Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Celebrating Gilchrist

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the ground-breaking ceremony that will be the future home of our Gilchrist Baltimore Inpatient Hospice facility at Stadium Place. The current site on Eutaw Street – the former Joseph Richey House – has provided end-of-life care for city residents for more than 30 years. The new center will continue to be the only residential hospice center in Baltimore and will house the only pediatric inpatient hospice unit in the state. The addition of Gilchrist’s inpatient hospice center at Stadium Place will create a full continuum of care for elders. To find out more, please visit here

November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month and I’d like to recognize the excellent staff and volunteers at Gilchrist, who are devoted to ensuring a respectful end-of-life journey. Our team has done so much over the years to serve elders through medical consultations, palliative care, in-home primary care, end-of-life care, and bereavement services.  

Our community is so fortunate to be served by Gilchrist. In this time of Thanksgiving, I want to express my deepest gratitude to Cathy Hamel, President of Gilchrist and Vice President of Continuing Care at GBMC HealthCare, and Dr. Tony Riley, Chief Medical Officer of Gilchrist, and their entire team for their devotion to their patients and families.  

Thank You!!

Over the last several months, there has been an outpouring of support for healthcare workers at GBMC, in our state, and across the nation. Many members of our community have shared encouraging messages for our nurses, doctors, and other members of our workforce on social media and in other ways. I’m very appreciative of the community’s efforts to encourage our team.

Recently, I received handmade posters from two young members of our community. What great work and how nice it is that these young individuals took the time to find a way to brighten our clinicians’ days during this coronavirus pandemic. I am truly humbled by their kindness and their artistic abilities. 

There is a belief that extraordinary times bring out extraordinary people. As the COVID-19 pandemic has evolved, I have been amazed with the outpouring of acts of kindness from the community to our people. I want to thank these young artists and everyone who has honored us.   

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. I would like to wish a Happy Thanksgiving to my GBMC colleagues and their families! 

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all that we have. I want to thank you all for your expertise, hard work, and compassion that helps us move closer to our vision of being a community-based health system where every patient, every time, is treated the way we would treat our own loved ones.  

I also want to extend a special “Thank You” to all who will be working tomorrow, or who are working during the extended holiday weekend to care for our patients and support their loved ones.

P.S. What are you thankful for during this time? I’d love to hear about it – please leave me a comment!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

We did it!

I received a phone call recently from the United States of America Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, informing me that the GBMC HealthCare System has achieved the Malcolm Baldrige Award for Performance Excellence! We could not share this information with you until today because we had to wait until the Secretary sent out his public news release.

All I can say is “wow.” I am so happy and grateful to all my GBMC brothers and sisters for your hard work, your wonderful expertise, your embrace of our vision, and your willingness to design systems to help us get there. 

Our Board of Directors, led by our Chair, Mr. Fred Hudson, is so proud of all of you and they are also grateful for your efforts. They know that this award is a testament to your commitment to serve every patient the way you want your own loved ones served. Fred and the Board also realize how challenging this has been during the pandemic, which makes achieving the award even more remarkable!

I need to thank all of you, but there are a few people that deserve to be called out. Keith Poisson, our now retired Chief Operating Officer, did a marvelous job as the “Chief Implementer.” Carolyn Candiello, our Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety, and Lisa Groff Rueschling, our Clinical Director of Women and Children’s Services, did a masterful job of writing the application and guiding us through all phases of its review. The Quality Department all worked overtime during the site visit. So many people stepped up to the plate when it was critical to do so, but sadly I cannot highlight all of them in this blog. 

We are just the third organization in our State to achieve the award and the first in healthcare! (The other two Maryland all-time winners were Montgomery County Schools and Howard Community College.) 

Since 1987, the Baldrige Award has been the highest recognition for performance excellence in the nation. It is the nation’s only presidential award for performance excellence, recognizing U.S. organizations and businesses that have shown an “unceasing drive for innovative solutions to complex challenges, visionary leadership and operational excellence.”

Words cannot express the pride that I feel for this organization and for our physicians, nurses, other clinicians, support staff, and volunteers who contribute every day to our serving the community with health, healing, and hope, and in educating the next generation of clinicians. You have now received the highest recognition in the country for your efforts. Thank you! 

We will continue to use the Baldrige criteria to help us move faster towards our vision, but let us savor the moment. 

It’s no fun when the computers go down
A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Harold Tucker, informing me that our computer systems were down. My first thought was the worst-case scenario – that we were under a cyberattack. I knew that the U.S. was on heightened alert for such attacks. 

Out of an abundance of caution regarding system reliability and integrity, GBMC’s leadership took measures to protect essential systems and data by proactively taking systems off-line. Happily, our findings discovered no evidence of malicious behavior, but our team had to go to downtime procedures to care for patients. Returning to the paper world is very difficult, and much of our standard work had to be changed on the fly. Approximately 9 hours after our systems were taken down, we started to restore them, and by mid-afternoon we were back to standard operations. We now believe that last week’s event was due to a computer storage issue and we have already added more storage. We will continue our forensic examination to assure that we reduce the probability of this happening again. 

I am so grateful to everyone for their work to get through the downtime. Let me thank our physicians, nurses, and other clinicians, who did not let the computer failure negatively affect patient care. 

I also want to thank Dave Hynson, GBMC’s Chief Information Officer, and his team for always working hard to educate us about the threat of attacks on our computer systems and for continually working to minimize the harm from a potential attack. Let me thank our ITS team for their rapid response to the problem and for the many hours they worked through last weekend to get things running again and assuring they had made the correct diagnosis. We are better off because of their on-going efforts. 

Finally, let me ask all of you to not let down your guard! Cyberthreats continue, and we must always be ready. Thank you.

Friday, November 13, 2020

GBMC Has Always Been a Great Place to Have a Baby

It is clear that the pandemic has had a negative effect on the utilization of many healthcare services. GBMC was formed through the merger of The Hospital for The Women of Maryland of Baltimore City and the Presbyterian Eye, Ear and Throat Charity Hospital, so it’s not a surprise that GBMC has always had a very strong Obstetrics service. On average, we deliver more than 4,000 babies per year! We are now almost 9 months into the pandemic and our Maternity service is booming. 

One of the major reasons we continue to have mothers delivering at our medical center is because of our dedicated team of expert nurses, physicians, and advanced practitioners who are committed to providing safe and effective care to every patient who walks through our doors. Our staff, under the leadership of Dr. Victor Khouzami, GBMC’s Chairman of Obstetrics, and Lisa Groff Reuschling, DNP, RN, GBMC Director of Women and Children’s Service, are experts who work tirelessly to treat every patient as if she were their own loved one. 

I am so grateful to our nurses, physicians, advanced practitioners, and technicians for everything that they are doing to serve women, their babies, and their family members.

Help Is Just a Phone Call Away
The COVID-19 pandemic has put added stress on frontline healthcare workers who were already feeling the pressure of the ageing population and the opioid epidemic, among other stressors. A recent United Nations report said that frontline healthcare workers and first responders have been exposed to significantly increased stressors and emphasized that the mental health of healthcare workers is a critical factor in sustaining COVID-19 preparedness, response, and recovery.

At GBMC, we are fortunate to have the CARES program, which is a peer support service for any staff member who needs “psychological first aid” or experiences a particularly stressful work event. The CARES team services are free, confidential, and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The CARES team is here to help: 

Increase awareness of the second victim problem

Equip staff with healthy coping strategies to promote well-being 

Reassure and guide staff to continue thriving in their roles

Identify other support services

I am grateful to have this important program in our hospital. We realize how critically important it is to have a mechanism in place to support our staff. Help is only a call away. To utilize the peer support services of the CARES team, call 443-849-CARE (2273). 

Radiologic Technology Week & Forensic Nurses Week
This week is “National Radiologic Technology Week” and “Forensic Nurses Week.” I would like to thank all our registered technologists (RTs) and our forensic nurses for their very important roles in serving our patients.

Please join me in saluting our RTs and forensic nurses for their commitment to quality, patient-centered care, for their hard work, and for their valuable role in helping us achieve our vision.

Celebrating Nurse Practitioner Week
November 12-18 marks National Nurse Practitioner Week. Please join me in celebrating GBMC’s outstanding Nurse Practitioners (NPs). Across our nation, there are more than 200,000 NPs who provide care to millions of Americans. We have excellent NPs working in our hospital, in our physician practices, and at Gilchrist. They help us move closer to our vision of a patient-centered system of care every day. 

Thank You to our Veterans!
On Wednesday, we commemorated Veterans Day and took the time to remember the millions of American military veterans who have served to protect us. I know that I speak for all of us at GBMC HealthCare in offering our sincere gratitude for the personal sacrifices, past and present, of all of our service men and women.

Friday, November 6, 2020

‘Tis the Season

Last week, a joint Federal taskforce, led by the FBI, notified healthcare systems and hospitals across our nation about an imminent cybersecurity threat that has already resulted in attacks on more than two dozen hospitals. Those attacked have suffered the loss of IT systems and are running on paper documentation, causing major patient safety concerns. The criminals make ransom requests in the millions of dollars. 

These attacks are taking advantage of healthcare’s focus on the pandemic and individuals’ focus on the election. Unlike other attacks, this group is specifically targeting U.S. based healthcare with the intent to disrupt. Those leading the attack are from a Russian speaking foreign group. U.S. intelligence has intercepted communications that indicate more hospitals are being targeted this week.  

Our cybersecurity team, led by David Hynson, Vice President and Chief Information Officer, quickly and proactively implemented safeguards to help protect the systems that we rely on to deliver care.  

However, we know that the weak link in our defenses is us! Everyone must be vigilant and have a questioning attitude. Be especially careful when you receive an email from an unknown sender or if it contains an unfamiliar email address or subject matter. Here are some key safety behaviors:

--Do NOT click on or copy links in an email, instead type the site url into a new browser window.
--Do NOT open or download email attachments, instead utilize the phishing button in Outlook, or you can call the sender directly to verify that they sent the attachment and/or call the IT Service Desk (ext. 3725).
--Conduct personal business on personal devices (i.e. online shopping, personal emails, etc.).
--Know your area’s downtime procedures. Towards this end, we will begin doing downtime drills on weekdays.  

If you need assistance, our IT Service Desk is available 24/7 to support you. For more IT resources and information on safeguards that are currently in place during this threat period, please visit the main page of the Infoweb (What’s New section). 

Remember, if something does not look right, please contact our IT department. Thank you for your help and for doing your part to keep our systems safe!

National Medical Staff Services Professionals Awareness Week
This week is National Medical Staff Services Awareness Week, and I would like to recognize the important role that our medical services professionals play in our healthcare system. They work behind the scenes to ensure our providers are properly credentialed, licensed, and trained in their respective specialties. Often called the “gatekeepers of patient safety,” medical staff professionals are critical to our system’s high safety and quality standards. Please join me in thanking them this week. 

I want to congratulate our Chairman of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Robert K. Brookland, and his department for being awarded a three-year re-accreditation in radiation oncology as the result of a recent review by the American College of Radiology (ACR). Re-accreditation is given to health facilities that meet specific ACR-developed practice guidelines and technical standards, following a stringent peer-review evaluation by board-certified radiation oncologists and medical physicists who are experts in the field. This designation is an honor and reflects GBMC’s ongoing commitment to excellence in cancer care.

GBMC Health Partners at Padonia Update
Since its official opening approximately three weeks ago, our GBMC Health Partners practice at Padonia, has been growing rapidly. This early success could not have been possible without the hard work of many, including Senior Ambulatory Practice Manager, Ericka Easley. Ericka has done an excellent job in leading the team, along with Sarah Whiteford, MD, and making sure that each patient receives the care that we would want for our loved ones. Thank you, Ericka!

Our Democracy is Strong
The United States of America was built on the principle of majority rule. It is very exciting to see so many people exercising their right to vote. We have the right to debate who are the best candidates to lead our government, but once the results are in, the citizens have spoken and we all must accept the results. I ask all my GBMC colleagues to work to bring people together to strengthen our democracy and improve our nation, no matter the results of the election. Thank you.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Being Ready for Your Loved One to be the Patient

GBMC will receive a site visit from the Joint Commission for our triennial accreditation survey in the next few weeks. In the old days, when a hospital thought that the Joint Commission was on the way, it was time to get ready and be on our best behavior. Thankfully, this is no longer the case.

We now realize that accreditation standards are the minimum that an organization needs to meet to deliver good care to those it serves. We all know that GBMC is moving towards its vision of being a community-based system of care that can deliver the best health outcome and the best care experience with the least waste of resources and the most joy for those providing the care. We do this for every patient, every time. This is the care that we want for our own loved ones. So, it is clearly necessary for us to be ready all the time for an accreditation group to give us a check-up. If all our leaders are following our Leadership System, we should always be ready for a Joint Commission Survey. I am very interested to see what we learn when the Joint Commission comes. I am sure that the surveyors will find some areas where we might improve but I am sure that we are ready as an organization. 

This Monday, on the Lean Daily Management walk, I visited the Women’s and Outpatient Surgery Center, the Sherwood General Operating Room, the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit, and the Kroh Endoscopy suite. At every site, these perioperative leaders told me what they were doing to take their units further along the journey towards high reliability. My colleagues were so far away from the old days of having to get ready to meet a minimum standard. On the contrary, it was so exciting for me to hear how highly they were performing and how they were setting the bar higher every day to move us towards our vision. I am humbled by the work of Jack Flowers, MD, Sharon Rossi, RN, John Kuchar, MD, and all their colleagues. They don’t need to be told to “get ready.” They, like their other GBMC colleagues, are ready.

Stroke Center Award
I want to congratulate our Primary Stroke Center which, under the leadership of Michael Sellman, MD, and Aaliyah Franks, RN, was recently selected for the 2020 AHA Gold Plus and Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite and Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll

These awards recognize our Stroke Center’s commitment to assuring evidence-based stroke care. Great work and congratulations!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Experts Should Be Trusted & Listened To

GBMC uses principles of high reliability to move closer to our vision every day. What does high reliability mean? A simplified version is that what should happen…happens and what shouldn’t happen…doesn’t happen. 

Academicians have studied highly reliable organizations and have found that these entities follow five principles. They are: sensitivity to operations, commitment to resilience, reluctance to simplify explanations of successes and failures, preoccupation with failure, and deference to expertise.

Leaders are in the position to make decisions. Being human, a leader can’t know everything. Smart leaders reflect on their knowledge and capabilities and seek the help of experts when they must make a decision. Governor Hogan should be commended for his work at the beginning of the pandemic. He sought the advice of epidemiologists from Maryland’s universities because he recognized that they had expertise that he did not have. He listened to them and took their advice in crafting Maryland’s plan for confronting the pandemic. Because of this, Maryland has done fairly well in confronting the coronavirus compared to other states where governors made decisions that were not informed by expertise.

Recently, I had an experience in my personal life that underlined for me the importance of seeking the input of experts. I was sitting at the dinner table when I heard a noise coming from the basement. I went downstairs to see what was happening and there was a loud “clicking” sound coming from our heating unit. 

I had no idea what I was hearing, or for that matter, what I was looking at in the component parts of the system. So I reached out to an expert – our Director of Facilities Jim Keyzer. Over the past few years, I have had many conversations with Jim about physical plant issues. I have been in awe of the depth of Jim’s knowledge about heating, plumbing, electrical works, and everything to do with building maintenance. So, I took out my phone and took a video of the heating unit. I then texted the video to Jim. Within minutes, I had a reply from Jim telling me that the noise was coming from the water pump and the most likely broken part that was causing the noise. The next day, I called a heating technician who came, validated Jim’s suspicions, and fixed the problem. 

This incident again reminded me how little I know about so many different topics and how important it is to reach out to experts and follow their advice. Giving deference to expertise is what helps us improve our situation as individuals, as organizations, and as countries. 

When leaders make decisions based on their own beliefs that may not be informed by truth and logic, things don’t go well. 

We are giving deference to expertise in our daily work at GBMC and our progression in achieving our Four Aims is evidence of this!

One family’s work in helping GBMC
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers have sewn and donated more than 3,900 cloth face masks to GBMC for use by our staff. More than a quarter of these masks have been made by one volunteer – Rita Siwinski! A few weeks ago, Rita reached the 1,000 masks donated mark, which represents about 500 hours of work, not to mention the cost of materials which Rita so generously purchased. I wanted to make you aware of her efforts because she has truly demonstrated what it means to “give back.” During one of the most challenging periods in recent history, Rita’s example has been a bright star for all of us. What is also amazing is that Rita, a former employee, volunteers in the Pharmacy and her husband, Stephen, also volunteers in Spiritual Support. When you see them, please thank them for their ongoing commitment to GBMC!

GBMC Team…Please get your flu shot!
This year, getting a flu shot becomes even more important as the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic continue. All members of the GBMC workforce are required to be immunized (those few who are excluded for health reasons are required to wear masks during the flu season) to protect our patients. Our next FLU VACCINE EVENT is Monday, October 26, at Employee Health Services. Next week’s schedule is as follows:

Monday, October 26: 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Thursday, October 29: 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Friday, October 30: 7 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

Fridays: 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Your GBMC ID badge must be presented at flu events. Vaccines are only available at the dates and times listed above, no walk-ins will be accepted at Employee Health Services unless specified above. The deadline to receive the influenza vaccine is October 30. 

Top Docs Again!
GBMC has always been recognized for the quality of our medical staff, which was again confirmed when 143 of our physicians, in 76 specialties, were named in the Baltimore magazine “Top Docs 2020” survey in the November issue. Several of those medical staff members were recognized in more than one category, and some have been recognized many years in a row! 

In preparing its annual list of “Top Doctors,” Baltimore magazine surveyed 13,000 area physicians and asked where they would send members of their own family for specialized care. This important question is at the very center of GBMC’s vision of providing each of our patients with care worthy of our own loved ones.

This year, the magazine also highlighted, Lauren A. Schnaper, MD, FACS, breast surgeon and our former Director of the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Comprehensive Breast Care Center. She was one of six physicians, from a pool of hundreds in the Baltimore area, selected to be profiled.

To all the “Top Doctors” at GBMC, congratulations from all of us! The rest of us in the family are very proud of you. To view a listing of our “Top Doctors” and to learn more about who they are, please visit here. 

I am delighted to announce that GBMC, was again a recipient of the Most Wired Hospital award from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME) for both our acute and ambulatory services. We were one of two hospitals in the state to receive two Level 9 Most Wired recognitions, which is no easy task. Many institutions have only been successful on the acute side.

Some of our IT advances include expansive telehealth services to accommodate the COVID-19 pandemic, a fully-integrated patient portal, and real-time data visualization tools. The electronic health record (EHR) can consume discrete data from multiple external entities to ensure continuity of care.

I am very proud of our IT Team in their recent achievement of the Most Wired Hospital award. Let me once again congratulate our information technology professionals and our clinicians on this fabulous accomplishment!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A GBMC Icon Retires

This Friday, October 16, is Keith Poisson’s last day as our Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. He will begin his well-earned retirement on that day. 

Keith came to GBMC in 2007, after serving as Chief Operating Officer at St. Mary's Health Care in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to oversee patient care and support services as Chief Operating Officer of our hospital.  

In 2010, Keith took on much more responsibility as he became Chief Operating Officer for the entire system. In this role, Keith has been the key designer of our system of care, accountable for the day-to-day operations of not only our hospital, but also GBMC Health Partners and Gilchrist. Among Keith’s many accomplishments is his development of the service line model that has put physician leaders, nurse leaders, and administrators in charge of large components of our system. Keith has overseen the strengthening of our strategic planning process and the creation of our strategy deployment process. This work has caused GBMC’s resurgence in surgery, the tremendous growth in the medical sub-specialties, especially in cancer, and the solidification of our position in the market in maternal and child health. With Keith’s calm demeanor and great depth of knowledge about care delivery, GBMC has moved steadily towards our vision. Achieving a second site visit (and potentially achieving the award!) for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award is a fitting testament to Keith’s legacy at GBMC. We would not have gotten this far without Keith’s oversight of the creation of standard work and an accountability model to sustain it. 

Keith has mentored so many young leaders at GBMC and we can thank him for leaving us with the capabilities to keep moving forward as he departs. Keith has been a partner and friend to me and has often given me sage advice just when it was needed most. 

GBMC has been very lucky to have Keith as a leader. He will be missed dearly, and we wish him all the best. Keith is relocating to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina with his wife, Liz. We will welcome Keith back to GBMC for the groundbreaking of our three-story hospital addition, and in recognition of his outstanding contributions to our system, we are naming him as a member of the Promise Project Campaign Committee.

We will never forget Keith and his dedication to GBMC. Please join me in thanking Keith for all that he has done for GBMC, our staff, and our patients. 

Congratulations to Our Lactation Support Team
GBMC was acknowledged recently by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) and the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) for excellence and dedication in supporting and promoting breastfeeding.

The IBCLC Care Award is reserved for hospitals and community-based facilities that are found to protect, promote, and support the clinical management of breastfeeding, provide regular training for staff members who care for breastfeeding families, and support evidence-based projects. This recognition validates the efforts being made by our multidisciplinary team of nurses, nursing support technicians, lactation consultants, obstetricians, advanced practitioners, neonatologists, pediatricians, and anesthesiologists to help mothers get off to a good start with breastfeeding during their hospital stay, and beyond discharge.

GBMC is one of a few hospitals in the Baltimore region to receive this designation and this is the fourth concurrent two-year cycle since 2014 that GBMC has received the global recognition. Congrats to Jodie Bell, MSN, RNC-LRN, IBCLC, Assistant Director of Women’s & Children’s Services at GBMC, and her colleagues for this achievement.

Thank you!!
Emergency Department nurses never know what patient with what ailment is about to walk through our doors, and they can see many patients in a shift. When a patient comes to our ED, our nurses deal with them quickly and professionally regardless of the patient’s age, illness, or injury.

This week is Emergency Nurses Week (Oct. 11 – 17) and this year’s theme Heart of Gold, signifies the incredible heart that every emergency nurse has and how vitally important they are to hospitals. This is more than evident during these challenging times of COVID-19. Please thank our emergency nurses for their often heroic and compassionate service and for having a “heart of gold."

2020 Healthcare Security and Safety Week
I want to thank all the members of our GBMC security staff, as this week is Healthcare Safety and Security Week (Oct. 11-17).

Each day, GBMC security officers help maintain a safe and secure workplace. They can be seen walking or stationed throughout our medical center from the emergency department to labor and delivery. 

They are vital members of the healthcare team and we cannot be successful without them. Please join me in thanking our security staff for their hard work and for the strong commitment and diligence they display in the practice of their profession.