Friday, October 21, 2011

Healthcare Technology Talk with Maryland’s Health Secretary

As some readers of my blog may know, I spent a great deal of my healthcare career in the Boston, Massachusetts area, both as a practicing pediatrician and as a hospital administrator.  In January of this year, I was pleased to learn that a former colleague, Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D. had been appointed as Secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  I served as Dr. Sharfstein’s preceptor while he was in residency training in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center, and I was eager to renew our connection.

Last week, I was pleased to host Dr. Sharfstein for a quick visit with Mark Lamos, M.D. at the GBMC at Hunt Valley practice, where as part of the “Triple Aim” goal of better health, better care and lower cost we have begun implementing our medical home model and transitioning from a “fee for service” healthcare model to a “fee for health” model.   

Some key components of GBMC’s medical home model:
  • While the primary care physician is “captain of the ship”, there’s a team approach to caring for the patient.
  • Access is one of the biggest differences – we have expanded our primary care practice hours, opening earlier (7 a.m.) and staying open later (7 p.m.) so care can be given during the hours a patient needs it. 
  • Patients with medical problems that traditionally have been referred to the Emergency Department can be handled at physician offices, enabling ED beds to be free for true medical emergencies.
  • The Hunt Valley practice is set up as a LEAN-based practice, where “PODS” are set-up and stocked in the exact same way (exam room layout, staff cross-trained in multiple skills) and staffing is done to best match the patient needs of a given day.
  • A dedicated team facilitates pre-visit planning via telephone with scheduled patients enabling lab work and other tests to be ordered in advance and expediting the patient’s visit.
  • Registries have been started for patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma.
  • Blood-drawing services are on-site.
In addition, we will soon be installing several computers in the waiting room, and implementing a patient portal to our electronic record, which will allow patients to check-in for appointments, access their medical records, share information with our clinicians about their current medical problem and review their past medical history.

The Hunt Valley practice handles about 1,600 patient visits per month and takes care of about 17,000 patients a year. The average patient visit lasts about 40 minutes.

The healthcare system in the United States remains one with much opportunity for improvement, but via transformational redesign like in our primary care sites GBMC HealthCare can help lead the way toward much-needed reforms and to providing healthcare the way we’d want our families to be cared for.

Dr. Sharfstein was appreciative of the time spent at Hunt Valley and emailed me afterwards: "Thanks for the terrific tour. It is great to see a healthcare system moving so quickly to redesign care and improve outcomes for Marylanders."

Do you have any ideas of how the healthcare system can be improved for patients? Please share your comments below.

Last week I also had the pleasure of being the guest speaker at the annual Volunteer Auxiliary Luncheon where I explained to dozens of our volunteers how we can’t achieve our vision without the wonderful and generous gifts of their time and effort.  

Shown enjoying the Volunteer Auxiliary Luncheon are (L-R): Ann Stiff - Executive Office and Medical Staff Office, Herb Stiff - Front Desk,  Git Merryman, Diagnostic Center and Martha Moyer, Spiritual Support. 

Our hospital and our hospice are blessed to have hundreds of volunteers in both clinical and non-clinical settings.  Each day these individuals are engaged in meaningful tasks – from providing directions to easing fears, from shuttling loved ones across campus to delivering flowers and smiles to patients – that allow our staff to spend time providing the care that we’d want our own loved ones to experience. 

Cynthia Fager, volunteer services director, said, “The volunteers walked away with a much better understanding of GBMC's vision and what has been accomplished to date to support the vision.”

Also on the volunteer front, this weekend is the opening of GBMC’s tremendously-popular Nearly New Sale, which is somewhat of a legend in Baltimore.  

Folks make travel plans around the sale dates, entire families get together, and many unbelievable deals and steals are found.  Twice each year, GBMC employees, volunteers, and the general public get an opportunity to buy treasures, trinkets, and necessities from furniture, clothing, jewelry and silver to appliances, sporting goods, toys and games, and much more -- all at nominal prices. GBMC volunteers devote hundreds of hours this event that raises more than $250,000 annually and contributes all of its proceeds to the Volunteer Auxiliary's Patient Care Fund.  Nearly New will be open this Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., and on four other days this next week.  Check Nearly New Sale for a full schedule of sale dates and times.

Finally this week we dedicated a special new healing environment on GBMC’s campus - the Breast Care Center’s Pink Garden.  Unveiled during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Pink Garden was funded through donations and is the result of a collaboration between the Roland Park Garden Club, Signature Landscape and the Sandra & Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute. Floeresn bushes and trees with pink flowers will bloom nine to 10 months a year and the garden includes a special water effect, a stone bed in the shape of the cancer ribbon with water constantly flowing over the stones. This welcoming garden will be special for all patients and visitors, especially breast cancer patients and the 16,000 women who come for mammograms at GBMC each year.  Surely this will prove to be a special place for patients, family members and friends who are on their cancer journey.

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