Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Giving Thanks

As we approach another Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., it is appropriate to pause and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives. I am thankful of course for my family and friends, but also for the wonderful CHRISTUS Associates, volunteers and physicians who provide excellent care to our patients, residents, consumers, and their families every day. It truly takes a sacred calling to work in health care, and I am thankful that each of you were called to travel with us on our Journey to Excellence.

Thanks to each CHRISTUS Associate, my colleagues, and readers of this blog. May this holiday season be filled with joy, peace, and happiness for each and every one of you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Patient Satisfaction: My Continuing Focus

Patient satisfaction has been one of our main areas of focus since CHRISTUS was formed in 1999. As we have moved through this journey to ensure that our care is compassionate as well as excellent in clinical quality, we have seen other health systems take note of the importance of patient satisfaction, especially with the national HCAHPS survey.

When I have confronted physicians and Associates over the years with what I recognized as very poor performance in delivering kind, compassionate and highly-satisfying care to their patients, I often heard the response, “I am here to save lives, not make friends.” It is interesting to me, as I have been reflecting on our performance in patient satisfaction even more intensely in my transition period, that I came across an article that explains why those points are moot. “Patient Satisfaction is Here to Stay,” an article in the November 2010 edition of Emergency Physicians Monthly, also articulates in its closing paragraphs the need to combine our satisfaction focus with other areas we have included on our balanced scorecard to determine how “good” we really are.

It is clear that we are on this Journey to Excellence for the patients who turn over their most precious gift to us, their lives. We cannot violate this trust. We must be here to both “save lives” AND “make friends.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Burning Questions, Part V

This week, I’ll be providing the final installment of my answers to the questions posed by leaders from across CHRISTUS Health at our recent leadership retreat.

Q. You mentioned that physician integration, seeing physicians as our partners and not customers or competitors, will be essential for our future success. Do we have strategies in place to make that happen?

A. Under the leadership of our Chief Medical Officer, and assisted by many team members, a myriad of physician integration strategies have been developed, and some are being implemented. Two important ones are the expansion of the employed physician model, now through our CHRISTUS Provider Network, and the development of evidenced-based clinical protocols which will be systematized.

Q. Should our growth be predominately out of the hurricane belt?

A. Although I believe we will explore every “call” that comes to us, our due diligence process will indicate that perhaps some of the best opportunities where we can expand our ministries will not be in locations prone to hurricanes. We have done that with our growth in San Antonio, both clinically and for our information systems, and in New Mexico.

Q. Do you believe there is a difference in a faith-based health system versus a non-faith based one?

A. Based on my experience in the three prior heath systems where I served, I am absolutely sure and have experienced a different ambiance in CHRISTUS Health. It has been much easier here to work with a balanced scorecard, making sure the decisions we have made were not driven primarily by a financial mindset. In addition the ability to routinely reflect and pray in preparations for meetings and events, as well as, with patients, sets us clearly apart. And finally, embracing the incarnational spirituality of our founding congregations gives us the ability to live out the golden rule every day, which should be the basis for all heath care quality and safety. In the end, if the care we render is not good enough for our Associates and their families, it is not good enough for anyone else who enters our doors! It is just that simple!

Q. Is there a role for young leaders in CHRISTUS Health?

A. Clearly the answer is a resounding YES! In the enhancement of our diversity program, we not only must be concerned about ethnic and gender diversity, but also talent and age diversity. The diversity of leadership has been a driver to determine participants in our coaching and mentoring programs, our leadership development classes, and our succession planning initiatives. Having younger and better prepared leaders coming behind you should be a goal for all of us as we continue our professional journey!

Q. What metrics did you use to plan a smooth and seamless transition?

A. To assure a smooth transition, the key is to plan as far in advance as possible. Abrupt changes in leadership are disruptive, even when they are done for appropriate reasons. Also, be totally transparent in explaining to all audiences the reasons for the transition. And finally, planning the transition when things are going well is most helpful, so your successor can assume the leadership responsibilities on a firm foundation, rather than meeting daily unknown surprises.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Burning Questions, Part IV

We continue again this week with my answers to the questions posed by leaders from across CHRISTUS Health at our recent leadership retreat.

Q. What is the direction you see for our international partnerships?

A. CHRISTUS Muguerza has many opportunities to grow in Mexico. And as capital in that country becomes more widely available, I am sure they will continue to explore and undertake opportunities to expand. We have become more culturally competent through this relationship, and CHRISTUS Muguerza is a much stronger ministry because we are partners in extending Jesus’ healing ministry. One of our sponsoring congregations, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio, is most interested in us investigating an expansion into Peru to work with their health care ministries there, which include clinics, visiting home nurses, a prenatal program, and inpatient and outpatient hospice programs. Our other sponsoring congregation, the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word of Houston, recently asked for our assistance in the strategic planning process for their ministries in Guatemala. Through these opportunities, we are examining many possible future partnerships and directions.

Q. Can CHRISTUS Health develop successful ACOs?

A. The question is not “can we”, but “how” and “when will we.” Although we know the future will present challenges, we also know that we have all the pieces and are gaining the knowledge to put the puzzle together that will make us successful long into the future, regardless of heath care reform or not. Our abilities are undergirded by our 5 Strategic Directions and our 8 Strategic Enablers. We will do what we need to do to continue on the journey to put care within reach of all who need it.

Q. Has CHISTUS Muguerza fulfilled my expectation?

A. Clearly what had been accomplished in CHRISTUS Muguerza, expanding from 2 to 7 hospitals, multiple clinics, and ambulance service, a drug and addition center, a behavioral services facility, rehab facilities, and a network of clinics for the poor, has far exceed my expectations and vision for our international operations when we began that partnership in 2001. The team their embraced the CHRISTUS brand from day one, and quickly made the decision to join us on the Journey to Excellence.

Q. How do you move people out of silo thinking?

A. The ability to get every member of the CHRISTUS family thinking about how to horizontally integrate rather than to vertically report and think will be a critical success factor for our ministry. Clearly, we need to continue to explain the rationale of why this mode of operations is critical, and expand processes like matrix planning to force multiple constituencies to come together to plan a coordinated approach. And finally, integrated behaviors have to be incorporated into the performance planning processes, with clear expectation and identifiable rewards for accomplishing such.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A continued prayer for Haiti

I asked our communication teams around the CHRISTUS system to send the following message from me to all our Associates. Although we have not scheduled any future medical assistance trips to Haiti, we join with Associates, physicians, volunteers, patients, residents and friends around the CHRISTUS system to pray for support, comfort, and safety for our brothers and sisters in Haiti.

The chances are pretty good that tropical storm Tomas will strengthened and impact Haiti. Unfortunately, Haiti is slow in recovering from the earthquake, and the tent cities are much the same as when the CHRISTUS Team was there in February. In addition, a cholera epidemic is spreading, already having killed over 300 people. The relatives of the two girls from Haiti we are treating at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children’s Hospital are living within 4 poles covered by a blue tarp in one of these temporary housing compounds. If these flood, which is very likely, the results will be devastating to people have already suffered much and who we came to love while carrying out the healing ministry there. Sources on the ground indicate that the previous sources of international commitments are gone. I would ask each of you, on behalf of our original Haiti Task Force who planned our Mission, and the team that traveled their on your behalf, to keep all the Haitian people in your prayers as the storms pass over them. We, the CHRISTUS Family, know far better than most just what devastation these storms can cause. Hopefully, with our prayers, some sunshine will come forth from the clouds!