Friday, July 30, 2021

Another First for GBMC

Science has taught us how to save individuals who are having a life threatening cardiac arrythmia. We also know that time is of the essence, so being well-trained in advance leads to better outcomes for the patients. 

Recently, GBMC became the first hospital in the state of Maryland to earn the designation as an RQI Lighthouse Organization because of our “adoption and consistent use of an innovative CPR training program.” We are the first hospital in our state to use the RQI system to train nurses and other clinical providers in cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

RQI training techniques have helped members of our clinical staff achieve sustained mastery of CPR skills. The hospital implemented the system, which is endorsed by the American Heart Association, back in 2016. During the training, the system provides live feedback, while the learner practices CPR skills with a manikin every three months.  These techniques came in handy a couple of years ago when one of our own staff members used his skills outside of a patient unit to save someone’s life.

While walking to lunch, Roel Tiberio, BSN, RN, CGRN, Endoscopy Nurse Manager with The Kroh Center for Digestive Disorders and one of our Art of Nursing Award recipients,  was having a conversation with a coworker when he heard a loud noise and turned to see that someone had fallen.  At the same time, two other GBMC HealthCare system medical staff members were leaving the cafeteria, and also saw the visitor on the floor.  They immediately ran to assist and found this person to be without a pulse and not breathing. Using his clinical training, Roel quickly delegated someone to call for a code and another to get an automatic external defibrillator (AED) while he began CPR. Roel followed the instructions which indicated that the visitor required a shock.  Roel proceeded to shock the patient as he and his colleagues continued CPR. When the code team arrived, the visitor was breathing on his own and was immediately transported to the Emergency Department.  After a full medical assessment, the patient was admitted for observation. Roel was relieved to learn that the patient had survived without complications.  

It is not uncommon for our clinicians to implement CPR on a patient, but it is not often that clinicians use these skills outside of patient care units. Roel’s quick actions were lifesaving and clearly shows the value of the RQI system. 

I want to thank Vanessa Velez, Director of Professional Practice, Education, and Research at GBMC HealthCare and Deborah Higgins, MS, RN, CHSE, our Simulation Manager and AHA Training Center Coordinator, for all their hard work to make sure that we are adopting best practices and continually improving our readiness for events like the one described above. I would also like to thank David Vitberg, MD, Director of our Medical and Surgical ICU, and Carolyn Candiello, our Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety, for working with RQI to bring this tool to our hospital.   

Diversity & Inclusion Assessment
Our vision at GBMC HealthCare is to become the community-based healthcare system that can deliver to every patient, every time the care we would want for our own loved ones.

We cannot achieve this vision unless our workforce mirrors those we are serving. Our diversity brings more new ideas and our inclusiveness magnifies this by empowering many more people to innovate. We need our entire team to be engaged to move us forward, faster. 

GBMC will be working with Cee Suite to conduct an assessment of the current state of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility in the GBMC HealthCare System. This assessment will help our organization identify what we are doing well and where we can improve. Cee Suite is a talent management consulting firm with a specialized focus in diversity, equity, and inclusion. They partner with organizations to develop sustainable DEI solutions.

After completing the organizational assessment, Cee Suite will provide leaders at GBMC with a roadmap to create a more diverse workforce and foster an inclusive environment for our staff and patients.

What should you expect?

--In the next 30 days, employees from various departments, roles, and backgrounds will be invited to participate in focus groups led by Cee Suite.  This participation will require a commitment of one hour.
--Over the next 3 to 6 months, we will share the feedback from the organizational assessment and an introduction to our organizational plan. 

If you have questions regarding this initiative, please send them to

Thank you.

Friday, July 23, 2021

The Maryland Waiver with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation

It is a very complex topic, but readers of the blog know that the State of Maryland has an all-payer rate setting system. In Maryland, unlike in the other 49 states, hospital payments for services are determined by the Health Services Cost Review Commission (HSCRC), a quasi-governmental agency. In the rest of the country, hospitals negotiate payment rates with insurance companies and are told what the rates are by Medicare and Medicaid. Stand-alone hospitals, like GBMC, have little bargaining power in other states, so they are usually paid less than hospitals run by large companies. In Maryland, all payers, including Medicare and Medicaid, pay the same rate to the same hospital for the same service, and these rates are set by the HSCRC. In other states, Medicare usually pays below what private insurers pay and Medicaid significantly below what private insurers pay. GBMC gets paid less than many of the hospitals in our region for the same service, but we are protected by the all-payer rate setting system.

Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published an evaluation of the first two years of the Maryland Total Cost of Care Model. Since January 1, 2019, CMS has been holding Maryland accountable for reducing the total cost of care for Maryland Medicare beneficiaries, not just for hospital costs, while improving the quality of care and patient satisfaction. The evaluation points out that Maryland reduced total Medicare spending in 2019 (relative to national trends) by $365 million — $88 million more than the spending reduction achieved in 2018, which followed the previous waiver model. The report concluded that global budgets remain the biggest financial incentive in the Model. 

Maryland has also embarked on a new program to incentivize better primary care called the Maryland Primary Care Program (MDPCP). The report says that primary care practices in 2019 made gains in the targeted domains: access and continuity, care management, comprehensiveness and care coordination, patient and caregiver engagement, and planned care. Blog readers know that advanced primary care is a fundamental building block of the GBMC HealthCare System, so you won’t be surprised to know that we are among the leaders in MDPCP.

It will also come as no surprise that our GBMC Health Partners primary care providers were recently acknowledged by readers of The Sun as the best in the Best General Practitioner (primary care) category. It’s nice to see that members of the community now understand that we are different and validate our excellence as we move towards our vision of being a community-based system of care that can deliver to every patient, every time the care that we would want for our own loved ones. 

Readers of The Sun did not stop the accolades with primary care. They also found GBMC to be the Best Hospital in our region! Our Audiologists were also found to be the best!

And we had others recognized as runners-up in the following: 

Best OB/GYN Practice

Best Audiologist - Presbyterian Board of Governors Cochlear Implant Center of Excellence

Best Pediatric Practice - GBMC Pediatric Group

I want to THANK the community for their support and all who voted for recognizing the hard work and dedication of our people.

Way to go!
I would also like to announce that Baltimore's Child Magazine recently unveiled its list of 2021 Readers’ Choice winners. GBMC was named: 

Best Hospital - Hometown Heroes - COVID-19 Pandemic Response

Best Place to Deliver Your Baby

Best Pediatric Vision Care - Dr. Allison Jensen, Eye Center at GBMC

And runners-up in the following: 

Best Pediatric Physician - Hometown Heroes - COVID-19 Pandemic Response, Dr. Theresa Nguyen - GBMC Pediatric Group

Best Medical Matters

Best ER for Kids

Congratulations to Drs. Jensen and Nguyen. I am very grateful for everyone who has made this recognition possible.

It is no secret that those of us in the medical field never stop taking care of people even when we’re not at work. David Vitberg, MD, Director, Division of Medical and Surgical Critical Care Medicine, is a perfect example.  

Recently, Dr. Vitberg was awarded the Maryland Star of Life Award for his heroic efforts to save a man who was trapped under a waterfall in Rocks State Park. The award, presented by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS), combines the organization’s symbol, the Star of Life, with its shared vision, “the elimination of preventable death and disability from injury or sudden illness.”

Dr. Vitberg, along with first responders and other EMS physicians, played an instrumental role and worked for hours to free a man – nearly having to amputate his leg. Fortunately, the water rescue team was able pull him out just prior to the procedure. The man was treated on the scene and then transferred to a local hospital with his leg intact.

We are all incredibly honored to have Dr. Vitberg as a leader at GBMC and congratulate him for this award! 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Getting Ready for the Construction on our Campus

Back in June, I talked about some changes that were forthcoming in terms of parking and other closures to accommodate the beginning of construction for the three-story addition, the new parking garage and the new Sandra R. Berman Pavilion, called The Promise Project. As we inch closer to our official groundbreaking on September 2, you will be hearing a lot more about this project, and we will work hard to keep you as informed as possible about the construction process and how it will affect employee workflow, visitors and patient access. 

The Rose Lot will close as of this Monday, July 19. This is necessary because the heavy construction equipment will park in this area, and it will also be a staging area for construction. Reducing parking spots makes people concerned about their ability to find a place to park. Tulip and Lily garages have abundant space to handle those who will no longer be able to park in the Rose Lot. And actually, the Lily Garage is closer to the main entrance and has a conditioned walking path to protect employees, patients and visitors from the elements. 

Thank you for your patience as we continue the repairs to the Daffodil Garage. From July 12 through October 1, we will be working on Levels 1 and 2 of the garage, affecting 60 total parking spaces. The garage will remain open, but we are asking employees to park in the Tulip and leave the remaining spots for patients and visitors. We are also adding a valet attendant on July 19 and will add another valet station at the former Sherwood Loop in early August to help with access and flow. 

Lastly, Human Resources has relocated! As of this week, nearly all Human Resources employees are working in the South Chapman Building. If employees have any concerns, questions, or are looking for anyone in particular, your HR business partner is a great place to start, but you are always welcome to visit South Chapman to find what you need. 

New Date for Employee and Volunteer BBQ
I would not want to miss an opportunity to thank and acknowledge our amazing employees, especially after the challenging year we have had. We have traditionally held our annual Employee and Volunteer Appreciation BBQ in July, but this year we are moving it to Thursday, September 30. More details are forthcoming, and I hope every employee plans to attend. This year was tough and threw us many curveballs. Each one of you handled it with grace, humility, and always with a focus on the patient. I look forward to celebrating with you on September 30. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Congratulations and Thank You

Our triennial survey by the Joint Commission was completed last week and we did very well. I was not surprised because we have outstanding people and we have worked hard to create systems to help them do their job and provide highly reliable care. Let me thank all our team for their incredible efforts to deliver the care that we want for our own loved ones. Great job!

The surveyors found some opportunities for improvement but overall, they were very impressed. In many areas, they had no findings. In Maternal Newborn Health (MNH) the nurse surveyor from the Joint Commission reviewed eight charts and found no issues to correct!

Every Joint Commission visit to MNH starts with the review of a patient who has had a vaginal delivery and one who has had a cesarean section. There is also a chart review of a high-risk patient with an obstetrical or medical complication.

In 2020, the Joint Commission introduced two new standards to address complications related to maternal hemorrhage and severe hypertension. Our nurses, nurse educators, and Epic analysts worked together as a team to add functionality to Epic to meet the new standards. This was a collaborative process where input from all team members was invaluable. The goal was to assure patient safety and decrease the risk of complications, while ensuring seamless integration with the workflow. The surveyor focused on these new standards during the chart reviews in Labor and Delivery.

During the chart reviews, the Labor and Delivery nurses were able to highlight two new areas of build in Epic that address the new standards. The Labor and Delivery and Mother Baby staff now use a Postpartum Hemorrhage Assessment tool that identifies the patient’s risk of hemorrhage from admission through the postpartum period. One of the highlights of this tool is that once the provider enters the necessary documentation to calculate a hemorrhage risk score on admission, Epic continues to calculate the risk based on specific criteria in the background without the nurse having to re-enter documentation at set intervals. The score recalculates automatically and is highlighted in the Storyboard and several other areas in Epic.

The Labor and Delivery nurses were also able to highlight the care that they provided for a patient with a hypertensive emergency. The Epic team and clinical end users worked together to build a new comprehensive order set for this type of event as well as new patient assessments. The staff did a great job of navigating through this complex patient chart.

I want to congratulate Gretchen Bell, RNC-OB, C-EFM, our Application Coordinator/Analyst Team Lead EPIC, our Labor and Delivery nurses, and all members of our MNH team for this fabulous achievement, and for working together to continually improve patient care.

I also would like to thank everyone for their hard work, collaborative spirit, and commitment to patient safety.  It was evident to our survey team that GBMC is a highly reliable, patient-centered organization. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

A Welcomed Visit

This week, we had our triennial unannounced visit from the Joint Commission. I think of this visit as a checkup where surveyors examine how reliable we are in our patient care.    

The concept of reliability simply means that “what should happen happens, and what should not happen doesn’t.” To get to our vision of being the community-based system of care that can deliver to every patient, every time, the care that we would want for our own loved ones, we have to move towards 100% reliability. For example, a highly reliable medication delivery system always has the correct dose of a needed medication given to the correct patient at the correct time. To get to very high reliability – with error rates close to zero – an organization must find the potential causes of failure, the so-called “holes in the Swiss Cheese,” before they can line up to cause a miss that might lead to patient harm.

The Joint Commission is a regulator that exists to protect patients. The surveyors’ job is to find our areas of risk – places of lower reliability and opportunities for failure. We welcome the survey. Why? Because outside eyes may find vulnerabilities that we don’t see. The review helps us improve our care. We don’t “get ready” for the Joint Commission. We must always be ready because people’s loved ones come here for care every day. 

Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a standard of quality. We are grateful for the work of the surveyors. 

Last year, we achieved the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award because of our commitment to system design that makes it easier for our outstanding staff to care for patients. The Joint Commission survey is just another assessment to see how we are doing. I am very proud of our people because of their excellence and their commitment to well-designed systems. They live by our standard work to drive us towards our vision! 

Finally, I want to wish everyone in our GBMC family a safe and happy Independence Day. July 4th marks the birthday of our great country…the land of the free and the home of the brave. Let's take some time to reflect on what we can each do to make our country even better than it is today.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Back to the Future: Entrance A to Become the Main Entrance Again

I have been joking for a few years about the hospital’s main entrance being Entrance B. Some of you know that this has not always been the case. In the past, the bus loop entrance at the East Pavilion walkway, Entrance A, was the main entrance. 

Since the new three-story addition will be built in front of our current main entrance, we need to create a temporary main entrance until the new addition is complete. At that point, we will have a beautiful new grand entrance. 

We have been in the design and planning phase of the Promise Project for over a year, and now it’s wonderful that we are moving into construction. The first phase will involve trenching for the new utility lines that will connect to Charles Street. The Rose Parking Lot will be closed beginning July 19, but the handicap parking in the front of Entrance B will remain open. In late August, Entrance B and the remaining handicap parking will be closed in preparation for the groundbreaking. To accommodate our patients, we will be increasing valet services, transport services, and creating additional handicap spaces.

We have also started the schematic design phase of the Sandra R. Berman Pavilion and garage. We are involving representatives from all departments relocating to the consolidated cancer center building. We anticipate that this design work will continue well into August with the goal of finalizing construction documents in the Spring of 2022.  

I am really looking forward to the three-story addition which adds 60 new patient rooms that will accommodate patient and clinical staff needs and have advanced sound proofing. To get this done, we will have to make many changes to patient and staff flow throughout our campus. For more information, please visit

Thank You!!!
This past Sunday, we held our 33rd annual GBMC Father’s Day 5K and 1-Mile Fun Walk. It was a gorgeous day and it was great to see so many families IN-PERSON on our beautiful campus. For more than three decades, this event has been helping to raise funds for GBMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

I want to thank the more than 450 participants who spent part of their Father’s Day with GBMC and helped raise more than $105,000. In 33 years, the 5K has raised close to $3 million for critically ill and premature babies.

Let me also thank the GBMC Volunteer Auxiliary and all the amazing volunteers who made this event happen as well as GBMC’s NICU doctors, nurses, technicians, and others who dedicate their lives to the health of babies. I greatly appreciate the many “graduates” of our NICU and their parents who came out to show their support on Sunday. 

Baltimore Magazine
Physicians…It's that time again! Baltimore Magazine is collecting votes for its TOP DOCTORS issue. Docs, please vote for the colleagues you most respect! The survey may be found here.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Why is GBMC Requiring all Our People to be Vaccinated Against the Coronavirus by September 1? What if it was your loved one?

Imagine if your immune-compromised daughter came to GBMC for her cancer chemotherapy and she contracted COVID-19 from a staff member who was not vaccinated. She needed to be transferred to the ICU and intubated. How would you feel? Would you accept the fact that it was the right of the staff member not to take a vaccine that would have prevented spreading the virus to others?

I want to again thank all the GBMC teams for their fabulous work fighting the pandemic. Even before there were vaccines, many of you put your own health at risk in caring for those infected with the virus. This came as no surprise to me because we know that healthcare is a calling of service to others. 

The scientific community raced to identify the infectious agent causing the disease and quickly created a vaccine to prevent sickness and death from it. Virologists, immunologists, and epidemiologists worked tirelessly to complete randomized controlled trials of vaccines to see if they could create at least one that was safe and effective. Early on, when the numbers of people treated were relatively small, there was plenty of room for doubt. Then, as millions of people across the world were given the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine with minimal side effects, their effectiveness at preventing serious illness and death became clear. At that point the scientific community, led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, started encouraging all people to be vaccinated. 

The most current information regarding the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines is so profound that the risk of harm from the vaccine is miniscule compared to the risk of serious illness or death in those not immunized. Now, it is time for us to call the question, “Is it ok for a healthcare worker to not be immunized and risk illness and death for themselves and and patients?”

The Maryland Hospital Association (MHA) gathered its members together to consider the question thoughtfully. Led by the scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland, the members of the MHA responded “no.” The administrative wheels at the Food and Drug Administration do not turn quickly, so it may be some time before all the reviews required for full FDA authorization beyond Emergency Use have been completed. But these vaccines have extensive data, which has been scrutinized by experts in the fields of infectious disease and immunology, supporting their safety and effectiveness because of the millions of doses that have been given under Emergency Use. The vaccines are on their way to complete authorization – it’s just a matter of time. We at GBMC, Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, and others have decided to mandate the vaccine now because we want to minimize the chance that more daughters, sons, sisters, and brothers are harmed by COVID-19. 

Mandatory vaccination policies are not new to hospital staff and colleagues, and those who are not able to be vaccinated for medical or religious reasons will be required to apply for an exemption, like we do for influenza and varicella and a host of other vaccines.  

GBMC HealthCare, like the other hospitals in Maryland, is an institution grounded in science. We believe in evidence-based medicine and we create standard work according to the evidence. We welcome people to come forward with new theories, but we make our decisions based on the preponderance of the evidence. As the evidence changes, we adjust our decisions. 

As many people will head back indoors this fall, and the delta coronavirus becomes prominent in Maryland, we may see epidemics of disease among those who have not been vaccinated. We must be ready for this possibility. 

Resources to help answer questions about the vaccine, safety, side effects, and more can be found here or via our Employee Hotline form. To make vaccination as easy as possible, employees may receive the vaccine through GBMC by completing this form, which is also located on the Infoweb. Alternatively, the COVID-19 vaccine is available through your GBMC Health Partners primary care provider and it is also offered throughout the community. You can even text your ZIP code to GETVAX (438829) for a listing of clinics in your neighborhood. Please note that if you receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside of GBMC, you will be required to provide proof of vaccination to Employee Health, as we do for influenza vaccine. 

I have been fully vaccinated, as has my whole family. Thank you for working with us to keep our patients and each other safe. 

Juneteenth, the new federal holiday
President Biden signed legislation yesterday making today the first federal Juneteenth holiday in our nation’s history. Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, is an annual holiday observing the end of slavery and marks the day when people in Galveston, Texas, received news of emancipation. 

Let’s use this as a day of reflection and advocacy to stand firm against systemic oppression and racial inequities in our country. 

The Passing of a Great Physician
Yesterday, I attended the funeral services for Joseph Patrick Connelly Jr., MD, family physician at GBMC’s Hunt Manor practice, who passed away last week. Dr. Connelly cared for patients for almost 40 years and has been a member of the GBMC family since 2009. He loved being a physician and had such amazing devotion to his patients. We will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Carla, and the rest of Joe’s family.

Go on a walk or a run for a great cause!
This Sunday, June 20, we’re holding the 33rd Annual GBMC Father’s Day 5K & 1 Mile Fun Walk, now with both in-person and virtual options, to benefit the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).  

We are fortunate to have a fabulous NICU with excellent clinicians and cutting-edge equipment. The equipment and staffing required to provide the care for our sick or premature babies is expensive and the funds raised from our annual Father’s Day 5K defray these costs. Please support this year’s event and consider walking a mile or running a 5K. Encourage your family to join you! Please visit for more information and to register or donate to the cause. Remember that your support will directly benefit the more than 400 critically ill and premature babies cared for annually in GBMC’s NICU. Thank you!

…also, Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in our GBMC family!