Terrebonne General Medical Center: Diane Yeates, Chief Operating Officer

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The people of southeast Louisiana, about 60 miles south of New Orleans, are served by Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC). TGMC opened its doors in 1954 with 76 beds and is now the largest community-based hospital in the area with 321 beds. The hospital has about 160 active physicians on staff covering a full spectrum of specialties. Services at TGMC include cardiology, oncology, women’s services, rehabilitation services, gastroenterology, surgery, clinical research, and many more.  TGMC is quite complex in terms of the number of services offered and the size of the organization. “There are very few services that a patient must go outside of our community for,” says Diane Yeates, Chief Operating Officer of TGMC since 2007. “Psych services, severe traumas and burn patients are among the few services that we find necessary to transfer out of the area for treatment.”

Yeates has been with the organization for 20 years, starting as the budget reimbursement director in 1989. “Besides general operations, a great deal of my time is spent on business development, and due to the recent governmental requirements relating to electronic health records, I also spend substantial time supporting our information technology initiatives.” she says. “Our organization has overcome many challenges in our more than 50 year history, all the while successfully delivering compassionate care for our community.  Our Board, our leader, and the rest of our leadership team, with an amazing breadth of experience and knowledge, stand ready to surmount the challenge of many more changes over the next 50 years.”

Assuring the Emphasis is on Customer Service

“One of our most important initiatives is nurturing our culture of customer service. Patients expect hospitals to have the latest and greatest technology, and they expect their clinicians to be educated on the most recent standard of care” Yeates says. “What is important today is the attention paid to the small details around customer service; our experience is that this is the way patients differentiate our hospital from others.”

Whether it is getting the patient a bottle of water when they are thirsty, a blanket when they’re cold, or taking the time to listen and communicate with the patient and their family, these are simple ways TGMC makes their patient feel important and patients truly appreciate it. So, in order to remain cognizant of the little things, TGMC has reinstituted an emphasis on customer service and customer service training. “We strive to be about the body, the mind, and the spirit. Our employees must believe it and our patients must be able to experience it,” Yeates says.

Even managers and administrators are involved in patient visitations at TGMC. “We’re investing a great deal of time making sure we know about our patients as our customers,” Yeates says. “Even though the health care industry is and continues to be heavily regulated, our patients remain our constant focus.  We are in the business of caring for our patients and for all of our employees this starts with a personal passion.  If it’s just a job, you’re not going to last in this environment.”

Staying on the Forward Moving Path

As previously mentioned, information technology initiatives are currently at the forefront of TGMC’s capital dollars expenditures. They’ve had the electronic medical record in progress for a few years now and external guidelines have shortened the deadline. By February of 2010, Yeates expects TGMC to have an electronic medical records system online, to be followed by pharmacy and physician documentation initiatives.

“We are doing everything we can to fast track electronic I.T. with the resources we have available,” she says. “We’ll probably spend $12 to 15 million on I.T. projects by the time we are finished.”

The organization is building a new cancer program facility, as well as ongoing refurbishing and updating of the existing hospital facility. The hospital partners with Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Cancer Care Specialists, LLC of Houma for its cancer programs. “Our partnership with these groups provides a seamless cancer program and enhanced opportunity to care for our patients. Our purpose for building this facility is to improve patient flow and processes as well as convenience for patients”, says Yeates.

Key to Success

“Preparing for the best future possible, we seek to learn from other leaders who share a similar attitude about service and success. We have to keep an open mind and not be limited by how healthcare has operated in the past. We look to other industries and their successes as well,” says Yeates.

“We’ve been a successful organization even in the toughest of times—and things are only going to get tougher. We have learned to be creative and no opportunity is ever overlooked, no matter how minor or insignificant it may seem. We are a successful leader because we take the time and invest the energy to be creative, to think outside of the box, and continue to be a “learning” organization.”

-by T.M. Simmons

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