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.