"The Ronan Report" provides insight about the activities at the Western Maryland Health System in Cumberland, Maryland, and about the changes taking place in healthcare today from a CEO's perspective.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

CEO Fathers, Daughters and Corporate Social Responsibility

An interesting article came across my desk this AM entitled, "Those with Daughters Make Better CEOs, Study Finds."  Two researchers studied over 400 CEOs with a total of 1000 children.  They found that having a daughter, especially if the daughter was first born, directly affects a CEO's social responsibility.  

The corporate social responsibility was far better in companies / organizations run by CEOs with a daughter. Male CEOs with daughters were almost a third more likely to make social responsibility decisions similar to female CEOs.  CEOs with daughters show a much greater connection to society in general and a greater concern for the well being of those connected to the organization.  

So that leads one to ask what about CEOs with sons; not even close with the results according to Erin Marshall, the author of the article.  CEOs with sons were not linked to the same results nor corporate social responsibility behaviors.  

I am not sure that my commitment to social responsibility has much to do with my first born daughter, Jessica, who strangely enough handles corporate social responsibility for Boeing in Charleston, SC, or even my second born daughter, Lauren.  Both are wonderfully successful in their own right and recognize the importance of social responsibility in their personal as well as professional lives.   

For me, as I reflect back, I think the strongest influence has been my wife over the many years that I have been a CEO; Pamela is very pointed in her kindness and generosity to ensure that the greatest impact will be felt by as many as possible.  She has influenced me accordingly.  

I have also been positively impacted by the predominantly female workforce at WMHS (81%); this is a group who are so giving professionally in their service to our patients and to each other as well as in their personal lives to their families, their churches, their communities and the list goes on.  Over the last five years or so, I have been especially influenced by those women in executive leadership positions at WMHS: Nancy Adams, Chief Operating Officer & Chief Nurse Executive, is always mission and values focused and has an amazing knack at transforming ideas into action; Kim Repac, Chief Financial Officer, who, when she feels committed to a cause or issue, can be the most generous person that I know; Jo Wilson, VP, Operations, lives and breathes social responsibility and recognizes it's criticality to those whom we serve both inside and outside the organization; Michele Martz, VP, Physician Enterprise, displays a wonderful interest in people and ensuring that we do always the right thing for those whom we serve; Kathy Rogers, Director of Community Relations, serves as the organization's conscience, as well as mine, by always bringing that commitment of responsibility to our many decisions and Karen Johnson, Foundation Executive, is very much attuned to the social needs of our organization and our community and in many cases she knows how to fund them.


I continue to be blessed with the many female influences in my life--from my wife to my daughters to the staff, especially those many wonderful advisors from whom I seek counsel  each day.   Oh yeah, I am also blessed to have the many male influences in my life who truly get it when it comes to social responsibility.  I bet they too are wonderfully influenced by the women in their lives.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Family and Friends Basket Auction

On Thursday and Friday of last week, our Foundation held its fourth annual Family and Friends Basket Auction.  When we first started, the auction was associated with our golf tournament; however, since there is so much work that goes into both events, we began to  separate them.  

Last week's auction was the best yet. There were 21 baskets donated by departments and individuals, 126 silent auction packages and 37 Chinese auction packages / items, and they raised over $11,000 for WMHS Foundation scholarships. By the way, the Foundation just passed the $1 million mark in scholarships awarded, WOW!  

Obviously, there is a great deal of work that goes into the auction and some photos are attached.  Karen Johnson, Dawn Martz, Jamie Perrin, Lisa Hout and Katie Gattens did an exceptional job in making this happen. Over the two days, there was a total of 239 bidders, with some of the bidding wars occurring up to the final minutes of the auction. The $11,300 raised was 70% of the total value of the baskets, packages and items donated.  Way to go, everyone, on a job so very well done.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Just When Did The Lights Go Out

Last week, Kevin Turley, VP of Operations at WMHS, was going through photographs from when the new hospital was getting ready to open.  At that time, Kevin came to the hospital in the evening and took some wonderful photographs.  As he was going through the photos last week, he noticed that the Schwab Family Cancer Center sign was lit.  He thought to himself, that sign can be lit?  Realizing that the sign hasn't been lit in years, he reached out to Facilities and asked why the Cancer Center sign is no longer lit.  He was told that the sign can't be lit since it has no lights.  He showed our Facilities guy the  photograph.  He was shocked.  To make a long story short, the sign is now lit at night.  The
solution to getting the sign re-lit............simply flipping the switch.  Someone had turned it off a number of years ago and never turned it back on.  Shame on those of us who work those long hours arriving when it's dark and leaving when it's dark.  We should have made note of it long ago.  Well, anyway, the sign is now lit proudly and a mechanism for keeping track of lighting around the campus has been created.  Nicely done, Kevin.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tour of a Lifetime

Yesterday afternoon, I participated in our Foundation's Tour of a Lifetime event.  We had a special tour for our Foundation Board members after their regular meeting.  This series of Tours is at our Cancer Center.  Julie Hardy, Director of Medical Oncology, and Deana Ouellette, Chief Technologist for Radiation Oncology, conducted the tours in both of their areas.  

The tours were amazingly enlightening for all attendees, including me.  I continue to marvel at what the staff in both of these areas do for our patients, day after day.  There are jobs and then there are callings; this is truly a calling for those who work in our Cancer Center.  The staff is kind, compassionate, pleasant, knowledgable and highly experienced.  
We had the opportunity to see our newest addition to our Cancer Center, our Varian True Beam linear accelerator.  The True Beam, with a price tag of just under $3M, uses pinpoint accuracy to radiate tumors anywhere in the body.  

I had the opportunity to explain to the group during the tour that shortly after moving to a Total Patient Revenue payment methodology in FY 2011, we heard from some staff, physicians and even folks in the community that operating under such a payment methodology would be the end of any new technology and that our intention would be to save money by not effectively treating patients any longer.  In fact, I saw a headline the other day in the NY Post that said just that--the new "dangerous" direction for health care.  Wrong!!  In addition to the article/thought being insulting, nothing could be further from the truth.  The True Beam linear accelerator was a great opportunity to demonstrate for the organization and the community that by reducing unnecessary admissions, ED visits, and ancillary utilization, we could re-invest that savings in new programs and new technology to better treat those in need.  

Now with that said, the efficacy of any treatment needs to be demonstrated to be effective; otherwise, no one will support the treatment financially.  There was a time when if the technology or a drug was available, for the most part, it was provided; few questions were asked.  That is no longer the case.  The payers have said that there needs to be demonstrated viability in the treatment in order for them to pay for it, even though it may be listed as a covered service.  If it doesn't substantially prolong life or have a demonstrated life-saving benefit, you can almost be certain that the treatment will be denied.  With close to $3 trillion in health care spending in the US each year, an "anything goes" model for care delivery couldn't be sustained.  

Anyway, back to our Cancer Center and the Tour of a Lifetime, it was time very well spent and gave me the idea that we need to do more with opening up the health system to the public so they can see what we have accomplished since bringing this still state-of-the-art facility to little old Cumberland.

Monday, July 27, 2015

US News and World Report Hospital Ratings

The US News and World Report ratings are out and whenever that happens, the questions begin as to just how important are they to hospitals.  If you are on the list, they are VERY important; if you aren't, their value can be immediately brought into question.  

The clear benefit is the ability to market your health system and its ranking.  With that said, it is important to mention that the hospitals listed are some of the best hospitals in the United States, so from that perspective US News and World Report gets it right.  However, when you look closely at the criteria and data that are used, yikes, there are a great deal of inaccuracies.  Take the Western Maryland Health System; we are ranked 11th overall in Maryland and number one in western Maryland.  But there are a few problems such as, no geographic definition of western Maryland,  a significant lag in the data that is used and at least for WMHS, the data is out and out wrong.  They have us much larger than we actually are from a bed size perspective; we have many more physicians listed than we actually have in our individual clinical areas;and  they don't rate some of our highly rated clinical areas by HealthGrades nearly as high and vice versa.  

The bottomline is don't use the ratings as the only factor in determining how good a hospital / health system may be.  There are numerous sources to check before deciding on which to use, but the US News and World Report rating are a very good place to start.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"Strategic" Divestitures

I was reading the most recent issue of Modern Healthcare and I got a "blast from the past," if you will.  There was an article that Ascension Health, with whom WMHS was a part of until 2008, is divesting itself from the Carondelet Health Network in Tucson, AZ.  They have formed a joint venture with Dignity Health and Tenet, a for-profit health care system to own that system, with Tenet operating it.  I didn't have to read any further to know that Carondelet was not doing well financially since according to the article that has become the strategy of Ascension.  

"They are shedding unprofitable operations and beefing up operations in more profitable markets, which was the case when we part of Ascension," according to Melanie Evans, who wrote the article.  Once WMHS announced back in 2005 that we were going to consolidate the WMHS hospitals into one new hospital, we were told that Ascension Health couldn't be part of a single hospital in Cumberland. 

Back then, Ascension had targeted all except one of their less-than-profitable hospitals / health systems for transition out of their system.  (The one less-than-profitable hospital that they were keeping was Providence in DC.  I am sure that the divestiture of that hospital would not have played well among their many constituencies.) They identified six hospitals across the country that they were going to divest themselves from and we were one of the six.  Our situation was a little different.  Although we weren't a cash cow, we were holding our own financially, but we no longer fit in their model since they only controlled half of WMHS and at the time they were looking for complete control.  Then with the announcement to build a new hospital, that seemed to seal our fate.  Actually, it was a most beneficial transition away from Ascension since our respective missions had changed as we became more formidable as a health care system and they seemed to have transitioned away from their Daughters of Charity heritage.  That particular divestiture was a win / win for both of us, but it was an interesting strategy for a faith-based, mission- focused organization back in 2008, and it still is today.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Path to Lower Readmissions

Both Nancy Adams, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nurse Executive at WMHS, and I were interviewed for a story on readmissions for the current issue of Trustee Magazine.  The article, "The Path to Lower Readmissions Lies in Patient Support," was written by John Morrisey and is attached.