Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reflecting Back and Looking Ahead to a New Year

As 2010 winds down and we gear up for 2011, it’s important to look back at some of the events that have impacted us as a team before we look forward to a new year. Internally, as we continue our focus on the Greater Values, one event in particular stands out as a prime example of teamwork.

The GBMC sign at the entrance to the gatehouse is almost covered in snow
 during one of the February 2010 blizzards

Staff members in the hospital's command center

 Hailing from Massachusetts, I’m no stranger to snow, and I’ve heard so many stories about how the staff rallied together during the blizzards of 2010 to ensure the hospital remained operational to serve those in need of our very best care. Employees and volunteers from GBMC, and even in our community, who had four wheel drive vehicles picked employees up to get them to work and drove them home after their shifts were over. Staff members manned the hospital’s command center, answering phones, coordinating accommodations for employees who stayed overnight and ensuring that all units had the proper coverage to care for our patients. Crews were out day and night clearing snow from GBMC roads and walkways. GBMC ran like a well-oiled machine in the midst of one of the worst winter weather events Maryland has seen in a long time. I can’t think of anything that exemplifies teamwork more than this. Here’s hoping that 2011 brings much less in the way of snow and more of this kind of team effort!

"Snow drivers" with 4x4 vehicles helped get employees to and from the hospital
 during the snow events of 2010

What 2011 will bring us is a renewed focus on doing what is best for our patients. We must continue to dedicate ourselves to treating all patients the way we would want our own loved ones to be treated, every time.

A number of new executives joined the leadership team in 2010, myself included. GBMC’s Dr. John Saunders was named the new Chief Medical Officer and we welcomed Carolyn Candiello to the role of Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety. They have some exciting plans for redesigning a new quality and patient safety system at GBMC in 2011.

And, the strategic planning process for 2011, which is already underway, will be rolled out in February. Planning for healthcare reform is also an ongoing process and I have been meeting with many physician leaders throughout the organization for their insights on how to make GBMC even stronger than it is today. In 2011, we will take another step toward being more accountable for the care we provide as we continue to move ahead with the Greater Baltimore Health Alliance partnership and the roll-out of electronic medical records in our employed and community-based practices.

There’s much to look forward to in 2011 and I wish to thank everyone – from our Board of Directors and leadership team to all employees, volunteers and physicians – for your commitment to GBMC in 2010. As we look ahead, let’s continue to achieve the best possible health outcomes, have our patients experience a higher level of satisfaction with the care provided, create less waste and take joy in our jobs and in caring for our patients.

Merry Christmas and best wishes to you and your loved ones
for a Happy and Healthy 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Making A Connection

Being in healthcare is about making personal connections, whether it is through direct patient care or a single encounter with a patient or visitor. We often talk about the GBMC values and what they mean to us as an organization and as individuals. I’d like to share a story with you about two staff members who exemplify these core values and how sometimes, it’s the simplest, kindest actions that have the most impact.

JoAnn Parr, RN, a care manager on Unit 38, wrote in an email:

“…Last evening, a patient’s daughter who was here on Unit 38 and who had been up all night with her mother in the ED, was trying to leave the unit once her mother had been admitted, but her car battery was dead. The daughter called Security but their car charger was also dead…I called security and explained that I had jumper cables in my car and asked them to send an officer down to the garage to help this patient’s daughter. Kenny Burchett immediately responded and assisted in pushing this woman’s car out of its spot, hooked the cables from my car to hers and jump started it. The woman was so appreciative to GBMC Security and said, 'This is why I always bring my mother to this hospital.'"

Kenny was so kind and patient and stated, “If it were my wife or daughter, I would want someone to do the same thing.”

For those of you who have listened to me speak, you have probably heard me ask, “What if it were your daughter?” You’d want the same exceptional care for your daughter or loved one as Kenny provided to this woman. We should be proud to have Kenny as part of the GBMC family!

JoAnn goes on to tell a similar story about Security officer Arlene Hightower who helped JoAnn and a fellow coworker rescue a puppy that was left in a car in the garage on a hot summer’s day. “Officer Hightower helped us try and reach the owner of the car, kept in contact with us, let us know what to do and who to call, and was more than pleasant, kind and patient.”

Officers Burchett and Hightower serve as role models for GBMC’s values. I am certainly proud to have these individuals on our team.

And, in the spirit of the holidays, I had the fortunate opportunity to hear the GBMC holiday choir performing many wonderful holiday songs for patients, visitors and staff this past week. In fact, we had a delegation from Russia visiting our Berman Cancer Institute to see what a top-notch community cancer program looks like in the U.S. as they take on the profound challenge of establishing a cancer program in Siberia. During their tour of GBMC, they encountered the choir, happily listened to a song and asked to have their photo taken with the group of talented singers! Thanks to all the GBMC employees who spread so much cheer during this holiday season, including our Russian friends!

Members of GBMC's Berman Cancer Institute and the Russian delegation enjoy the festive songs of GBMC's holiday choir

It’s all about connecting with people. I look forward to continuing to connect with our front line staff in the coming weeks as we kick off the winter Town Hall meetings in January and February 2011 (Click here for the listing of dates and times: http://infoweb/body.cfm?id=23&action=detail&ref=200). I want to hear from you, so whether it’s by leaving a comment on this blog or discussing issues that matter to you at the upcoming Town Hall meetings, let’s keep the dialogue rolling.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Individual Actions Help Our Patients

With the cold weather here to stay for a while and flu season about to kick into high gear, I want to thank everyone who was immunized against influenza (and thank all our healthcare professionals who worked to administer the vaccines) during the mass vaccination drill in October and throughout the past month. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believes that all individuals who work in healthcare facilities need to be immunized against influenza to protect the patients (and themselves). Hospitals nationwide are calling on their staff to make it a priority to get vaccinated against influenza. You can read more about the importance of getting vaccinated on the CDC’s website: or learn more about influenza in general on

And, here’s another great example of individuals doing something to help our patients - hand washing. It’s a proven fact that washing our hands saves lives by preventing the spread of infection. But it must be a conscious decision, a task we are dedicated to doing. When a pilot and copilot of a plane take off without running a checklist, the most likely result is that they will land safely. But, it is their job to ensure the safety of their passengers, and so they run through their checklist before every take off and landing. Doing something as simple as a checklist – or as easy as washing your hands – is the right thing to do to protect those in your care, whether it is a plane full of passengers or a hospital full of patients.

In recognition of National Hand Hygiene Awareness Week you may have seen this message throughout the hospital – Wash in. Wash out. Repeat. The fundamental concept urges everyone to wash their hands, either with soap and water or with alcohol-based hand sanitizer, before and after entering a patient room.

The NICU staff does this quite well. And so does the staff on Unit 27. In fact, they serve as examples to follow as they achieved 100 percent compliance for hand hygiene in November. The employees on Unit 34 were right behind with compliance rates at 91 percent for November, well above the hospital goal of 70 percent compliance. I commend the staff and the managers of these units for their commitment to our patients’ safety and good health.

If you haven’t yet had the chance to see the hand hygiene video on the Infoweb, I encourage you to check it out:

And, on Thursday, December 9, members of GBMC’s Infection Control department demonstrated just how many germs live on our hands even after we think we have washed them thoroughly.
Employees, physicians, visitors and patients alike tried out Infection Control's Glow Germ and blue light demonstration to see just how clean their hands really were. Many people were surprised at the results! 

Working in healthcare is a calling of service. And when we put our patients first, it’s evidence of our dedication to their safety and to helping others.

As always, I welcome your comments and feedback on how you practice patient safety in your everyday duties.

Friday, December 3, 2010

We Are All In This Era of Change Together

As we continue to deal with the redesign of healthcare on a national level as well as a local level, we must keep an open dialogue about how the changes we are facing are impacting us, not only as a hospital, but as physicians, employees and members of the community-at-large. A leading facet of healthcare reform centers on the financial health and security of our country, our state, and our own medical center. It’s very important that we look out for the financial health of the hospital, as well as the hard working physicians who care for the many individuals and families who turn to GBMC for their care.
GBMC is a mission driven organization. We are here to serve our community. And, while we are not primarily about finances, we have to be financially strong in order to meet the mission. That is why I am very pleased to report that GBMC recently had its A+ bond rating affirmed by Standard and Poors. We are one of only two hospitals (along with Johns Hopkins) to achieve this high rating in Maryland, demonstrating that we are staying the course when it comes to fiscal responsibility and financial stability.  I want to thank all of our hard working staff members, physicians and nurses for helping us minimize waste so that we can keep this rating.
GBMC’s leadership continues to navigate the ever-changing landscape of healthcare, working hard to secure a successful future for our great organization. The creation of the Greater Baltimore Health Alliance is one vehicle that will help ensure we are able to remain financially secure together by looking into:
  • ways to legally be able to defer costs of launching the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) in private physician offices
  • ways to make both the hospital and our physicians thrive in bundled payment arrangements
  • ways to be ready for capitation, if it comes.
It’s important that we work as a team to reach our vision – where every person gets the best healthcare, every time, at the least cost. Over the past several weeks, I’ve heard from many physicians who are happy with the direction GBMC is heading and who are pleased to hear that we are focusing on the patient without sacrificing our staff.  I have also heard concerns.
I feel strongly that keeping the lines of communication open is the best way to address these concerns. In fact, I was very pleased to attend the first of many dinners with a group of physicians on December 2 to discuss what the vision and future looks like for GBMC. So, give me a call. Let’s set up a meeting. Send me an email. Or, leave a comment on this blog.
We’re all in this era of change together. Let the dialogue begin…and continue.

Looking forward, National Hand Hygiene Awareness Week is December 5 - 11. This is a great opportunity to reflect on the importance of maintaining the highest hand washing compliance rates, as patient safety is a top priority at GBMC.

Wishing all those who celebrate the Festival of Lights a very Happy Hanukkah.