Saturday, November 13, 2010

The golden rule: this Pennsylvania community hospital has weathered therecession by following one simple maxim: treat the patient as you wouldlike to be treated.(Greater Hazleton Health Alliance).

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If you want to know what has been going on at Greater Hazleton Health Alliance (GHHA), you need only keep up on the latest news. This 150-bed network, which consists of a community hospital, a health and wellness center, and a professional services division, has earned the attention of those well beyond its radius in Eastern Pennsylvania.

For the third year in a row, GHHA's Hazleton General Hospital won a patient safety excellence award from Health-Grades. Hazleton's patient safety ratings were in the top 5% of US hospitals. It was one of only 238 hospitals in the country to receive this designation.

Hazleton General Hospital was one of only three hospitals in Pennsylvania and one of 27 nationally to be featured in the August 2009 issue of US News & World Report for garnering awards from the American Heart Association's Get with the Guidelines program for treatment of heart disease. Hazleton was honored in the categories of stroke, heart failure, and coronary artery disease.

A hospital-based quality improvement initiative, the guidelines steer hospitals toward the most up-to-date practices, standards, and recommendations in caring for patients. AHA also features Hazleton General's discharge orders and order sets as model documents of their kind in its Heart Failure Clinical Tools Library.

There's more: IHI not only designated Hazleton General an industry mentor, but also praised it for pressure ulcer treatment and heart failure care. The hospital is cited in IHI's 5 Million Lives Campaign.

The kudos aren't limited to clinical achievements. This year, GHHA's public relations department recently received the 2010 Aster Award for excellence in medical marketing. "It's really all coming together for us," said Jim Edwards, president and CEO.

GHHA, which has revenues of $110 million, may also be complimented for the tradition of shrewd money management that allowed it to modernize facilities and open the doors to a 75,000-square-foot health and wellness center in May 2007.

The health and wellness center has been very popular. Its friendly design and wide range of services appeals to patients of all ages. Aquatic therapy, sports medicine, physical and occupational therapy, and speech-language rehab are just a few of the offerings. Convenience is the icing on the cake: a pager system, its own bus stop, and guides to help you make the quickest trip from point A to point B are standard.

"We're trying to create an exceptional patient experience, and we're finding that patients love to go there," said Edwards. Its soothing atmosphere is more than warm lighting and comfortable chairs; it's the result of a larger management model that makes the patient part of the team, he said.

"My mother goes there, and not because I'm the CEO," Edwards said. "There are other places that are closer to her house. She goes because the people are just so nice. They want to know what she wants. She's walked in there, and people don't know she's my mother, and the treatment she's gotten is just exceptional. Everyone gets that treatment when they walk through the door."

Opening the doors

The health and wellness center was part of a massive facilities improvement project that at times resembled a giant public works project. In addition to the health and wellness center, GHHA had placed an immense amount of time and money in restoring its physical plant.

"We've gotten ourselves largely where we need to be by focusing on operations. We're now seeing improvement in clinical quality, patient satisfaction scores, and physician recruitment, bringing in needed physicians and specialists."

But the hospital campus had to come first. GHHA had begun a consolidation and relocation plan in 2004, moving emergency services to Hazleton General and outpatient services to the Hazleton-Saint Joseph campus. Facility construction and renovations continued up until 2006, adding to the network an annex housing a new laboratory, a medical records department, a medical library, a physician staff office and lounge, and quality management and administrative offices. Inside the hospital, a step-down unit was constructed to serve patients who were transitioning from the intensive care unit.

Also enhanced was the IT infrastructure, an enormous consideration as EHR technology is reaching a level of sophistication and treatment methods and equipment are increasingly digitized.

None of this could have happened without shrewd financial planning and continual monitoring of financial operations. An example of the latter are GHHA's Good-to-Great teams, which solicit feedback from employees who work in many different hospital departments. Senior-level employees like department directors act as coaches in prodding representatives to offer their ideas as to how the hospital could save money.

"The program has been very successful," said Edwards. "It's created not only cost savings, but also an atmosphere in which people feel as though they're taking responsibility in creating change. They're very engaged and feel empowered to take advantage of opportunities and to allow us to perform at a higher level."

The teams came up with two main changes: implement plans to limit non-labor costs and analyze the revenue cycle to improve collections. It's been very successful so far, Edwards said. The non-labor cost savings were $3.8 million, and the revenue-cycle savings were about $4 million, from a facility with a net revenue base of $110 million dollars annually.

Like tumblers in a lock, everything has fallen into place. When asked if there is any one thing that makes GHHA stand out, Edwards said the facility backs up its mission to serve and offer personalized care. "It's about understanding what our patients expectations are and meeting and exceeding them. We spend a lot of time in focus groups. That surprises people. But it's natural for us. In healthcare today, there's too much emphasis in healthcare of what is convenient for the provider and not what is convenient for the patient."

Jim Edwards, president and CEO

HQ Hazleton, Pa.

Beds 150

Source Citation
Cresse, Mary. "The golden rule: this Pennsylvania community hospital has weathered the recession by following one simple maxim: treat the patient as you would like to be treated." Inside Healthcare Sept. 2010: 116+. General OneFile. Web. 13 Nov. 2010.
Document URL

Gale Document Number:A237307401

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