"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, September 23, 2014

Don Alexander

Yesterday, I blogged about my trip to Germany and how good it was to be home. Unfortunately, when I arrived back in the US, I was immediately informed of the death of Don Alexander, President of Allegany College for nearly 30 years until his retirement six years ago.  But, more importantly, at least from my perspective, Don was a Memorial Hospital and then a WMHS board member for well over 17 years.  He served as the WMHS Board Chair for three years just a few years ago.  Don served our organizations so very well and he will be missed immensely.  

Even in Don's retirement, we would stay in touch.  Don would send a politically charged email, a joke or a message that immediately complimented me and my team when he read something favorable about WMHS.  Even during some of our most challenging times early in the WMHS history, Don was always upbeat and positive.  He was a gentle giant in so many ways; not so much his stature, but in every other way.  

In the decades of knowing Don, I never heard an unkind word spoken about him.  He touched so many lives in so many ways.  I looked to Don as both a friend and a mentor.  Fortunately, I am left with some wonderful memories and stories from Don but sad to have lost someone so special far too early in one's life.  Don's wonderful sense of humor and his kind heart are now in a better place and free of suffering from the ravages of cancer. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nice to be Back

For the last ten days or so, I had the opportunity to celebrate my 38th wedding anniversary in Germany with Pamela.  How fitting to celebrate along the Romantic Road in southern Germany and then into Austria?  Pamela and I had a wonderful time visiting small towns, villages, castles, palaces and churches.  I was able to take some magnificent photos of King Ludwig's Neuschwanstein castle, which served as the model for Disney's Magic Kingdom castle; Zugsptiz, the highest mountain in the German Alps; and Eagle's Nest in Berchtesgaden, which was Hitler's retreat in Bavaria.  At the same time, it's nice to be home and back to work; so little time, but so much to do.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Where Did the Summer Go?

I sat down to write my blog this AM, the first of this week and realized that it was already September.  Where the heck did the summer go?  Wow!  This will be my last blog for a while as I will be traveling for the next week and a half.  So, this blog will be a collection of items.

First, many have been asking about my son-in-law, Terrell, and he continues to receive inpatient chemotherapy treatments on almost an every-other-week basis.  Treatments are now scheduled through November.  He is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances.  He and my daughter are two very amazing people based on how their lives have changed since that mid-February diagnosis and how they are coping.  They have fast become my heroes. We had a chance to visit with them a few weeks ago and I have attached a photo.

Then, there is their dog, Sammy.  Sammy is a fox red lab who is the nicest dog.  He is so nice that their plan is to train Sammy as a therapy dog in the coming months.  They all live in a very nice neighborhood in Charleston, SC.  Sammy is very well trained and never leaves their property unless he is a accompanied by one of them.  Well, that all changed yesterday. Sammy ran away.  They were devastated as they couldn't find him anywhere.  Then, their neighbor from down the street came to their door and said I found Sammy, but you have to see for yourself where he is.  Upon arriving at their neighbor's house there is Sammy doing laps in their swimming pool.  As a retriever, Sammy loves the water and demonstrated that yesterday.  I think that an invisible fence is in Sammy's future.

On a more work related note, yesterday I had the opportunity to hear Anirban Basu, a Maryland economist speak on our global economy, our national economy and our local economy.  His presentation was excellent.  He said that the global economy has rebounded for the most part, but expanding economies of China and India are down this year from previous years.  Anirban said that the next quarter will be strong and the following quarter will be even stronger for the US.  

Corporate profits are at their highest along with stock prices.  Consumer spending, i.e. autos, retail shopping and restaurants, is also up; however, housing, jobs and incomes are down overall.  

He said that Maryland continues to underperform as we are pretty much a government dependent state.  Our state is over dependent on federal government jobs, according to Anirban.  In addition, our lack of energy production and our over regulation make us one of the worst performing states related to economic recovery.  As a state, we rank 43rd in recovery with WV and PA at 36th and 38th respectively.  North Dakota, Texas, Utah and Colorado, because they are energy producing states, are leading in economic recovery.  

Anirban said that what is negatively impacting western Maryland is no ability to have a business formation strategy.  Our young people are forced to leave the area for employment so, there is little to no entrepreneurship among our twenty and thirty-somethings where new business occurs.  In addition, western Maryland needs natural gas drilling in order to have economic recovery.  Unfortunately, Maryland is focused exclusively where the most votes are--Montgomery County, Prince Georges County, Baltimore city and Baltimore County.  If legislation doesn't benefit any of those jurisdictions, it will not pass.  According to Anirban, the state has no interest in seeing any county outside of the previously mentioned succeed.  He said that the statement is harsh but it is reality. 

During the Q&A, he offered the following: the US needs conditional amnesty  through an immigration policy because right now we have none.  That policy should  be socially and fiscally sound and include a a secure border and a well thought out  path to citizenship.  He then commented on our debt and said what is more troubling than our over $17 trillion dollars in debt is our $45 trillion in entitlement commitments to Medicare and Social Security that directly impact our ability to address infrastructure needs in the US, including bridges, roads, the electrical grid and broadband development.  Infrastructure improvements are key for the US to remain competitive in the global market.  No other country has the entitlement burden that the US has now and into the future.

As I mentioned earlier, the presentation was excellent, but at the same time sobering.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear Anirban Basu speak, don't pass it up.  I am excited in that he and I will be speaking at a GE/Sage Group presentation in two weeks in Baltimore with a focus on health care.

I will return to blogging the week of September 22.  Have a good weekend.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Staying Relevant

In my last blog, I told about the site visit to WMHS by representatives from Cigna, a national health insurer, earlier this week.  In attendance were their Chief Operating Officer for the mid-Atlantic region, finance people, a physician, their director for Care Coordination, two IPA administrators and their director for informatics.  They were exceedingly complimentary of what we have accomplished and how we are approaching "staying relevant."  

In their interactions with hospitals, health systems and physician practices, they are routinely encountering that "deer in the headlights look" from both health care executives and physicians.  There is so much uncertainty as to how to deliver care in this ever changing health care environment.  However, they were so impressed with our transition to value-based care delivery and the associated success that we have been experiencing.  They said that we have figured out how to not only stay relevant, but to continue to challenge ourselves and our entire organization on reducing use rates; further reducing admissions, readmissions and length of stay; focusing on new quality and cost initiatives and the list goes on.  We have been told repeatedly that every hospital should be required to visit with us and learn about our most successful care delivery transition.  Pretty awesome!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Learning About Our Amazing Journey

Today is the last scheduled site visit by an external group to WMHS.  Since the spring, we have hosted around ten groups, mostly hospitals and health systems, in order for them to learn about our transition from volume-based or “sick care” delivery to value-based care delivery.  We have hosted groups from all over the State, including representatives from the Johns Hopkins Health System and culminating with a visit from an insurer today.  

Cigna / Healthspring representatives will be meeting with the leadership at WMHS then touring our Center for Clinical Resources.  When the representative from Cigna contacted me for the site visit, he said that they think that they know about value-based care delivery, but they really don't.  Hearing and seeing first hand what we have put in place and how we made the transition would be great for their team in understanding changes in health care.  

We have not been resistant of an prospective group wanting to learn about what we have accomplished.  After all, the August 11, 2014 headline in the Business Insider said, "An Amazing Health Care Revolution Is Happening in Maryland And Almost No One's Talking About It."  That would be us.  Pretty awesome and why not allow others to benefit from our success.  All Maryland hospitals are dependent on the success of the new Waiver so helping other hospitals also benefits us in the long run.


Monday, August 25, 2014

Physician Recognition

On Friday evening, we held our Physician Recognition Gala at WMHS.  Physicians were recognized for their contributions to WMHS as well as their years of service.  There were two physicians, Dr. Bob Dawson, a pediatrician, and Dr. Bob Miller, a radiologist, who were recognized for 50 and 49 years of service respectively.  That's remarkable since the recognition is for their time in Cumberland serving our patients for five decades.  

We also selected three physicians for awards, Mane Ictum (Latin for Greatest Impact), Lifetime Achievement and Physician of the Year.  Dr. Nii Lamptey-Mills, one of our newest gastroenterologists, received the Mane Ictum Award.  His impact on our health system and our patients has been just short of amazing.  In addition to his wonderful smile and great disposition, Dr. Lamptey-Mills has been fully engaged and has truly had a significant impact on our patients.  Dr. John Stansbury received the Lifetime Achievement Award as he winds down his practice at Hunt Club after 35 years of serving first at Memorial as an ED doc and then serving in our urgent care practice.  John is so deserving of this award for his care, his compassion and his dedication.  Lastly, Dr. Blanche Mavromatis was selected as Physician of the Year.  Dr. Mavromatis is an excellent practitioner who works in a most challenging specialty, oncology, but does so each day with compassion, attention to every detail and always with a pleasant, but professional demeanor.

In my remarks at the Gala, I failed to recognize the work of the Twelve Physicians who serve on the President's Clinical Quality Council.  These physicians are the movers and shakers as well as our early adopters.  They have embraced the change in health care delivery at WMHS and have positively impacted their colleagues in the organization as we all transition from volume-based care to care that is value based.  These docs have made a significant impact on the organization and for that I am most grateful.

All in all it was a wonderful evening and very well emceed by Dr. Jerry Goldstein, our CMO.

Left to Right: Dr. John Stansbury, Dr. Blanche Mavromatis, Barry Ronan, Dr. Nii Lamptey-Mills, Dr. Jerry Goldstein

Friday, August 8, 2014

Are Women Really Smarter Than Men?

The other day, Michelle Obama said at the US-Africa Leader's Summit in Washington DC that women are smarter than men and that they must use their intelligence to effect change.  Interesting point to say the least.  

I am surrounded by women every day.  A mother and two sisters, wife and two daughters and 82% of the employees at WMHS are women.  So, what say me?  Heck yeah, they're smarter.  Actually, the perspective that women bring to most any situation is invaluable.  According to Internet sources, their brains develop faster, they are better at the arts, and they are better at communications, interpersonal skills, relationships and lateral thinking.  They also have a better episodic memory.  

There have been two recent studies, one in Canada and one in England, that show men are just slightly more intelligent than women.  However, a July 2014 article in the Huffington Post has humans being smarter than ever and that women are rapidly catching up to men in areas where they had been superior for years, such as math and science.  Scientists have said that improvements in women's intelligence has a direct correlation to improvements in societal development, such as living conditions, more so than men. 

Nonetheless, it's all pretty fascinating, but my money is still on the women; they are truly an amazing gender; far more fascinating than men.