Friday, June 24, 2011

Thanks for Helping Save the Lives of Babies

We frequently talk about GBMC’s top-rate cancer care, women’s services and our Emergency Department, but we don’t laud our pediatrics department as often as we should. Pediatrics is an important part of GBMC, meeting the healthcare needs of the children of our community. A critical part of pediatrics and our organization is our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and with more than 4,500 babies born at GBMC annually, we are very fortunate to have such a high level NICU to care for those babies born too small, too sick or too soon.  While many people expect to find large NICUs in the big academic medical centers, isn’t it good to know that one of the area’s leading NICUs is right here in the community – at GBMC? The vast improvements that have been made in neonatal care through the years have certainly been extraordinary. We can care for babies born weighing a mere two pounds or less and help them thrive.

I had the opportunity to meet many of the “graduates” of our NICU at GBMC’s 23rd annual Father’s Day 5K last weekend. The outpouring of community support was incredible. It was great to see so many parents of former NICU babies, as well as so many dedicated members of the community and the GBMC staff come out and run for this terrific cause – raising money for the NICU and the technological needs that help us care for so many babies. I’m proud to report that this year’s event raised more than $97,000 for the NICU, which is phenomenal! I thank everyone involved for your outpouring of support.

Last year was my first Father’s Day 5K race (within only five days of arriving at GBMC) so this year I knew the drill! Not only did I get to meet our long-time MC Denise Koch from WJZ-TV, who is also a former GBMC NICU parent, but I met so many wonderful people, handed out awards and truly felt so much pride for the wonderful volunteers as well as GBMC’s NICU doctors, nurses, technicians and others who dedicate their lives to the health of babies.
I ran again in the race this year too…I’m not divulging my time, but will say I’m grateful that running with me was with C.J. Marbley, our wonderful clinical nurse manager in the medical intensive care unit and Dr. Jeff Sternlicht, our Chairman of Emergency Medicine! I knew I was in good hands with the two of them by me if anything went awry during my race!

I also want to mention our mock Joint Commission survey that was held last week… not only do these mock survey exercises help us to be continually ready for a joint commission visit, but proves that GBMC is constantly working toward improving how we deliver healthcare to everyone’s loved ones. I’ve been in healthcare a long time and used to fear surveys by the Joint Commission.  I don’t anymore. I realize that these surveys are a mark of approval and that we must be ready all the time. GBMC is continually improving and we are at the ready for our next survey. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Graduations Serve as a Reminder of the Importance of Education

‘Tis the season for graduations and end-of-the-school-year celebrations. Many of us have a personal connection to graduation this year. Perhaps you have a loved one graduating from high school, college or even preschool. Maybe you are the one celebrating this special milestone in your life. One of my sons just graduated from college and there is no way to express the pride a parent feels at such a momentous occasion. Every year, GBMC celebrates and applauds graduates for their accomplishments in the Greater Connections Honors Graduates edition – don’t forget to check it out when it hits publications stands and the InfoWeb in a few weeks.

Speaking of education and milestones, GBMC takes continuing education for staff very seriously. The tuition assistance program is just one of the ways in which our employees can get help with pursuing a degree. We also offer educational assistance through the T. Rowe Price Family Education Fund, the Physician Education Fund, 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Training and Upgrading Fund, as well as partnerships with Drexel University Online, Kaplan University and Stevenson University for nursing. This allows employees to either increase their expertise in their current field, or explore a whole new career in healthcare. What it comes down to is this – we are invested in our workforce and believe that knowledge is important, especially for healthcare professionals and especially for those of us who want to make our current system better.

Sarah Schwarzmann is a great example of an employee pursuing educational opportunities. Sarah, a User Support Specialist in the MIS Department, is working towards a nursing degree thanks to the T. Rowe Price Family Education Fund.  Chris Cooper, an Accounting Specialist in Corporate Finance, is also advancing his education through the fund. Currently studying Accounting at Carroll Community College, he plans to continue with graduate studies at University of Baltimore.

As humans, we often look for ways to continue to grow and better ourselves as we age, and I can think of no better way to do this than through education. Take advantage of all that GBMC’s tuition and educational programs have to offer. You’ll be glad you did. Have you earned a degree thanks to GBMC’s education programs? I’d love to hear about your experience.

Finally, on an unrelated note, I just returned from a business trip with Eric Melchior, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, and Susan Martielli, General Counsel, to speak with the companies that sell us catastrophic malpractice insurance. We have to convince our reinsurance companies that we are doing the right things to make our care as good and safe as we can make it. I want to thank you all for your continued diligence in standardizing the work we do and your focus on providing quality care in a safe environment. When we make our healthcare system more reliable, it helps us to minimize risk and contain insurance costs. Money saved can then be dedicated to other areas of importance.

P.S. – The InfoWeb and our Human Resources Department can provide more information about educational opportunities at GBMC.
  • Tuition Assistance and T. Rowe Price Family Education Fund are featured on the Human Resources pages, under “Organizational Development and Training.” Or contact Sharon Croghan at ext. 3074.
  • Physician Education Fund information can be found on the Nursing page, under “Educational Offerings/Scholarships.” Interested in Nursing school at Stevenson? Contact Jami Hohner, School Affiliate Liaison, at ext. 3704.
  • To find out more about the 1199 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Training and Upgrading Fund, stop by Human Resources to pick up a form.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Why Do Patients Wait in the Emergency Department?

I frequently receive letters from annoyed patients who had to wait to be seen in the Emergency Department. The writers often accuse me of not caring about their pain or their time and suppose that I have never gone to the ED myself to see what happens there. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
I often go to our Emergency Department to see how things are going and to thank our marvelous nurses, physicians, technicians, patient access reps, and others for their wonderful hard work, skill, caring, and perseverance. I have been a patient in an overcrowded emergency department, I have accompanied loved ones in overcrowded ED’s, and I have worked as a doctor in an overcrowded ED. When my loved one has an urgent or emergent medical need, I want them to be seen right away. I want this for everyone’s loved one.
The main cause of waiting in any Emergency Department is the bottleneck created by patients who need to be admitted to a floor of the hospital when there are no beds. Our largest fixable source of this problem is the artificial variability in scheduling elective surgeries. Hospital administrators own this problem and we are fixing it at GBMC. We must get better at scientific management to reduce delays in all of our care processes.
I get very frustrated with the letter writers who are complaining about the delays, not because I shouldn’t hear about the problem, but because the writers accept no responsibility for the problem. Patients are, in part, responsible for the second biggest reason for waiting in the Emergency Department - a healthcare system that is poorly designed to meet the needs of the patient. You see, our system is pretty good if you have an appointment with your usual provider of care. But if you have an acute need or a flare up of a chronic problem and your doctor’s office is closed or cannot accommodate you, there aren’t many good choices other than the ED.
ED waiting is nothing more than a characteristic of a system in desperate need of improvement. Emergency Departments were designed to take care of emergencies and we have now made them the path of least resistance, the catch-all for everything that is inconvenient for the rest of the system. This system would get redesigned much faster if people would demand better care! Ask your physician what he or she is doing to make care more accessible.
I laugh when I see billboards announcing shorter ED waits or a place you can check the wait online. If you have time to wait…you don’t have an emergency by definition! Our society is not well-served by driving patients who shouldn’t be there to the Emergency Department. We need better access to teams of healthcare providers who know us and our problems, who have our records and who have designed systems that can accommodate us when we need them!
At GBMC HealthCare we are racing to redesign our systems to give people in our community the care that we want for our own loved ones. We are working hard to eliminate waits and delays. We want to get to a new world where your primary care practice is the place you turn to, your medical home.  And while our physician offices won’t be open at 2 a.m., we will be open into the evening and earlier in the morning to better accommodate patient schedules so that you won’t need to go to the ED and wait. And, our primary care practices will have your electronic medical records so that if you do need to visit our ED, we’ll have access to your medical history to better care for you. It’s what we call integrated care. We’re working hard to advocate for true reform of our community’s healthcare system.
Is finding an Emergency Department with short wait times an illusion? I believe so. It’s really up to the community as a whole to be a part of the solution to the overarching issue of long ED wait times. Are you ready to get in action with us to create a system of better care? Please do your part.

Friday, June 3, 2011

At the Ready to Serve Our Community…with Fortitude and Compassion (and Fresh Fruit!)

This week, I really got a taste for how important community partnerships are for GBMC. We have the opportunity to make quite an impact with the many things we do to help our neighbors as well as our own employees.

On Thursday I was fortunate enough to enjoy some time outdoors while touring the opening day of the GBMC Farmers’ Market. Thanks to Mike Forthman and Keith Sappington, who explained the genesis of the market, I had the opportunity to stop by and meet with some of the local vendors who brought their goods to our campus. I really got a sense for the importance of supporting our local community while also promoting healthy eating by bringing wholesome food right to our employees.

Keith explained that by providing our staff, as well as the local community, with the opportunity to buy local meat and produce, we are helping to reduce our carbon footprint. Events such as this really support GBMC’s vision for creating a healthy community by focusing on what people need to stay healthy, or become healthier. In this new era of healthcare, we’re focusing more on prevention and long term wellbeing, and eating nutritious foods certainly plays a major part in maintaining health.
Check out this short video to get a true taste for what the GBMC Farmers’ Market is all about:

Then, this morning, GBMC hosted the quarterly Towson 4 Facilities Managers Meeting which included facilities executives and managers from St. Joseph's Medical Center, Sheppard Pratt Hospital, Towson University and GBMC.  Dan Tesch and Mike Forthman provided an overview and gave tours of our Maryland Region III Alternative Care Site (ACS) and Training Center at GBMC, which is located in the former South Chapman Gym.

The intent was to share with them the capabilities of the ACS should an emergent situation like a natural disaster or other major catastrophic events develop in which any of the Towson 4 would need surge capacity. The ACS is equipped to hold upwards of 100 patients in an emergency situation and also has a back up command center for GBMC.   The site is also used as a training center for Emergency Management skill building by GBMC staff as well as members of Region III.

We’ve been thinking a lot about how to prepare for such major events and how to care for mass casualties, especially in the wake of the devastating tornadoes in the Midwest over recent months. The tornado that ripped through Joplin, Missouri, devastating that community’s hospital, certainly served as a wake-up call. When I heard about this tragic event, I couldn’t help but internalize it – what if this happened at GBMC or to one of our neighboring hospitals? Would we be ready to spring into action to help all those people in need? I believe the answer is yes. In fact, back in November 2010, I attended the signing of the Baltimore County Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) – an agreement between GBMC and six other local healthcare and educational institutions  that states, in the event of a community disaster we will be able to come together to provide life-saving medical care to all those affected. This is a prime example of community partnership forged for the benefit of the people who live here.

Finally, I would like to extend my congratulations and gratitude to internal medicine physician Dr. Hmu Minn, the recipient of this year’s Compassionate Caregiver Award, which I had the pleasure of presenting on June 1st.

Dr. Minn was recognized for going above and beyond in the care of his patients and in the mentoring of GBMC’s medical residents. I believe this statement, which was part of the nomination letter submitted by 30 GBMC residents, really sums up the qualities that Dr. Minn brings to his profession:

“No one else but the people he has touched would really know his kindness and commitment he has towards all the residents and patients who come his way. Dr. Minn is an example of humility and compassion when it comes to patient care.”

I’d also like to congratulate and thank our staff members who were recognized for Honorable Mention for this year’s Compassionate Caregiver Award:

Elizabeth Bishai - Gilchrist Hospice Care volunteer, Abby Dentry, Neonatal Nurse Practitioner in GBMC’s NICU, Linda Henderson, RN,  Clinical Program Manager, Acute Care for the Elderly Unit and Debbie Johnston,  Clinical Social Worker, Women’s Services.

All of you exemplifying the kind of expert, compassionate care that we would all want for our own loved ones.