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How a failing hospital was turned around to become a nationally recognized leader

by Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | August 20, 2021
From the August 2021 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Tammy Peterman: So we have what we call our Five Stars — service, quality, people, growth and sustainability. Our performance is really strong in each of the Five Stars. We were in the lowest decile in patient satisfaction a number of years ago. Today, we’re in the top decile. We’ve been at the 90th percentile for a number of years in patient satisfaction. From a quality perspective, we’ve made the U.S. News & World Report best hospitals list for a number of years. And each of the years U.S. News has identified the best hospital in the state and the best hospital in a metropolitan area, we have been that hospital.

From a people perspective, we had 2,200 employees in 1998 and now have nearly 13,000 people and we continue to grow.

The bottom line is that we have developed a culture here that allows everyone to be supported — of course we’re focused on patients, but we’re also focused on staff and physicians. Our culture has helped us weather some of the storms. During the pandemic for example, we told our staff early on we wouldn’t layoff or furlough anyone. That made a really big difference when the time came to rebound. We had the opportunity to put some predictive models in place to let us know when we would need to start getting our volume back. We had a pretty quick rebound and have done remarkably well this year in terms of taking care of patients.

We have a formula that we’ve lived by since we moved out of the university system. It’s a focus on the patient from a quality perspective and a satisfaction perspective, making sure we have the right people supported in the best and right way. If those three elements are in place, the growth and sustainability of the organization will follow. We’ve never flipped the formula where we might have focused on growth and finance first. Even during the pandemic and challenging economic times, we’ve maintained our focus on the patients and people.

HCB News: With the rough start you had when you walked into the organization, did that experience help you navigate through the difficulties caused by the pandemic?
BP: Tammy brought it up earlier — our culture is what got us through. We were on track to have one of the best years we’ve ever had and then the pandemic hit. Our year ended with financial results 60% less than what we were predicting. That was the result of two really rough months. Having said that, first of all, as Tammy said, we didn’t furlough or lay anyone off, which was directly related to our culture of putting people first. Second, we got into a leadership role during the pandemic as the only true academic medical center in the area. Jill Chadwick (director of media relations) said, “let’s put together a morning briefing that allows them (the media) to get answers to questions they should be asking.” We have a studio inside the hospital, so we started that 17 months ago. It started out intending to be a morning briefing for media and it’s now grown into this worldwide audience. We’ve kept people informed by stepping up as a source of truth. On the business side, we set very aggressive targets to get patients back. We also ramped up telehealth within two weeks. Our telehealth reach for new patients is now 45 states.

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