Wednesday, June 13, 2012

GRMC Ranks High for Patient Safety and Cost Efficiency

Two recent studies have published their results showing how well GRMC ranks in the state of Iowa for patient safety and cost efficiency.

The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit group focused on patient safety, has graded 2,651 hospitals nationwide for their patient safety outcomes. The study looked at 26 measures such as hospital-acquired infections, injuries, falls, and medication errors.

In Iowa, 26 of the total 118 hospitals were graded and GRMC was one of five Iowa hospitals to earn an A. Nationally, The Leapfrog Group recognized 729 hospitals with an A grade, 679 hospitals received a B, and 1,111 hospitals were given a C. Beyond a C, 132 hospitals were labeled with "grade pending."

In 2010, GRMC was named a Top Hospital by The Leapfrog Group. The Leapfrog Group is a coalition of public and private purchasers of employee health coverage. Their mission is to work for improvements in healthcare safety, quality, and affordability. It is an independent advocacy group working with a broad range of partners, including hospitals and insurers. Members include Chrysler, FedEx Corporation, IBM, and Motorola, among many others.

The second study, conducted by Kaiser Healthcare News, ranks Grinnell Regional Medical Center seventh in the state of Iowa for cost-efficiency in caring for Medicare patients. A nationwide study completed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ranked the state of Iowa as the ninth most efficient state in providing Medicare patients with healthcare. Medicare released their findings of the differences in cost both geographically and between hospitals of different sizes.

Frankly, we've been talking about this for years and their findings do not surprise us. We know that some of the highest quality healthcare in the country is provided here in Iowa and we provide that extraordinary care at a substantial value.

The study looked at the national mean cost for caring for an average Medicare inpatient visit. Using that mean, they created an "efficiency index." An index of one means that Medicare spends about the same per patient at a particular hospital as it does per patient nationally. This measure of relative cost effectiveness is an improvement over previous studies because it "normalizes" the data to eliminate differences due strictly to previous payment rates and it includes costs incurred 30 days after discharge from the hospital.

Hospitals were then ranked on either side of the efficiency index of one. The average efficiency index for Iowa was .91 and GRMC's efficiency index was .87, well below the national mean.

The current Medicare reimbursement system is a fee-for-service system. That means Medicare pays when tests and x-rays are ordered. The system inadvertently rewards healthcare providers for usage. Now, Medicare is moving to a fee-for-performance system. We've known for a long time that when the system changes to pay for careful usage of healthcare while providing excellent patient outcomes, we would be at the top of the list instead of at the bottom when it comes to reimbursement.

The results of this study compiled by Kaiser Healthcare News could show policymakers what it means to provide cost-efficient healthcare and whether lower costs are tied to the quality of care provided. This research provides some evidence that even with keeping costs low, up to 30 percent below the national average for GRMC, hospitals can provide outstanding patient care.

Hospitals will be rewarded for their efficiency and the quality of care they provide patients. Our goal has always been to provide the best healthcare and patient experience we possibly can in the most cost-effective way. Medicare and organizations like The Leapfrog Group are now starting to hold other hospitals to that standard as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sorting Out the Fear From the Facts

From the U.S. Supreme Court to the campaign trail, to the coffee shop, and just about anywhere else, Americans are talking about healthcare.

It is true that healthcare is changing, but healthcare is always expanding and changing. Healthcare is anything but static. New advances in technology, diagnostics, and treatment options are being developed every day. It's a large part of our business to be on top of changing trends in healthcare, even if the waters are especially murky these days.

And, fortunately, we're being trendsetters ourselves at GRMC. We knew this day would come - when our focus on excellent patient experience and outcome would be rewarded. Medicare is now carefully tracking patient satisfaction scores across the country and providing hospitals the opportunity to earn back additional reimbursement based on patient satisfaction surveys. So far, we are meeting those high standards very well. Medicare wants to pay for performance and outcomes rather than just paying for services. These are standards we have been working on all along at GRMC.

Our work in preventive medicine was rather unheard of in hospitals our size when we started these programs 15 years ago. Today, we know that working to stay healthy in the first place and preventing many health issues will help keep healthcare costs down. That's why we offer yoga, Spinning, and fitness programs for seniors and children. Yes, we are working to keep people OUT of the hospital as much as we can. Today, Medicare is also rewarding hospitals for preventing unnecessary hospital readmissions. Every hospital working with patients who use Medicare is working hard to make sure that patients with chronic diseases can live well to stay out of the hospital as much as possible.

At GRMC, we care for our neighbors, friends, and family with the best we can give to every patient, every single day. We frequently hear stories from those who have appreciated the professional and compassionate care they or their loved ones receive at GRMC. Patients rate GRMC highly and we work tirelessly to earn that level of trust and satisfaction. Hand in hand with providing the highest clinical quality healthcare possible, we also ask ourselves, "What can we do to ensure that every patient feels they have had the best possible experience at GRMC?"

Even though the national discussion surrounding the future of healthcare is full of unknowns, you can trust that GRMC is working hard to be the hospital here for you when you need us. If you have specific questions about healthcare reform and how it may apply to GRMC, please feel free to contact me. It's important to me to have these kinds of conversations with you about this subject or other concerns you may have.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Grassroots Advocacy

Every year, the Iowa Hospital Association hosts a Legislative Day where community hospital supporters from across the state come to Des Moines to learn about healthcare issues on the legislative agenda.

At GRMC, we are very fortunate to have an active and engaged auxiliary that handles all the logistics for our group to attend. They arrange for a bus. They invite people to attend. They make the reservations with IHA, and make it an enjoyable day of learning and advocacy. The GRMC Auxiliary does a great job of orchestrating the entire trip. We have anywhere from 25 to 45 who attend on an annual basis.

This year, about 1,000 participants gathered at the new Veterans’ Memorial Ballroom in Des Moines, which was spectacular. It was something to sit in that beautiful space and look up at the rafters and orient myself in what used to be the gymnasium where I watched many sporting events. It is now a well-appointed large ballroom that can comfortably accommodate a crowd.

Gov. Terry Branstad was the after-lunch speaker for the event. I was pleased with the Governor’s remarks about the Healthiest State Initiative. Anyone who knows me professionally knows that I have been a staunch supporter of disease prevention and wellness efforts. Community hospitals have an important role to play as the health experts in Iowa’s cities and towns. I fully support the Healthiest State Initiative because I know that lessening the risks associated with many chronic diseases can help prevent people from developing diabetes, heart disease, and often several kinds of cancer.

On our tables at the luncheon were pictorial guides of all the Iowa House and Senate members organized by the hospitals in the district each legislator serves. They also provide a card with the talking points of IHA positions on issues and specific bills.

When dismissed from the luncheon and program, the attendees returned to our buses and vehicles and headed out to meet with our legislators. Every day is a busy day for an Iowa legislator, especially during the session. We always try to set up meetings in advance so that our legislators know that we are coming and that they can try to include us in their schedule planning for the day. As they say, “even the best laid plans” don’t always work out. This year, we had an excellent and open conversation with Sen. Tom Rielly (D-38) of Oskaloosa, in the auditorium of the Wallace Building. We can ask questions, provide information, and give another point of view that our legislators may not know or consider. And they provide the same for us. Our role as advocates is to inform and participate in the legislative process. Legislative Day gives us an up close and personal view of our state system of government.

I hope you will consider joining us next year. It is usually the last Wednesday in February and the auxiliary makes it very easy to go along. Our districts are changing in 2012 and we will have new legislators next year, which will make 2013 Legislative Day an interesting one.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Staying Steady

Did you know that the healthcare industry supports 1,326 jobs in Poweshiek County, Iowa? Overall, those positions contribute more than $57.6 million in payroll and income to the county and area economy, according to the latest study by the Iowa Hospital Association.
Grinnell Regional Medical Center generates 410 jobs that add $32.5 million to the local economy. In addition, GRMC employees by themselves spend $6.67 million on retail sales and contribute $400,360 in state sales tax revenue. Long term and residential care facilities employ 495 individuals. Physicians, dentists, pharmacists, and other health practitioners and their offices support 341 jobs. Add to that another 600 jobs that are indrectly related to healthcare and that makes a significant impact. In total, the healthcare industry spends $57,604,960 in payroll income that generates an economic impact of $77,881,091 in our area.
So why is this important? The contributions by long term care facilities, physicians, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists, and other medical services make a significant impact on the local economy, This includes the number of people they employ, their purchases with local businesses, and employees' spending. It all affects schools, housing, service and retail businesses as well.
But there is more to this story. The healthcare sector provides vital community services for the health and wellbeing of all its residents. Whether the service needed is provided through emergency medical technicians and an ambulance, a routine dental exam, or using a local pharmacy for medications, healthcare plays an important part in all our lives.
Our area has a strong healthcare industry that supports current healthcare needs. It also contributes to the quality of life that makes our area more attractive to new families moving in, industries looking to expand, students attending our area colleges, or retirees wanting to settle in a community of care.
Even though GRMC has reduced payroll and the number of employees over the past two years, the healthcare industry in Poweshiek County has maintained its level of healthcare jobs and economic impact. Through these tough economic times, healthcare remains an important economic and quality-of-life factor in Poweshiek County and beyond.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Your Generosity Knocked Us Out!

One of the things I love best about my job as a hospital administrator is when I get to brag about the extraordinary level of philanthropic support our medical center has from the community. Grinnell Regional Medical Center is a community hospital and we are very proud of that distinction.

Give me a moment to brag, and you will see why...
  • GRMC just completed the most successful annual fund drive in its history raising $378,166. (GRMC serves a six-county rural area of east central Iowa that includes about 19,000 households.)
  • A goal was set to raise funds to purchase new anesthesia machines for the surgery department at a cost of $35,000 each. We actually planned to replace them over the next four years as funds were available. Our donors rallied around this campaign and $140,000 was raised to replace all of them now.
  • Total giving to all campaigns, the annual fund, special events, grants, and memorial gifts was $731,599 in 2011.
We have amazing partners who are invested in the vitality of Grinnell Regional Medical Center. This community supports GRMC in many incredible ways.

This week, we had an open house reception for donors who donated toward the purchase of these anesthesia machines. I had a chance to visit with the representative of the company that sells this equipment. He made the trip from Minneapolis to be here for the open house. He was impressed and thrilled to be here.

He said what impressed him was that the people of the community raised the funds to make this happen. He also said that the size of the community surprised him. He shared that on his first trip to Grinnell, he expected the community to be much larger because of the hospital and the number of procedures (about 3,685 annually) that our surgery department performs, the reputation of Grinnell College, and the diverse industries located here. He talked about driving around town and being surprised that Grinnell wasn't larger than it really is because it certainly acts like a larger community.

Alex Anderson, one of our anesthesia providers, said it best, "Your generosity knocked us out." I couldn't agree more.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Don't just take my word for it...

This is a great video that was submitted with the application for Grinnell's Blue Zones Project.  It was produced in collaboration with several community businesses and organizations.
A special thanks to:
Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation
City of Grinnell
Drake Community Library
Grinnell Chamber of Commerce
Grinnell College
Grinnell High School
Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company
Grinnell Regional Medical Center
Imagine Grinnell

What's a "Blue Zone" anyway?

Guest Blogger: Cory Jackson, manager, Grinnell Regional Wellness and Fitness and co-leader of Grinnell's Blue Zones Project

Have you registered your support of Grinnell's Blue Zones Project?
So, what is all the talk about "Blue Zones" anyway?
Imagine Grinnell as a community where:
  • People live well and healthy into their nineties and beyond...
  • Residents choose to move naturally using bicycles or walking more often...
  • Residents know their purpose, why they wake up in the morning...
  • Vegetable gardening is a "growing" pastime...
  • Friends regularly meet in walking groups...
  • Laughter is often heard...
  • A sense of belonging is a commonly held feeling...
"The Blue Zones" is a book written by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic researcher who studied communities all over the world to find those places where residents lived well into their nineties and even longer. Buettner summarized his findings and created the Power 9, a pyramid of nine different small changes in individual lifestyle habits that have a big impact on a community. Grinnell's Drake Community Library has this book in its collection and it can be checked out.

In coordination with Iowa's Healthiest State Initiative, Wellmark and Healthways have teamed up to find those communities in Iowa that also have the traits of these "blue zones." Through an intensive process, Wellmark and Healthways will select three Iowa communities to be designated as Blue Zones.

Right now, 54 Iowa communities, including Grinnell, have submitted a formal application. On February 10, Wellmark and Healthways will announce the 10 communities selected to move on to the next level of the competition, a site visit by the selection committee.

Being an official blue zone brings a wealth of resources to take communities to the next level in their efforts for greater happiness, health, and wellness. The application process has been a great learning experience. We have built a proposal that is collaborative, sustainable, and inclusive. We are already doing great things in Grinnell. We want to focus on making this quality of life truly accessible for all residents. Becoming a Blue Zones community would take us to the next level through greater community involvement and working together to make changes in our community to make it easier for residents to live healthier, happier lives. We need residents to register their support and get involved. We are currently ranked at number 14 in the state for citizen support and our goal is to be in the top ten.  Every vote counts!!