Peace River Medical Center: Joanie Jeannette, COO

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Located on the western coast of Florida in Port Charlotte, Peace River Medical Center is a 219-bed acute care facility with a full 24-bed emergency room and a bustling practice that sees close to 30,000 patients a year. Purchased by Health Management Associates of Naples, Florida in 2005, Peace River maintains over 700 full time employees. COO, Joanie Jeannette has been with Health Management for 15 years and has joined Peace River recently in the fall of 2008.

Delivering Valuable Essential Services

One of Peace River’s highest priorities is keeping up-to-date with the current medical technology available while responding to the current needs of its community. In the summer of 2008, the hospital added a level two NICU to its obstetrics department, Currently, Peace River is the only obstetrics provider in the county, so the addition of the NICU was a critical step in serving the Florida community. Delivering over 1,300 babies a year, Jeannette points out the benefits of a having a level two NICU on-site, “This higher level of nursery care was a much needed service in this area. We were able to provide this for our community so these babies don’t have to go outside the county for this level of care.”

Investments in technology have also benefited patients. The hospital recently purchased a brand new 1.5 Tesla magnet MRI, a state of the art Philips imaging system. “This MRI provides great visibility and allows the patients to have a better quality of care in this location,” explains Jeannette. One of the major additions to the hospital’s repertoire however is the expansion to offer an open-heart surgery department. “We are moving the open heart program from another Florida hospital to this hospital in the next two to two and a half years. We are constructing a new building for that service, so we are in the initial planning phases and will be moving forward. It’s a very exciting plan for a two-story building with two operating rooms, four Cath labs and about 32 private rooms.”

Another major development in the hospital’s continued effort to ensure patient safety is the addition of a Wi-Fi system in the summer of 2008. This wireless communication will support the Safe Scan System, which is an electronic program that provides a safety net for medication administration. “Patients will wear bands with bar codes and those codes can be matched with bar codes on medication and if the two do not match, an alarm will warn the administering nurse.” Jeannette adds that she is very excited to watch this program go live in May of 2009.

Equal Opportunity Care

Peace River has organized itself as a hospital that caters to the needs of its community. Because of this, the hospital prides itself on treating everyone who comes through their doors. “Quality of care for everyone in the community is something we are very proud of.”  The community of Port Charlotte, Florida was visited by Hurricane Charlie in 2004 and continues to feel its effects. “We pride ourselves on the fact that we treat everybody and we treat them and give them the best care that can be given.” Jeannette credits her strong seasoned team who continually strive to provide optimum care to their community. “It has been challenging in this area with the economic situation but we have seen some promise in that in the past couple of months. We have a large group of very tenured employees who are very loyal to the mission to care for everyone, many are twenty year plus employees, and their families work here and come here for their care.”

Serious About Feedback

Peace River doesn’t just want to care for patients though, they want to excel at it and have every patient that leaves the hospital satisfied with the overall experience. To ensure patient satisfaction, the hospital uses Gallup Polling and federal HCAP surveys to obtain patient feedback. “We are constantly assessing patient satisfaction and keep track of this on a daily, hourly basis to learn what we can do to improve employee and patient satisfaction.” The hospital also conducts focus groups of patients and employees in addition to the Gallup polling.  “We thought doing these surveys on the hospital level would also help with the information that we receive from Gallup. We are excited to see the results, people are excited to participate and make their voice heard.”

When it comes to patient satisfaction, Jeannette says the little things matter and the hospital has taken steps to ensure that no part of patient care is ignored. A prime example of this is a recent customer service study that focused on patient food. “It’s an important thing for a patient, it’s something they look forward to and can assist in their recovery.” To examine the quality of food Jeannette says that she and other staff actually participated in tasting the food themselves and looking seriously at how it was presented. “We looked at everything about the food.  I delivered trays to see how the patients responded, how the hostesses delivered the food and we made some changes.  With this assessment we made some changes and our food satisfaction scores improved. But that wasn’t enough for the team who wanted their satisfaction numbers to be even higher, so they went back and changed the look of the hostesses and gave them customer service training. “Those changes have only been in place for a few weeks so we are looking forward to seeing the outcomes of these changes.”

Listening to Employees Has Its Benefits

Because of the demographics and the national economic struggles, the hospital is put in the difficult position of experiencing significant volume, without an equal level of reimbursements. Because of that, Jeannette worries that physicians may grow unsatisfied and look to go somewhere else. To counter this concern, Peace River has created an atmosphere for physicians and staff that allows them to feel like their opinions are not only valued, but that they have significant input in the hospital’s operations. “We purchased high definition laproscopic equipment for the OR recently.  We had the doctors within this department involved in the trial and requested their input on what brand they liked because they are the people that are going to be using the equipment,” explains Jeannette. Peace River is taking this practice a step further into the expanding heart center, where physicians will be very much involved in the technology development and planning process.

But keeping employees satisfied doesn’t end with listening to their opinions. Peace River offers quarterly and annual awards and incentivizes with gift cards for attendance. The administration is very hands on and we know the employees. The CEO is great about that and we treat the people like they are family because, in fact, we are generally with them more than we are with our family.”

Additionally, the hospital strives to promote from within and has created a mentoring program in the nursing department, which Jeannette is particularly proud of because she is a nurse by training. “The succession plan in the staff level and administration allows consistency of care and ultimately benefits the patient.”

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