Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Faith, Love, Hope, Win

Last week I had an opportunity to golf in the 5th Annual Faith, Love, Hope, Win Foundation golf event. It was a perfect day outside and you could tell people were really pleased to be a part of the event.

The mission of the Faith, Love, Hope, Win Foundation is to win the battle against advanced prostate cancer (check it out:

While we have busy schedules, not every activity, meeting or event is filled with the passion shown by David, the Event Chair and all the others who helped set up the day.

The statistics are startling for prostate cancer:

Every 2.25 minutes a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Every 19 minutes, a man dies from the disease--that means during the five hours of golf, more than 15 men died from prostate cancer.

A quote from the Faith, Love, Hope, Win website reads:

When the world says, "Give up,"
Hope whispers, "Try it one more time."

Certainly, something that we would apply in our professional and personal lives.

Dr. Norm - thank you for letting us know about the event. Ginger, Tim, Bob and I really thought it was a special event. We are glad we could be a part of it.

As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Basement

This week, my family had the chance to move again. This time the move was not too far but certainly but all the same burden on my was to our basement.

We had to fix a few things upstairs and needed access to alternative living quarters for a few days.

The move brought the family just a little bit closer. My son asked me for some funny stories from today. I told him that I did not have any offhand (or any that were appropriate for him to hear).

This was unacceptable to him. He suggested I have more fun at work and ask our physicians to meet with me and share some "funny stories" (that in and of itself cracked me up).

So I ask you, physician and non-physicians, I call our first "funny story" meeting together now. Do you have funny (and appropriate) stories you could share from your workplace?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Song Remains the Same

As we all know, health care is extremely challenging and rewarding. Health systems and physicians are constantly challenged with building a practice and ultimately developing a succession plan to serve their communities and continue to meet its health needs. Let me share some excerpts from a St. Joseph Hospital Medical Staff Analysis:

Conclusions and Recommendations:

The present medical staff was analyzed on the basis of available historical information.
While projections are subject to a certain amount of error, it is clear that projected admissions per year are far below the estimated need. Analysis indicates that while some physicians will increase their practice, a number of physicians will probably decrease their practice and in many cases the decrease will be substantial.

The age distribution of the present staff, while not unusual at the present time indicates a problem within the next five to ten years. Replacement of Medical Staff to compensate for retirement in the future should be an ongoing concern.

The fact that 10% of the staff provides 58% of patient admissions could be a problem. The unexpected loss of two or three doctors could result in severe economic repercussions for the institution. Similarly, the sudden shift by a doctor of his patient admissions from St. Joseph to another hospital, for whatever reason, poses a problem to the institution if the concentration of patient admissions in a few doctors is significant. This analysis indicates a need for quick and decisive action to recruit sufficient medical staff to provide even a minimum acceptable occupancy level in the facility.

This analysis was written in December 1975; I thought you might enjoy!

In 1990, a similar analysis was performed with similar conclusions. On the final page of that report was a graphic showing the Hospital Board, Medical Staff and Management on the three points of a triangle, all pointing to a central goal-The Patient.

Our challenges were the same in 1975 and 1990 as they are today and, more importantly, our mission and values were the same in 1975 and 1990 as they are today. Indeed, these values have not changed since the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet founded St. Joseph Medical Center in 1874.

One thing is for sure, while the challenges are similar throughout the years, it still feels, at any given time, that today's are the biggest challenges of our lifetime. Nevertheless, we continue to honor our commitment to our patients, our physicians and staff.

Janet S., a person I worked with early in my career, let me know that it would be like the movie Groundhog Day throughout my career. She told me not to throw away any projects because they always seem to come back into the picture every few years--I could just "dust them off" and revisit the assumptions.

I look forward to hearing some of your classic stories and lessons from years past.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Environmental Services & Housekeeping Week

This past week we celebrated National Healthcare Environmental Services & Housekeeping Week. I want to congratulate all our environmental services associates. They truly make a huge difference in our mission, vision and values and certainly impact the quality and service for our patients.

I look forward to hearing some value stories you have about your Environmental Services associates.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Understanding Failure to Achieve Success

It is always tough to accept failure and think of it as a learning opportunity or a sign of how we could handle different situations.

I was in the Catskill Mountains of New York this past weekend. We attended another family wedding. It was set for the outdoors and would not stop raining.

Before the wedding started, there were cloudy skies, mud was all over the field where the wedding was going to take place, the dance floor was already wet and had no chance of getting dry and the bride's dress was partly covered in mud. Back to the wedding in a moment...

While in New York, the buzz of Derek Jeter breaking the Yankees' all-time hitting record, held by Lou Gehrig, had quickly gone through the state and was the talk of the town. It was fun feeling a part of history, especially hearing the positives while remembering the horror of 9/11 just eight years back. Reading about the record in the newspaper, I was pleasantly surprised to see a quote from Dick Groch who recruited Jeter in 1992, "When you look at a player, you know he can play, you know he's got talent, but it takes an individual who is able to handle failure and that's why after I identified the tools - I know a player can play - I go out and I want to see him fail. I want to see how he adjusts to failure." The article goes on to indicate that is a sign of success and leadership.

Several months back, a neurosurgeon at St. Joseph Medical Center had a similar viewpoint, sharing that "you can't judge yourself by your successes without judging yourself by your failures."

We continuously need to look at our outcomes and the systems that support these outcomes. With so many priorities and limited resources, our organizations need the continued discipline to look at what we do well, what we could do better and possibly what we should not do. I am always impressed, as well, to see how people and organizations handle failure or tough times. In a comment from Rick R. in my "Training for Life" blog entry September 9th, he indicates the importance of "improving our discipline of gathering and reporting quality data" in a timely manner. Perhaps this is just one more way that we will continue to progress, and deal with success and take on "failure" with the right information at the right time.

Back to the was a blast...I even was given the parking attendant role, along with Barry F., a long-time CEO from another health system and family friend and mentor. As for the weather and dealing with "failure:" the Bride and Groom could not have looked happier. Once everyone saw their attitude, the umbrellas went up, everyone was smiling, people danced in a group to avoid falling and kept the evening more festive. The Bride even smiled and enjoyed her 'two tone' wedding dress.

Seeing how we approach "failure" certainly is an indicator of our potential success.

I look forward to hearing from you and understanding how you have learned and prospered from your own personal and professional "failures."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Many Reasons to be Proud

My basketball game, singing prowess and ability to fix things around the house are just a few things I am not proud of in my personal life. But professionally I am so proud to work at St. Joseph Medical Center and I see the pride that others have as well. I spoke to Duane in Security soon after I started at SJMC about 15 months ago, and he shared that “employee pride” was something he wanted to see more of. I feel we have a lot to be proud of here at SJMC. A few examples:

Sister Margaret of our Senior’s Clinic was recently honored with a nomination for a Frontliners Award from the Center for Practical Bioethics. Criteria for the award include respect for the dignity of others, professional competence, willingness to provide compassionate care to all people and appreciation for ethical dialogue. Sr. Margaret is an outstanding example of someone who takes pride in her work and that pride spills over into excellent patient care and service to our mission.

The SJ Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program has obtained Certification from the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR). This process has been a two year venture with success achieved by the hard work of members of Pulmonary Rehab clinical and physician staff. With this recognition we are now the only certified Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program in Kansas City.

Our SJMC facilities department announced a few days ago that we had reduced our energy consumption by 5% over the past year. This translates into a benefit to our planet as well as our balance sheet.

We are all very proud of our newly remodeled Food Court and coffee shop pictured below. We are happy that we can offer such a beautiful and functional area for our patients, families and employees to enjoy a meal or a snack.

As I said, there are many things to be proud of here at SJMC. And yes, I will still try to work on my basketball game…but there is very little hope.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Training for Life

We are now finishing the first quarter of our fiscal year and are off to a good start as we look at the balance of our organization's health. When thinking about the right balance, most people automatically think of financial performance but that is only one aspect of our organization's health just as it is in our personal lives.

A few years back, I was with a running group in Cincinnati. At the time, we were running for a couple of hours and people started talking about what race they were preparing to run (it seemed that very few people in their right minds would run that long just for the sake of doing it). The best answer came from Jennifer who said that she was "training for life.'' She figured that if she could keep pace with a group that was preparing for a race, then she was always within reach of doing the same if needed. That reminds me of the "continuous readiness" mindset that health systems and many organizations need to meet regulatory compliance and overall performance day after day.

To keep the pulse on the health of our organization it goes beyond just financials. Some examples of what we measure include:

Compliance for all applicable regulatory agencies:

I am pleased to see our continued focus in this area. We have made great strides with issues that had been a concern in the past. Congratulations to our GI team that has had four months straight of 100% of charts with the appropriate signature, date and time, an issue toward which we have made great strides over this past year.

Quality and safety:

Our patient falls with injury have remained minimal, so we track patient falls in general. (I am pleased to see a reduction of almost 20% over last year.) Our team has made great strides through patient education and increased rounding.

Service & operating effectiveness:

Our Emergency Department (ER) has made significant strides in reducing diversion (closing the ER to ambulances). While last year our ER was closed for almost three hours per day to ambulances, that issue is essentially non-existent today. We have started to focus on overall length of stay in our ER with 85% of patients getting treated and released. In just the past four months, we have reduced our average length of stay by 17%.

I look forward to hearing from you on your company's status and examples of how you keep the pulse on your organization's overall health.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Positive Influence

Last night, I attended our employee of the month celebration. We celebrated Cheryl and it was really great to see how many of her co-workers came to share in the celebration...along with the cake. She had clearly made a real impact in their work life together.

I had a chance to speak with Dave, one of our Respiratory Therapists. He was retired from the military after 23 years. He became a therapist after reading about a Respiratory Therapist in the newspaper. Though he never met that person, she certainly shaped his career decision.

Jane (aka #6 - a blog entry for another time) is the Executive Assistant for my office. She recently hosted a membership meeting of the Missouri Health Care Executives (MHCEA) District 2 (Kansas City, Missouri area). The MHCEA is a professional organization for and run by executive assistants employed by Missouri Hospital Association member facilities. Several were able to attend from local healthcare organizations. After speaking with them, it was evident how much they impact the success of the senior executives.

In my opinion, leading through Influence is underrated in our everyday personal and professional lives. I hear so many people still talking about 'control' versus influence to achieve desired outcomes or balance. I am fortunate to work with such an incredible team. I have often said that while I may not personally give hands-on nursing care, order supplies or staff a unit, I certainly can provide influence for our quality of care, patient safety, compliance, financial performance and patient satisfaction. We all can influence the outcomes in our personal and professional lives. So why not be more intentional and thoughtful with this power?

I would challenge all of us to understand how we could further spread positive influence. Please share your stories. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Finding Your Motivation

The other day I went running with a friend of mine. I am training for the Chicago Marathon and there are good training days and not so good training days. That morning, I came up with many excuses not to run the 18 miles planned.

"Unfortunately" Dr. Mark, my running partner, was waiting on me so I felt the need to meet my end of the bargain and show up. I struggled the entire run and felt like stopping every step of the way. He was clearly my only motivator that day.

Coming up with excuses or finding the motivation to do things have become so mainstream that there are even websites specific to each topic.

In our most recent newsletter Salus, our system President and CEO, Fleury Yelvington, wrote the following, which reminded me of the importance of finding our motivation:

The national debate over how best to reform our healthcare system has enflamed partisan passions along the entire political spectrum. There is broad agreement that the system is broken, but currently no consensus about how to fix it.

Some say healthcare is a basic right that should be provided to all Americans and that government should shoulder the burden of providing such care. Others say it’s a privilege and that a free market is the most effective and efficient means to provide the best care to the most people.

There is, however, one principle upon which conservatives, liberals and those in between appear to agree: a new, healthier, healthcare system will require all individuals to take greater responsibility for their own health.

Though some causes of illness and injury are beyond our ability to completely control or manage, there is still much each of us can do to optimize our health and minimize costly interactions with the healthcare system. The improved lifestyle choices we each make every day can, collectively, have an enormous impact on the cost of healthcare in this country.

It’s easy to dismiss such a claim – “Who cares if I supersize my fries, or if I spend another 30 minutes on the couch watching TV instead of taking a walk? It’s my life and my health, after all. And it’s not like what I do or don’t do is going to make or break the entire healthcare system.”

The message is clear: Our choices do make a difference. Taking greater responsibility for your own health will not only improve the health of our nation’s healthcare system, it will improve your own sense of wellbeing and the quality of your life. It’s a win-win for everyone.

I look forward to hearing what motivates you at work and in your personal life.