention—Bottle Shock. If you are a wine lover, this one is a must.) Creating the wine cellar led me to my first trip to Napa Valley, where I discovered some amazing vineyards and tasting rooms. I have some great friends in American Canyon and have been lucky enough to visit them several times during the past few years. And I am happy to report I was able to check the first item off my bucket list.

Me and my friends Sita and Michael at a vineyard in Napa Valley.

Last summer, I decided it was time for a Harley-Davidson, the classic American motorcycle. I had a motorcycle during college (Kawasaki 175) for getting around campus. I also used it at a church camp I worked at for seven summers. I have always kept my motorcycle license current, thinking maybe someday… Then a friend made this bucket list dream come true with a deal I couldn’t refuse…a 2001 honest to goodness, California Highway Patrol, Road King (minus the lights and sirens of course). Now I’m thinking I might need to add a ride through NAPA Valley onto my bucket list.

Me with my bike during Grill Day at GRMC with former board chair Pete Lahn, his HD Sportster, and board member Joanne Yuska.

Item number three on my bucket list was to learn to scuba dive. I have always loved snorkeling. Prepared with a PADI open water diver’s certification I was ready for my first dive trip. In 2009, I was fortunate to find a great deal in Cozumel at the Scuba Club Cozumel. It was of the most amazing adventures ever. As one of my fellow divers said, “It’s like you’re in the Discovery Channel.” It was fun meeting people with a common interest. You really get to know folks when you spend a few hours a day on a boat with them.

Photo of an Angelfish I took at about 40 feet deep while scuba diving.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Twas the Eve of a Blizzard at Grinnell Regional Medical Center

Happy Holidays from Grinnell Regional Medical Center.

If you are unable to view the video above, please visit

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Guest Column: Debates Worth Arguing

Guest Post by Gina Fuller, RTR, director of radiology

The recent controversy surrounding when to screen for breast cancer with mammography has caused quite a stir in the media. The facts prevail. Mammography has reduced the breast cancer death rate by 30 percent in the United States since 1990. That is hardly a small number! GRMC has many successful stories of patients who identified breast cancer at stage 0 or 1, before it was detectable by touch. Those people understand and truly appreciate why mammography is important.

When to have a mammogram and how frequent remains a personal choice that you decide with the advice of your primary care provider. It always has been. If you are concerned about your risks for breast cancer, please talk with your doctor and schedule a preventive mammogram. Don’t let statistics and recommendations make the decision for you. Follow your instincts and seek out care when you have questions or concerns.

The American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and the radiologists at Iowa Radiology, who read our mammography exams, all agree that the benefits of mammography outweigh the risks of exposure to radiation or the anxiety of additional imaging. Experience has proven that.

Our new digital mammography unit offers the newest in mammography equipment and our radiologists offer the best in interpretation. We all must remember that the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has only made a recommendation. This is not a rule! You are still in charge of your own health so please do so wisely! You have a powerful combination available to you at GRMC.

To schedule a mammogram, talk to your primary care provider for an order and then call GRMC's radiology department at 641-236-2355.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Thanks and Remembering

One person who has made a difference in my life has been Dr. Samuel Levey, one of my professors when I was a student at the University of Iowa College of Public Health. In recent years, I have enjoyed being a guest lecturer for Sam’s class. I gained a great deal from my experiences with him. It is fun to be in his classroom again. His students are always bright, engaging, and inquisitive. This year was no different.

A student asked me what my best and worst days have been as a hospital administrator. My response to “best days” was easy; there are too many to count. For the past 21 years I have witnessed on a daily basis so many selfless acts of compassion and healing, so many wonderful employees, physicians, volunteers…and more. The stories of women and men reaching out to others in the name of caring and healing are endless.

The worst day was so devastating, it still haunts me almost three years later.

On the morning of January 15, 2007, I received a phone call from the hospital that one of our employees had died while working that morning. Randy Criswell was our carpenter. His past experience as a private contractor and his wonderful personality made him a great employee. He worked with us at GRMC for just a year, but I had known him outside of the workplace for years. We coached our kids’ little league teams together. He was the baseball expert…I mostly stood at third base and hoped I would make the right decision sending the runner home. I really enjoyed him as a friend and a co-worker. I was thrilled when he decided to work at the hospital.

When it snows here in east central Iowa, we have an “all hands on deck” approach to clear the snow. A big priority for the medical center is our helipad. It must be cleared so helicopters can land to save lives. That morning, Randy was helping his colleagues in facilities management with snow removal. While clearing the snow from our helipad, Randy fell from the second story landing pad, and was killed instantly. We don’t know why the safety fencing failed to keep him from falling. Randy was a husband and father of three children. He was a committed man—committed to his family, committed to a job well done, and committed to helping others. He always had a smile on his face and a hand reaching out in support of those around him. He was my friend. And he was a valued GRMC employee. Randy made a difference. He has been missed.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed Randy’s death we pulled together as a hospital community. We cared for one another. We cared for Randy’s family. We finished the home Randy was remodeling for his family. We pledged to remember Randy for his commitment to pride in craftsmanship. We pledged to make GRMC a safer place to work. We pledged to be inspired by his spirit of compassion for others.

As I prepare for Thanksgiving, I am reminded that life is fragile. Each day is indeed a gift. Randy’s all too short, but extremely well-lived life, is an inspiration to me to live life to the fullest. I try to take nothing for granted and truly savor every moment – which can be challenging given the hectic pace of life today. As I reflect on the blessings of the holiday this week, I plan to remember all those who have made a difference in my life and redouble my efforts to do what I can to make a difference for others.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Aiming Higher for Excellence in Healthcare

Every two years, The Commonwealth Fund provides their State Scorecard, ranking all states according to 38 common benchmarks such as access to care, quality of care, costs, and health outcomes.

In 2009, Iowa tied with Hawaii for second place, the highest ranking for a state in the upper Midwest. This was also our ranking in the 2007 scorecard. The following is what is known as the Top Quartile.

1. Vermont
2. Hawaii/Iowa
4. Minnesota
5. Maine/New Hampshire
7. Massachusetts
8. Connecticut
9. North Dakota
10. Wisconsin
11. Rhode Island
12. South Dakota
13. Nebraska

“Leading states consistently outperform lagging states across indicators and dimensions; public policy and public-private collaboration can make a difference.”

“Some states in the Upper Midwest (e.g. Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) achieve high quality at lower costs. Although these states are exceptions to the rule, they provide examples for other states to follow in pursuit of both goals.”

Interestingly enough, many of these states (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota) provide some of the highest quality care at a lower cost. I’ve been beating the drum for years about the inequities in the Medicare reimbursement system. These states are setting the example for the rest of the nation in healthcare reform. There are wide geographical disparities in payment and if it holds, there is a provision in the recently passed House (H.R. 3200) that will call for review for rural healthcare providers to modify our reimbursement structure.

Hopefully, the term “tweener hospital” will be a thing of the past someday. What the future holds for healthcare and specifically for hospitals, remains to be seen.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Fighting the Flu

Last week, I helped staff our first “tier one” H1N1 immunization clinic held at the Grinnell Athletic and Recreation Center. Worried parents and pregnant women started lining up at 9 a.m. for a 3 p.m. clinic! Fortunately, the clinic was extremely well organized and all those seeking and eligible for the vaccine were served. The crowd of more than 400 was very orderly and seemed extremely well informed. With a shortage of vaccine and media hype, we were prepared for anything.

As it turned out, all the planning, practice, and training paid off with an orderly and efficient process. My hat is off to all our team members whose dedication to making a difference in the lives of others really burned brightly.

Two more clinics are scheduled in the next two weeks and I expect things will also go well thanks to the commitment of our employees and the people we are fortunate to serve in this area. We are working hard to get those who have their authorizations for the vaccine done as soon as possible, considering factors that are beyond our control.

For now, just remember to keep your hands washed, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or the sleeve of your elbow, and stay home if you aren’t feeling well. Check out the GRMC website for updates on availability of vaccine and upcoming clinics.

Together, we will make it through this.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Raising the Red Flag on Identity Theft

Typically, when I think of identity theft, I think about someone stealing a credit card and racking up huge bills or opening financial accounts in that person’s name using their personal information.

In healthcare, we work very hard to protect individuals’ personal health information. This includes not only your everyday information such as your address, phone number, or Social Security Number; this includes your Medicare card, your health insurance account number, your medical information, and more. We are covered by a law known as The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, otherwise known to us as HIPAA.

In the past year, you may have noticed some changes when you come to GRMC for services. For example, we are now asking for a photo I.D. so we can make a copy for our records so we will always know who you are. Even though we see many of you on regular basis and certainly know who you are, this is not the same for everyone.

Using that same situation about a stolen credit card, consider this scenario:
Someone has stolen your wallet and has all your identification, including your insurance cards. They can sell your information to scam artists for a good deal of money, or they could use your card themselves. They could walk into the emergency room of an urban hospital and get medical care on your account. Untangling all that with your insurance company would be a difficult and lengthy process because now you have medical tests, results, and health conditions on your account that may or may not be yours.

We have also heard stories from other parts of the country where a friend with health insurance gives their insurance card to a friend who is without insurance and needs medical care. This may be well-intentioned, but is very dangerous for the same reasons. First of all, it is fraud and now existing health conditions are tagged with this insurance account complicating an already complicated situation.

Thanks for your patience as we implement these new rules designed to protect you and your financial and personal health information. Please let us know if you have any questions about the “Red Flags Rule.”

Monday, October 19, 2009

2009 Women's Health Focus

GRMC and the GRMC Auxiliary hosted more than 500 attendees at the 2009 women's health focus. Guests had the opportunity to visit educational booths, shop with local vendors, eat a fabulous buffet dinner, and enjoy a presentation by Tracey Conway.

Below are some photos from the event.

Guests were able to gather valuable information from the educational booths.

The Marketplace was a new addition this year. Guests were able to start their holiday shopping early.

The massage therapists from Postels Community Health Park relaxed guests with chair massages.

Fly High instructor Jenn Mavin taught guests how to practice yoga while seated.

Tracey Conway delivered a powerful message, and reminded women to make every beat count.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

We’re No. 11!

Remember the ads that one of rental car companies did a few years ago? “We’re Number Two!” I’m glad to say, “We’re Number 11!”

I am really excited about this year’s Consumer Reports feature on healthcare. This is the first time they have rated healthcare institutions and GRMC did very well.

Despite the challenging financial situation we’ve been working with the past few years, GRMC ranked 11th out of 117 hospitals in the entire state of Iowa for overall patient rating. We are also providing this excellent care at 30 percent below the national average for healthcare costs.

It’s a team effort and I am proud of everyone – medical staff, employees, volunteers, and our community supporters – who make GRMC the quality institution it is.

Hospitals were ranked using a variety of benchmarks on quality, patient satisfaction, as well as data from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice for the Approach to Chronic Care section and pulled information from the Dartmouth Atlas study, which also presents Iowa hospitals and GRMC in a very positive way.

GRMC excelled above all of our competition. GRMC scored 77 along with Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids and Waverly Health Center. The highest score in the state went to Mercy Iowa City with an 84.

If you are familiar with the Consumer Report’s easy to understand rating circles, you’ll be excited to see we have five full red circles (the best score), two half circles in red (second best) and one empty circle, which is neutral. No black circles, the lowest rating.

There's one other tweener hospital that ranked higher than we did. I'm proud to say that our friends at St. Anthony Regional Hospital in Carroll, Iowa scored 82 and they are number five. There's a goal for us!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

All Hands on Deck for Flu

Nearly every department at GRMC is involved in discussion and planning for this year’s flu season. Even our summer daycamp program got involved this year! It’s a greater challenge this year because we are dealing with two different kinds of flu. There’s the seasonal flu, which is actually a collection of flu viruses, different strains every year, and the novel H1N1 virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hosted a nationwide contest asking participants to create a public service announcement about H1N1. An intern in our public relations department wrote and produced this spot with the rest of the PR team. The “actors” are GRMC kids. Their parents work here and these kids were involved with our summer day camp program.

Even though the message is presented in a fun and humorous way, there is a serious side to this. It’s important for you to get immunized against seasonal flu. Everyone needs to do that. But not everyone is going to need to be immunized for H1N1. Right now, it appears that infants, pregnant women, and children under age five are going to be at the greatest risk for complications from H1N1. And because this is the group that is at greatest risk, those who live with them and care for them regularly will also be a priority group for immunization.

There is a lot of information on our website that gives you the schedule for seasonal flu clinics, how to stay well, and prevent the spread of illness. Stay in touch with us through our website, sign up for Constant Contact email updates, follow us on Twitter, or call our 24-hour hotline for flu information, 641-236-2918.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More than just healthcare

Every year, the Iowa Hospital Association collects data from all 117 Iowa hospitals and creates a report outlining the various community benefit services and programs that we provide individually and collectively.

This is always timely information, but even more important this year because nonprofit hospitals are being studied by members of Congress to determine if the community benefit we provide is worth our tax-exempt status.

Even though GRMC continues to struggle with finances, the organization provided nearly $9.5 million in free or uncompensated care as well as services and programs for the greater community. Many, if not all, of these benefits would not happen if GRMC were not providing them. The Community Care Clinic, bike helmets for area third graders, the Senior Education (SE*ED) program, are just a few of those activities.

In 2008, GRMC provided $7 million in uncompensated charity care, unpaid Medicare and Medicaid services, and more than $2 million in free or discounted community benefits for area residents.

GRMC's 440 employees also provide volunteer leadership in literally hundreds of community organizations. From Boy Scout troops to service clubs; Little League teams to community blood drives; Sunday School classes to school boards, our team members are a source of inspiration, perspiration, and innovation for many organizations at the national, state, and local levels. As for the executive team, Suzanne Cooner leads disaster response programs and is a past chair of the Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce. Dave Ness serves on both the Imagine Grinnell and Galaxy Youth Center boards. For me, I serve on the Grinnell College board of trustees.

GRMC enjoys a strong relationship with the communities in our area who rely on this organization to be here when needed. And you can't put a value on that.

What do you think? I'd be interested to know.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Guest Column: A Farewell to Friends

Tomorrow marks the end of my summer journey at Grinnell Regional Medical Center. What a journey it’s been. Reflecting back on my very first day, I remember my first meeting was at 11 a.m. and Lanna Princer, executive assistant, walked me down to the conference room. I sat around the table, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as the entire group of department heads began filtering in. Todd was at a meeting in a nearby town, so there wasn’t a familiar face in sight. They recognized a guest in the room and one-by-one went around introducing themselves. I introduced myself as Rachel Cain, a graduate student at the University of Iowa who would be interning under Mr. Linden for the summer. At that time I didn’t realize the family-like atmosphere of the organization and that nobody referred to anybody as Mr. this or Ms. that. Well, I quickly learned.

Walking around the hallways today to wrap things up and say my goodbyes, I realize how much of an impact this organization has had on me. In only 12 short weeks I have learned what it means to be part of a community hospital. Nobody can walk down the hallways of this hospital and not have at least three people greet them with a smile and a hello. This is something that I will be taking with me as I leave.

I’d like to run through a few of the things that stick out in my mind about my experience at GRMC. When I first met with Mark Doll, director of facilities, he took me around the facility to show me all of the mechanical equipment it takes to run a hospital. We even went onto the roof and went inside one of the ventilator rooms, which was quite a unique experience. I spent a few days with the hospice group and was able to hear some great insights from Susan, the hospice chaplain, about end of life care and life in general. There was one particular hospice patient that I will never forget and am thankful that I had the opportunity to meet. Watching the surgical procedures in the OR was fascinating and for a second they had me thinking I wanted to switch gears and become a surgeon! Well, that urge passed… I think I’ll stick with my words and numbers (for now at least). I always looked forward to the administrative team meetings every week; I was fascinated by the wide range of topics up for discussion and the way the team dealt with anything that came their way. The Green Team meetings and initiatives were near and dear to my heart and I will miss those interactions immensely. Don’t forget to recycle, now!

Most of all I appreciate the relationships I developed with all of the wonderful people at this institution. There is something special going on within the walls of this hospital. Thank you, Grinnell Regional Medical Center, for a fabulous summer and a great learning experience. Most importantly, thank you for your kindness and compassion you showed to me throughout the summer. Ciao!

Rachel Cain, GRMC administrative intern

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Guest Column: It's Getting Easier to Be Green

There are a few (dozen) things that I am passionate about in this life. The list ranges from acoustic music and good reads to cage-free eggs and great tasting fair-trade coffee. Somewhere along the road I also developed a keen interest in the importance and implications of living in a sustainable manner. Now, I’m not as “environmentally-friendly” as I aspire to be – this morning I drove my boyfriend’s truck to work which averages 15 miles per gallon and yesterday I ran my dryer with only a few articles of clothing in it. However, I know that I am doing my part to contribute to a healthier planet and I genuinely believe that I can make a difference. With this in mind, you can understand why I was delighted to find out that Grinnell Regional Medical Center has a Green Team established to pursue green initiatives. I could not wait to sign up!

Now, before I digress about the importance of recycling and reducing our overall consumption, let me talk a little about the Green Team here at GRMC and what they have accomplished thus far. The Green Team consists of representatives from many departments including nutrition services, facilities, environmental services, public relations, health improvement, corporate health, and other interested individuals. A number of steps have been taken in recent months to further environmentally-friendly practices at GRMC, although you may not have noticed! The sharps containers have been exchanged for reusable containers, which reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. Mercury has been nearly eliminated, and the housekeeping department has switched to microfiber mops. These new mops reduce water and chemical usage, a double win for the environment. All cleaning products have been switched to GreenSeal-certified, EcoLogo-certified or environmentally-preferred products. The engineering services department has implemented systematic lighting upgrades, which consists of new fixtures and light bulbs that require 25 percent fewer bulbs. Another exciting change is the addition of Velcro boiler jackets to the heating system which contain the heat and help to reduce energy use. This project is going to be featured in the Alliant Energy Green Calendar for 2010. The garage sale that was held earlier in the Spring also served the purpose of the Green Team by allowing GRMC to free itself of unwanted furniture and other equipment without sending objects to the landfill.

The Green Team has high ambitions for the next phase. Currently, steps are being taken to expand the recycling efforts at the medical center. There are hopes of sometime soon placing recycling receptacles around the hospital for plastic, glass, aluminum and paper recycling. The medical center is in the middle of recycling its e-waste that was stored off-campus (computers, printers, fax machines, etc.)—last Thursday members of the Green Team and the IS department spent the afternoon getting a little sweaty (and dirty) loading electronic equipment into a trailer headed for a recycling company. We had a lot of laughs, and a lot of near-misses with the lurking spiders! There will be a second round of e-waste recycling in the near future. E-waste recycling is a great way to keep electronics out of the landfills where harmful chemicals would eventually leach into the soil. Below is a picture of the group that lent some muscles to the e-cause.

The Green Team is also looking into opportunities to reduce the amount of Styrofoam used in the hospital, which is suspected of causing several health concerns and is a substantial portion of the hospital’s waste. In the future, the Green Team would like to embark upon projects such as the elimination of PVC/DEHP, blue wrap recycling in the OR, and an increase in the purchase of local foods.

I have had a fantastic time working with the members of the Green Team at GRMC and I know that they will continue furthering the environmental stewardship of the organization. The healthcare environment as a whole is beginning to embrace green initiatives in an effort to promote overall healthy and healing environments. Green practices show a commitment to the health of patients, employees, the community and the planet – the same four things that this institution is highly devoted to serving.

Rachel Cain, GRMC administrative intern

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Guest Column: Intern Discovers Healthcare and Grinnell Community

Three weeks. That’s all I have remaining at Grinnell Regional Medical Center before I head back to school. Could time possibly go by any faster? There is so much more I want to learn from the incredible people who spend their days at this institution. During my short tenure here I have been exposed to a variety of learning experiences, and I wanted to take the time to share some of these things with you.

I’ll start with a brief introduction as to who I am and why I am here. I am an Iowan—born and raised. I attended the University of Iowa for my undergraduate years and obtained a bachelor’s degree in finance. I didn’t spread my wings too far when I enrolled in the MHA and MBA programs immediately following graduation, again at the University of Iowa. I finished my first year of graduate school this May—only two years to go before I am finally able to venture out into the great unknown called “the healthcare industry.”

In April I had the absolute pleasure of attending the annual American Hospital Association meeting in Washington D.C. with Todd Linden and three GRMC board members: Dr. Michelle Rebelsky, Susan Witt, and Ed Hatcher. The trip was exceptional. I can honestly say that I learned more about health policy and reform during that week than I had the whole academic year. D.C. was stunning and we had the opportunity to see many of the awe-inspiring sites! Once back in Iowa, I was filled with motivation and couldn’t wait to begin my summer internship at GRMC.

Once summer arrived, I packed up my things and headed (not too far) West. The first few weeks of my internship were spent getting to know GRMC, the people who work here, and the exciting things going on. I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on many interesting meetings, ranging from the Mercy affiliation to patient satisfaction initiatives. Even more thrilling, I was able to scrub up one morning and watch two surgeries in the operating room! Being a numbers and words gal, the exposure to the anatomy of the human body was an experience, to say the least. I was also fortunate enough to be able to spend a night shift in the hospital with one of the house supervisors, Mary Banta. I hoped to stay awake until 6 a.m., but I ended up wandering home around 3 a.m.! It was a great experience to be able to get a sense of how a hospital operates during the evening hours. Now I have my fingers crossed that somehow I will be lucky enough to observe a birth before my time here is up!

When I’m not at the hospital, I enjoy the quaint atmosphere and stellar lattes downtown at Saints Rest Coffee House. I also frequent the farmer’s market on Thursday evenings and get some great deals on fresh produce while listening to the live music. I’ve caught a movie at the Strand and purchased a few books at the Pioneer Bookshop. I have greatly enjoyed and appreciated my time in Grinnell and am grateful for all of the wonderful interactions and experiences I have had. Go Tigers (and Hawkeyes!).

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, July 17, 2009

GRMC's 2008 Annual Report

Your hospital. Our story. This video clip shows me introducing GRMC’s first online annual report. We decided to go green to save some green. The online version replaces the print version of our annual report. By creating in this format, we were able to save a significant amount of money for the medical center and be good stewards of our resources. Click on this link to see and hear the rest of our annual report.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Affiliation Open Forum

On Monday, July 6, I held a public open forum to discuss Grinnell Regional Medical Center's affiliation with Mercy Health Network.

The open forum was taped, and below are a few clips from the evening's discussions with me and Joe LeValley from Mercy Health Network.

Under this proposed agreement, GRMC would contract services and share best practices with Mercy network hospitals. The proposal does not call for a change of ownership or a merger. The GRMC board of directors would retain control over the medical center. No assets would be exchanged. This is not a sale of the hospital.

An affiliation with Mercy has the potential for cost savings and sharing ideas for improvement on a continuous basis. For example, GRMC could lower costs through shared contracting, improve revenues through strength in payor negotiations, share continuing education costs, and improve quality and service through shared best practices and innovations.

Additionally, there is potential savings from increased access to specialized expertise. This could include, but is not limited to help with physician recruiting, information technology expertise, joint venture opportunities with large clinical equipment purchases, etc. The financial benefits of such an affiliation will be significant in terms of what GRMC will save as being a part of a larger purchasing group alone.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Watching Out for You

I’ve sat with friends and a few of our very ill employees in our ICU and it can be a tense time. Life feels so vulnerable in critical health situations. The level of trust and confidence in the physicians, nursing staff, and technology is accentuated.

I understand the need for the best staff and technology. So I’m proud to welcome the electronic intensive care unit as another way to give confidence and trust to our patients and their families. The eICU is a monitoring system to watch a critical patient’s vitals and health status.

The capabilities of this technology are quite impressive. The unit monitors our critical patient and sends the patient’s information to an intensivist (board certified critical care physician) in the Mercy Medical Center – Des Moines eICU center. There the intensivist can monitor heart rates, blood pressure, view x-rays, review lab results, and even watch the patient’s breathing or the IV drip. The ability to watch for subtle changes in a patient’s condition can make a different in his or her outcome. The marvel of this instant video links and data transfer allows patients to remain at the GRMC ICU or ER closer to family and freinds. If a patient’s condition meets the criteria, the unit is set up and watches over the patient. Unless you are in critical condition, you won’t ever use this technology but it is reassuring that the equipment is available if needed.

Though patient outcome was the first priority for implementing the technology, this addition also addresses operational challenges in healthcare, especially rural hospitals. The current national shortage in internal medicine physicians hits small hospitals worse than urban hospitals. GRMC has experienced difficulties in recruiting and retaining internists because the 24/7 demand is just not sustainable for a solo-practice physician. The eICU provides a watchful eye on our sickest, most critical patients when the hospitalist is off duty. By adding this technology, it helped us recruit an exceptional internist, Christine Lindgren, DO, PhD. The high cost of an ICU also limits small hospitals and this eICU addition expands capabilities for patients at a lower cost. The eICU also helps address the nursing shortage and aging workforce challenges.

The electronic intensive care unit is considered one of many best practices that improve patient outcomes. So when a loved one is in GRMC’s intensive care or emergency department with a critical condition, you can be confident a watchful eye is monitoring them carefully.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

GRMC Board Votes to Affiliate with Mercy Health Network

GRMC’s board of directors has approved an affiliation agreement with Mercy Health Network.

I’m very pleased with this decision and look forward to a great relationship that will be mutually beneficial to both organizations.

I’ll be holding an open forum about the affiliation for members of the community at 6 p.m., Monday, July 6, in the Tomasek Conference Room at GRMC. Mercy Health Network representatives will also be there. You are invited to come and learn about the affiliation and ask any questions you may have. GRMC is your hospital and I know you are proud of that fact. This affiliation—NOT a merger or a buyout—promises to benefit GRMC patients for years to come. Come see how firsthand.

For those of you who can’t make it to the community open forum, please know that we’ll be taping the conversation and I’ll share some clips from the video next week on my blog. Check back here to view them.


The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Big Three: Cleanliness, Courtesy, Food

Last month, I co-led a course at an American College of Healthcare Executives conference with my consultant friend, Gail Scott. With the title, "Beyond the Silver Bullet: Ensuring Employee and Patient Satisfaction," I shared my thoughts at one point in the course about the three areas where most patients will judge hospitals. These are cleanliness, courtesy, and food.

Recently, Anthony Stanowski, one of the particpants in the course, wrote about this course in his blog, Observations on Operations. You can read it here. Anthony raises some excellent points about "why food matters" when it comes to patient satisfaction, even though it is not directly measured by HCAHPS.

Why cleanliness, courtesy, and food? Because most patients are able to best judge things they are familiar with, like being treated with courtesy and compassion, enjoying a clean and safe environment, and eating tasty food. Patients know if the room isn't clean. They know if the staff was courteous or not. Although typically not feeling well, they can still determine how the food tasted to them.

What most patients don't know is the technical stuff. Most of us aren't able to judge whether or not their physician made the right decisions about diagnosis or treatment. Few of us really know if the nursing staff technically handled their situation correctly. But we know if our food is cold or doesn't taste good. We know when we are treated with special care and attention. We can easily see if things are dirty or unkempt. This is what the majority of patients know about and that's where we have to work a little harder to be impressive. If we make sure that the hospital, the entire hospital, looks clean and orderly, that patients are greeted by friendly, compassionate people, and that the food they eat is tasty and served at an appropriate temperature, then folks have a sense of satisfaction.

Clearly patients expect and deserve competence in their care. I believe it is the service that really differentiates one hospital from another. Individualized and personal care; along with fresh and tasty food make for an excellent patient experience. I am proud of the people dedicated to doing just that day in and day out at GRMC. Striving for the best possible outcomes with an obsession for service, with an eye to efficiency and cost containment is our goal.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

A Crystal Ball for Healthcare Reform

The internet, the talk shows, and the newspapers are full of stories about healthcare reform. The pundits and the experts are batting around proposals and various solutions related to healthcare. There is some allure to throwing our current healthcare system out and starting over. Realistically, that just isn’t possible.

I’ve said it before: reforming healthcare is like peeling an onion. There are layers under layers, under layers that must be addressed before anything that looks like reform can be useful. Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, personal responsibility, preventive and public health emphasis, physician payment, medical liability, pharmaceuticals and medical device manufacturers, single-payor system, tax credits, electronic health records, fee for service, pay for performance…these are just a few of the issues being addressed. Each is complicated at best on their own, but extraordinarily so when trying to fit them all together into one cohesive package.

Last week I attended a meeting in Cedar Rapids with Senator Grassley on the topic of healthcare reform. It is the committee he serves as ranking minority member (and former chair), the Senate Finance Committee, that is currently shaping the debate. He hopes for a bipartisan approach to this monumental task; I share that hope. He is pushing for all involved parties to have some skin in the game; that also makes sense to me. Finally, he noted we must not have government making decisions about individual healthcare issues; another ideal I share.

Several years ago when I was on the American Hospital Association board of trustees, we started discussing healthcare reform. More recently, the AHA set out a framework for change which includes the following five tenants: healthcare coverage for all; paid for by all; focus on wellness; most efficient affordable care; highest quality care; and best information. These principals and ideals seem like a great place to start.

We’re hearing that there should be some healthcare reform legislation crafted this summer to be ready for the President before Congress takes a recess in August. It’s entirely possible that we will have a different sort of healthcare system by the end of the year. My crystal ball is certainly no clearer than anyone else’s, but it is clear to me we will have some big changes by year end. The question is, will it be meaningful reform or just window dressing…

It could be a very hot summer in Washington.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

We’re Number Three!!

Budget Travel magazine runs an annual contest with their readers to find America’s Coolest Small Towns. It’s totally a popularity contest and Grinnell finished as the third coolest small town in America behind Owego, New York, and Rockland, Maine.

What makes a small town cool? According to Budget Travel, the town must be less than 10,000 in population, on the upswing, a place that’s beginning to draw attention and new residents because of the quality of life, arts, and restaurants, and proximity to nature. A couple of other comments from the magazine,
  • “You have to be able to get a good cup of coffee!”
  • “When people leave for the big city, they realize they’ve made a mistake and come back home.”
Now that’s pretty cool.

Of course to the folks who live and work around here this proclamation comes as no surprise. We have some amazing attributes and clearly deserve this declaration. From great companies like Jeld Wen and Grinnell Mutual (and many more) to wonderful schools; from Grinnell College to Ahrens Park; from our historic downtown to the beauty of the houses on Main and Broad Street; from the fledgling Transportation Museum to all the City of Grinnell projects like the Drake Library and Public Safety Building. The list could go on and on, however I think you get the idea!

Of course, I would like to also think that the medical center also helps to contribute to making Grinnell such a great place to live. Cool towns don’t just happen. It takes talented and dedicated people working together to create such an outstanding town. Generations of Grinnellians have put their shoulder to effort and as my friend Claude Ahrens used to say, “leave it better than you found it.”

Congratulations to Bill Menner and all the people who continue to put Grinnell on the map. It is always fun to be recognized by others for the hard work and effort all our citizens have made in creating truly one of the coolest small towns in America!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Time to Celebrate and to Say Thank You

It’s National Hospital Week. At most hospitals, it is a time for us to take a moment out of the everyday schedule to have a little fun and celebrate the good things we do. Our Celebration Council does a great job of planning a week of activities for our staff. There are games, contests, chair massages, a raffle for donated items and prizes, and the popular Parish Picnic. When Dr. Parish retired, he donated funds to the hospital to be used for a staff appreciation event. It’s become a GRMC tradition. Sometimes it’s lunch and in other years, we’ve had a Parish breakfast with fresh Belgian waffles and all the trimmings.

The past two years, we’ve served barbecue from When Pigs Fly BBQ in Des Moines and it’s been great!

I am thankful and very proud of the men and women who give of themselves, their expertise and compassion to care for all who rely on Grinnell Regional Medical Center to be here when they need us. This hospital enjoys incredible community support and it is all because of the people who work here. The community has great trust in this organization, and so do I.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Here for you, when you need us

Recently Mindy Uitermarkt and I were invited to Monsanto to talk with their employees about GRMC and our annual fund drive. It was my first opportunity to tour the new engineering division of this amazing Monsanto complex. I must admit, I was blown away by the complexity of producing seed corn and totally impressed with everything I saw. In the simplest terms, the new Foundation division is involved in engineering new seed stock and the seed production division produces an abundant amount of this new seed for farmers. What used to be a limited seasonal operation a few years ago, is now a year-round and often a 24-hour operation. Monsanto and their employees have always been very generous and supportive of our mission and it occurred to me just how lucky our community is to have such a substantial and exciting company located here.

A month ago a few employees from the Foundation division were exposed to some seed from another country that was contaminated and made them ill. They were transported to GRMC and we were able to treat them and help them all recover. I mention this because during our presentation about our annual fund drive, several of the employees that we cared for stood up and expressed their appreciation for their experience with us. One of them made a point of coming up after the meeting and continued to express her thanks.

To be honest, it really made my day. It’s clearly the everyday work of hundreds of dedicated staff at GRMC that makes such a difference in the lives of others. I am so proud of all the women and men that make up our team. We practice being ready for all kinds of emergency and public health situations so that we may respond effectively. As we say at GRMC, this is YOUR hospital.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Mighty Band Travels to DC

On April 25, a mighty band of GRMC advocates made our way to our nation's capitol to fight for fair and equitable Medicare and Medicaid payment as part of the American Hospital Association's Annual Meeting. Susan Witt (board chair), Ed Hatcher (board chair-elect), Michelle Rebelsky, MD, (physician board member), Rachel Cain (UI graduate student and our summer intern), and I all left Iowa on a gloomy day hoping to get our voices heard.

We arrived to 90 degree weather in Washington, D.C. The temperature was the perfect metaphor for the red hot debates on healthcare reform and sizzling presentations from some Beltway insiders we witnessed. By now, anyone who reads my blog knows GRMC is a so called "tweener" - too big to be a critical access hospital and receive cost based reimbursement and too small to be a rural referral center, which also has better payment levels. As for GRMC, we got paid some $7 million below our costs last year for providing care to Medicare and Medicaid patients. Our simple goal is to push for legislation that would level the playing field and improve payment so we can continue to provide the care our patients have come to expect and deserve.

The highlights of our trip included a meeting of tweeners from around the country pledging to work together to coordinate our efforts and build a stronger voice to get our message heard. We also got educated on the latest efforts by our law makers and the Obama administration to reform healthcare. There seems to be a great deal of optimism that we will see legislation yet this year that will fundamentally change the way healthcare is delivered and paid for in our country. As we heard over and over again, "the devil will be in the details." We wait to see just exactly what Congress will develop.

When talking to many Congressional leaders specifically about GRMC's payment issues, we were heartened to hear not only a thorough understanding of the unfair payment we receive, but a strong commitment to get the issue addressed this year. We had the great fortune to have dinner with Congressman Boswell on Monday evening and lunch with Congressman Braley on Tuesday. We also meet with both Senators Grassley and Harkin later that afternoon. There is no question that our congressional delegation is leading the effort to both reform healthcare and also address this specific issue that plagues GRMC. I am grateful for their efforts. I took along stories from more than 40 GRMC patients. You can read them here.

I also want to assure everyone that GRMC leaders are watching our pennies as we push for payment improvements. I am willing to bet that members of our delegation were the only ones attending the AHA annual meeting who shared hotel rooms - the ladies in one room, the gentlemen in another. Best of all, there was a power outage in our hotel Sunday night for eight hours. After we asked, the hotel agreed to not to charge us for that day. We took turns covering meals and taxis, and several of the board members covered their own costs. I believe this is going above and beyond, given these individuals are donating their time to go and advocate for the patients served by GRMC. Finally, I personally paid the cost for our intern to attend the meeting and will also cover her summer stipend. The legislation we are pushing for would increase GRMC's Medicare payment from between $800,000 and $1.6 million per year - so obviously the investment in travel to Washington is worth it if we can make it happen!

We managed to do some sightseeing between meetings and visits on Capitol Hill. Here are a couple photos of interest:

Standing in the "Soup Line" at the FDR Memorial hoping for a little relief from our lawmakers on our Tweener issue.

Ed and Michelle contemplating the day standing at the foot of Abraham Lincoln looking at the Washington Monument in the distance.

Taking our message to Capitol Hill.

We even stopped by the "Senate ATM" to try to get our share of the Federal stimulus funds, to no avail.

Finally, Ed thought maybe he could just jump over the fence at the White House to talk directly to President Obama. We talked him out of that idea!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Ray of Sunshine – New Digital Mammography

Amidst GRMC’s financial dark clouds, primarily due to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement levels, we’ve been able to find unique ways to bring our patients new technology. Our latest addition is digital mammography made possible through an agreement with Iowa Radiology. This is the radiology group we have been working with for many years, and this collaboration has been really great for GRMC and our patients.

Being a guy I may not relate to the issues that women face with this exam, but I recognize the importance of having a regular mammogram. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. Early detection, an excellent treatment plan, and a great attitude all have made for a wonderful survival story for her thankfully. GRMC’s new digital technology unit—along with the cushions for the equipment—makes for a warmer, more comfortable exam with more refined detection capabilities.

The optimist in me encourages women to be conscious that the sooner a cancer diagnosis is made, the better their outcome will be. Yet for some patients each year, the words “you have cancer” echo in horror as they receive the news. Our compassionate staff offer hope and support to the women who hear those words. Optimism clings to the knowledge that healthcare advances such as digital mammography and breast cancer treatment options are readily available and very successful.

Although no one wants to hear they have breast cancer, early detection does greatly improve the odds for a successful outcome. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, other than skin cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer death in women after lung cancer. Our new digital mammography unit is just one more way that we have expanded our services to improve the lives of our patients.

For more information about mammography and the services we offer at GRMC, click here. 

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Too Important to Fail

Rural hospital CEO’s like me have a role that our counterparts in larger communities and urban areas rarely have. We usually find ourselves on contact committees for community economic development efforts, meeting with potential business leaders for possible business expansion or relocation. Competition is very high for this kind of development. I have had the good fortune to serve on the Poweshiek Iowa Development, Grinnell Renaissance, and the Waterford Group board of directors over my years here.

So, what does a hospital have to do with economic development? Plenty. Business owners consider many factors when shopping for location. Is there a supply of qualified workers? What is the real estate market? What about quality of life? Are the schools able to provide a good education? What about healthcare? No doubt, high quality and affordable healthcare is key to new business growth in any community. The goal of course is to attract new organizations to locate in our greater Poweshiek community and help grow our economy. Clearly that helps everyone…including Grinnell Regional Medical Center. Besides helping to tell the community’s story and helping to recruit new business to the area, I also have the opportunity to promote the medical center. I get valuable feedback on how we are doing. All around it is a vital part of my job.

Community hospitals in rural areas are often among the largest employers in town. We provide professional-level jobs, salaries, and wages that support the local economy. At GRMC, half my co-workers live outside of Grinnell including myself (I live in nearby Brooklyn, Iowa) and we impact the economies of several communities. GRMC is but one part in a larger healthcare sector of physician practices and their staff, pharmacies, therapists, and more. The excellent retirement communities in Grinnell rely heavily on a quality healthcare system to care for their residents who tend to use healthcare services more frequently. And, accessibility to quality health care influences the decision people make to retire to Grinnell.

It all ties back to my determination to correct the unfair Medicare payment system for tweener hospitals like GRMC, for better reimbursement rates for physicians, and more.

America’s community hospitals are too important to residents who rely on having quality, accessible, and affordable healthcare to fail. We are too important to area economic development and the local economy. We’re not asking for a bailout, we’re just asking for a level playing field.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Bringing D.C. to DSM

I had the opportunity to attend the President’s Forum on Health Care Reform in Des Moines on March 23. This forum was one of four held throughout the country to gather ideas and input on what folks want to see in healthcare reform.

Sen. Tom Harkin, Rep. Leonard Boswell, Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Nancy-Ann DeParle, the Obama administration’s health care reform advisor, were all present at this forum, moderated by Iowa Governor Chet Culver.

Tackling healthcare reform is a monumental task. There are so many layers that are interconnected. Accessibility, cost, insurance coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, facilities, and more…it’s hard to know where to begin.

Rep. Boswell made two opening comments…one about the inequity of Medicare payment between states, with Iowa at the bottom of the list and one about the Medicare tweener hospital issue that affects GRMC, seven other Iowa hospitals, and about 400 community hospitals across the country. It was great to hear our Congressman tell our story to another audience. He actually handed our advocacy materials on this issue to the new Healthcare Reform Leader in the Whitehouse, Ms. DeParle.

I feel hopeful that the beginnings of reform will happen this year and that the tweener issue will be addressed. Senate Finance Committee leaders Sen. Grassley and Sen. Max Baucus, (D-MT) are in the best position to make sure our legislation moves forward. Both have gone on record in support of fixing the unfair Medicare payment system and the situation it has created for tweener hospitals like GRMC.

I’m gearing up for another visit to Washington, D.C. in a few weeks for the annual meeting of the American Hospital Association along with several of our board members. Many of you shared some incredible stories about your experiences with GRMC for a publication I’m taking to my meetings with Congressional leaders during that time. Thank you for taking the time to do this. My intention is to put names, faces, and the words of real people who appreciate what is available at GRMC in front of these decision-makers to illustrate why communities like ours need a strong and healthy hospital.

In the meantime, I keep telling GRMC’s story to make a change for the better.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hospital D-I-Y

We’re in the midst of renovating several areas of the hospital. The areas are all visible to patients and visitors. We’re finding the renovation process kind of like one of those domino sculptures you may have seen on TV. One domino can’t fall until another one does.

We’re working our way to the ultimate goal of a much needed expansion and renovation of our physical therapy department. To get there, however, we’ve had to create the new Neon Café, so that we could make room for the human resources and volunteer departments to move, so that we can get to the physical therapy department via the current human resources department, and the old Tyson room… Sounds complicated, but it’s not.

So, how are we doing this given our budget constraints? Like you do at home: we do-it-ourselves.

We have some awesome folks making great spaces at GRMC. If you look around you see their handiwork everywhere including: the Tomasek Conference Room, Mitchell Meditation Room, The Glass Gift Box, and the new lab waiting and lobby area. Each of these new spaces is expertly constructed largely by our in-house staff. Now they have added the Neon Café to their list of recently renovated spaces. But they aren’t sitting back on their accomplishments. Work continues on the new human resources department offices at the northeast employee entrance of the hospital.

I’m proud of our staff and the work they do to help us maintain and improve on our facilities for our patients, visitors, and staff.

Monday, March 16, 2009

HCAHPS is Just the Beginning

Recently I commented that the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, or HCAHPS, report has ranked GRMC very well on patient satisfaction from data collected in the patient experience survey. This excellent rating comes only after the hard work of many people helping to create an environment that fosters employee ownership.

Some of the success comes by building a culture where education supports great service such as our Compassion In Action program. This seven-year journey has a simple mission statement:
“Our way to create and enhance a service excellence journey to build patient loyalty, promote teamwork, and celebrate the joy of caring.”

Other focus areas include our Pursuit of Pride survey, where employees have told us to do a better job of holding people accountable for their performance and attitudes. Overthe last several years, a great deal of effort incorporated our values into the job descriptions and evaluation process. Integrity, compassion, cooperative spirit, innovation, and service are now part of the way we evaluate and reward our staff.

Finally, we have spent time thinking about and implementing a more healing environment. From our meditation room to the healing garden, the bird aviary to the art collection, integrated health to fitness and wellness, we have worked hard to create a better healing environment for both our patients and employees. All these efforts make a difference for our mission and the folks that carry it out on a daily basis.

I will also tell you that we are not resting on our laurels, no indeed. We know we can do even better. These survey results give us insights into where we can put new energy and efforts to improve on our current great work. We know we are not perfect and when delivering something as personal, complex, and expensive as healthcare there will always be opportunities for getting better. And that is one of the reasons I have called GRMC home for more than 15 years. Way to go team! I am proud of you!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

GRMC Board “Advancing”!

Friday and Saturday, February 13-14, the GRMC Board of Directors held its annual “Board Advance” at the Postels Community Health Park in downtown Grinnell. What is a board advance? It is a two-day meeting formerly called a “retreat.” The purpose of the meeting is to primarily focus on the future of GRMC and do our strategic planning and so it dawned on us we ought to call it an “advance” instead of a “retreat”!

We use a 12- to 24-month rolling strategic planning approach and usually spend the first hour reviewing the performance of the organization in the prior year. For details on the success and challenges of 2008 you can refer to my “Good Bye 2008” blog posted earlier this year. The rest of the meeting is focused on looking forward and deciding on the priorities of how we are going to spend our time, energy and resources advancing the mission of the medical center.

We spend time in small group discussions on topics such as building on our “Optimal Healing Environment” and big projects including the acquisition of major clinical technology. We also discussed advancing our Blueprint for Health (name for our last major capital fund drive that netted a whopping $8.2 million) projects such as the physical and occupational therapy department renovation and expansion. We discussed the ongoing success of our quest to be a national leader in quality, patient safety and service excellence. It was also enjoyable discussing the strong culture we have of employee ownership in the mission of GRMC as evidenced by our impressive patient satisfaction scores.

The board also spent time evaluating its own performance both collectively and individually. The survey tool we have used was discussed and our Trustee Organization and Education Committee plans to revise the survey and process we have used the past several years. We identified several areas of focus for education and improvement activities for best practice governance for the coming year.

On Saturday, members of the medical staff leadership team joined the board for in-depth review of our physician recruitment plan and discussion about our relationship with other hospitals in Iowa. Four physicians serve on the board and along with members of the medical staff executive committee and section chiefs, there was excellent representation from our medical staff. GRMC enjoys a very strong relationship between its board, medical staff and administration. This is key to good strategic planning.

I am so very thankful for community leaders willing to donate their precious time and talents to the mission of Grinnell Regional. We are blessed with talented and committed women and men that believe in what we do and that we are there when people need us. We definitely “advanced” our cause and I am very optimistic we will continue to make a difference to the people we are privileged to serve.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

You Never Know Who You Might Meet

While I was in Washington, D.C., recently, I had a few interesting moments.

The first night, I was waiting in the hotel bar waiting to meet other NRAC (National Rural Advisory Committee) members for dinner. Two people sat down next to me and were discussing restaurants in the area and they asked the bartender if he had heard of a particular hot spot. He had not, so they asked me and I reported that although I had heard of the restaurant, I had not dined there. It seemed to me that they were looking for recommendations, so I pulled out the list of about 20 restaurants the concierge had printed off for me and began to point out places where I had eaten in the past and which ones I thought they might enjoy. The gentleman then inquired about what I thought about the hotel and I said I thought it was a great place to stay. This is the hotel the government uses for the NRAC when we are in D.C. for this meeting. He smiled and told me he was glad to hear I liked the place, since he was the general manager! The hotel was the Sofitel, a French hotel. He then bought me a glass of wine and we had a delightful conversation until my colleagues arrived.

The next day, I was leaving the meeting room on the second floor and was invited into one of the elevators with the general manager and two other gentlemen. He greeted me and asked me how my dinner was the night before. I told him it was excellent and went on to say with a smile that we had eaten in his restaurant. The other men were speaking French. The elevator abruptly stopped and the control panel went dark. We were stuck! One of the men in the elevator with us was the French ambassador to the United States. He had just given a speech to the media down the hall from our meeting room. We engaged in a wonderful conversation about our new president and his popularity in Europe, French versus California wine (we agreed to disagree on which was better), and his take on the global economy. Meanwhile, the general manager nervously talked in French on his cell phone to his maintenance staff outside feverishly trying to open the door.

At one point the lights went off so all four of us powered on our cell phones to light up the elevator. I showed them a silly picture I had taken the day before of the U.S. Capitol when I was on the Hill meeting with staff members of our congressional delegation on building support for the legislation they have introduced on the “Tweener” Medicare payment issues. I explained I tried to take the roof off the Capitol to see if Mr. Obama was inside!

The maintenance staff opened the door about 40 minutes later and we were all pulled up and out of the elevator which had been stuck between floors. I saw the general manager again later that evening and he bought me another glass of wine with a twinkle in his eye and said although he had never been stuck in an elevator before, he was sure glad to have been in there since the ambassador was on board. I must admit, I was glad to have been there as well, because it is not everyday a country boy from Iowa gets to have a one-on-one conversation with an ambassador!

On my flight home from Washington, Karen and Jim Nussle were on the same flight. Unlike the French ambassador, I do know Jim pretty well going back to his days as the U.S. Congressman from northeast Iowa. We worked together on a number of rural health issues. He was a member of Congress that truly cared about rural healthcare, understood the issues, and was a strong voice. I had not had a chance to talk with him much since has appointment as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. You know; the guy responsible for helping to draft the federal budget and responsible for managing the largest financial enterprise in the world…the U.S. Government! Basically he was the CFO for America. We talked between flights for about a half hour and I was just mesmerized as he talked about daily meetings with the President…sitting in Situation Room at least one day a week. He was in the room for every major decision made by the President over the last couple of years!

For a government wonk like me, the conversation was tantalizing. What was President Bush really like? How about Chaney? Jim was gracious and friendly as always and seemed to enjoy talking about it all in past tense. I asked if he was relieved to be out from what must have been overwhelming stress and a look of relief spread across his face. He did say it was absolutely fascinating…the understatement of the week!

You just never know who you might run into when traveling to our nation’s Capitol…for me it was a very memorable 24 hours.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Representing Rural Healthcare in Washington

I was in Washington, D.C., recently for a meeting of the National Rural Advisory Committee of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is my second year serving on this committee and I am starting to get a little better handle on it. I agreed to serve on this committee because it is an opportunity to work in the executive branch of the federal government. Most of my activities over the years have been in the legislative branch. It is my hope is to have some impact on how HHS views rural healthcare.

Each year we study topics important to rural America regarding health care and human services. Then we prepare a report to the Secretary of HHS in conjunction with the staff of the Federal Office of Rural Health. Each committee member serves on a task force relating to one of the topics. I am chairing the task force on Provider Integration. Our focus will be to look at payment policy and regulatory matters that are barriers to integration of care in rural communities. We will certainly also keep in mind the impact of the stimulus package and ramping up of discussions on healthcare reform as we study provider integration. It is a rather exciting time to be part of these discussions and I look forward to our work through out the year.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What’s in a Name?

The new Neon Café’s smashing success revolves around the people who make a difference. First, some history: nine years ago GRMC hired Edie (Clayton) Muta, the owner of Edie’s Edibles, to bring her sandwich shop to the medical center. She was not sure she could stay in business due to a rent increase and we wanted to add something to our traditional cafeteria. We literally put it in a wide spot in the corridor not far from the cafeteria and called it the Corner Café. It was an overnight success. It quickly outgrew the space and we started thinking about expanding it and finding a permanent home for this experiment. Edie left GRMC but her exquisite sandwiches remained.

Along came our two main sandwich makers, Mary Anderson and Carla DeGeorge. (They get lots of help, of course, from many of the nutrition services staff as well.) I like to think of them as personality and personality plus! If you have been to the Corner Café you know exactly what I mean. In reality, they realize that making a great sandwich is only half the job. The other half is creating a little respite from the sometimes stressful and hectic pace of the hospital. They serve up a smile, friendly banter, and even a little “attitude” when the customer deserves it! From Hootie Hoot Day to celebrity grillers, trivia contests to guess the high school pictures, these ladies have a good time and everyone appreciates the fun.

So when it came time to come up with a name for the new space, the Neon Café took top billing. I really wanted a name that encouraged the “fun and vibrant” environment these ladies have created. We had a neon sign company design a “Neon Café” sign and then found several other neon lights and pictures. Brightly colored T-shirts with slogans, like “Brighten your day at the Neon Café” and “Fill your belly at the deli,” add to this festive eatery.

I also want to recognize the financial contributions from the GRMC Auxiliary that helped to make the project possible in the first place. Their dedication to our hospital can be seen at every corner and I appreciate their willingness to volunteer their time and talents!

The space was well-designed thanks to architect Kevin White. The Neon Café construction was primarily done by Clay Beyer and Bruce Engbers, with lots of help from the facilities management gang and department directors Kris Gilman and Mark Doll.

The new Neon Café is getting radiant reviews because the people at GRMC are dedicated to doing everything brilliantly! Great food, at a great price, served up with great fun!

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Building Wellness Awareness for the Next Generation

An important part of the GRMC mission statement reads: Commitment to promoting wellness, restoring health, and enhancing the quality of life for all we serve.

In other words, we believe it is part of our responsibility to be a beacon of light to the community on improving the health of all citizens. Toward these ends we often partner with other organizations to bring the message of good health directly to their organization. Recently, we teamed up with Grinnell College to host the Grinnell College Wellness Fair. The event featured 32 booths with wellness and health information tailored to students, ages 18 to 25. One of many of our staff members, Patty Hinrichs attended with a display on hand-washing and public health tips for body piercing and tattooing – a hot topic for college-aged students. Patty reported, “This was a fun event to work. The students are not inhibited and are inquisitive to find out what we had to offer. I had a lot of interaction with the students. It was great.”

Our human resources booth hosted Grinnell College alumni who are in the healthcare profession. Medical staff members Andrew Broadmoore, MD, and Laura Ferguson, MD, attended, as well as Harriett Dickey-Chasins, PhD; Claudia Beckwith, ARNP; and Kun-Hong Lu, LISW. Students really appreciated the time to talk with these healthcare providers on opportunities and challenges. GRMC also hosted displays on integrated therapies, nutrition, blood pressures and glucose tests, and physical therapy.

It was great to see the joint efforts of GRMC and Grinnell College making a difference in the lives of these young people. We especially appreciate the relationship we have established with Jennifer Jacobsen, the new Wellness Coordinator on campus. Jen has been an excellent addition and is committed to making wellness and fitness a priority at Grinnell College. In response to the Wellness Fair, Jen said, “The students really had a fun time and I feel we reached our goal of generating awareness about all the wellness options and resources available to students.”

We certainly look forward to many more opportunities to partner with the College and other organizations in and around Poweshiek County in enhancing the quality of life for all we serve.

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent GRMC’s positions, strategies, or opinions.