Princeton HealthCare System: Barry S. Rabner, CEO

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Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS) is a comprehensive system that includes several facilities in central New Jersey. The system’s 310-bed acute care teaching hospital, University Medical Center at Princeton (UMCP), has been a regional leader since it was founded in 1919.

In addition to the hospital, the system includes a 116-bed inpatient behavioral health facility called Princeton Health Behavioral Health, a skilled nursing facility with 76 beds, a home care division and a number of ambulatory facilities.  PHCS is also a joint venture partner in a Fitness and Wellness Center with over 7,000 members and has several satellite imaging centers that are joint ventured with a leading radiology group.

Employing approximately 3,000 people and maintaining an annual budget of $330 million dollars, Princeton HealthCare System is one of the larger health care providers in the area. CEO Barry S. Rabner has been with the organization just over seven years. He says that what really sets the organization apart is its dedicated approach to patient care and satisfaction. “Hospitals always talk about being patient centered and I think all hospitals try to do that as well as they can, so I don’t know if we are unique in that purpose or that philosophy. But, I can tell you that there are none more passionate about it than us. That’s reflected in everything from our very high patient satisfaction scores to our excellent clinical outcomes.”

A Grand Undertaking

This is an exciting time for Princeton HealthCare System. The organization is currently in the midst of building a replacement hospital to replace the existing UMCP facility. “Four years ago when we created our strategic plan for the system,” explains Rabner, “one of the outcomes was the recognition that the current facility would not be adequate 10 years into the future and we would simply be unable to keep up with the changes in health care and technology and the increased demand for services.  As a result, the decision was made to build an entirely new facility. “It was a decision based in our mission, fundamental to us strategically in the long-term and fundamental to the community that we serve.”

The new hospital, a $447 million investment, is scheduled for completion in late 2011.  It will be a state-of-the-art patient centered facility. The project is in its construction stage, with 160 acres set aside for the campus. Ground has already been broken for this new hospital, which will be in nearby Plainsboro, New Jersey, while the existing hospital has been sold to cover a portion of the costs of the new facility. Additional funding will come from a number of sources. Rabner is extremely satisfied with the success of the hospital’s capital campaign. With a goal of raising $115 million, to date, the fundraising project has been able to raise $88 million. “We are making excellent progress with our capital campaign and have available $400 million in bridge financing from Bank of America and Wells Fargo.”

Princeton HealthCare System is working with a number of firms to bring in a variety of resources to assist with this monumental creation. The health system is working with the architecture firms of RMJM Hillier and HOK, while Turner Construction is the project’s construction manager and Navigant is handling the project management. The health system has also partnered with several companies to construct campus additions. For example, they are working with Dasco to build a 122,000 square-foot medical office building, with NRG to explore building a cogeneration plant and with Windsor Healthcare to construct a replacement nursing home. Ground has been broken on this last building, which will have 200 beds and will also feature outpatient dialysis services. There are further discussions with other health care providers about building inpatient and/or outpatient facilities on the campus, with 50 acres being reserved for this possible use.

Patient-centric Care

From the initial planning to the construction of this new facility, much attention has been given to keeping patients and their families happy. A significant part of the planning process for the new hospital centered on designing a facility with the patient in mind. From creating a 32-acre park on the new campus to the floor plan, patient-friendly design is at the heart of each decision. “Everything in the new building is designed around the needs of the patients and their families. You really don’t realize until you sit down with a blank piece of paper on a green field and design a facility how much of what currently exists is geared more around staff convenience than patient convenience. Patients drive our staff in their performance and their decision-making.”

An undeniable part of patient satisfaction is quality assurance and Princeton Health has stood out nationally for satisfaction, clinical outcomes and safety. “We’re actually really proud of ourselves, we just received recognition from the Leapfrog group as one of the 26 safest acute care hospitals in the United States. That’s very important to us because it’s a huge issue nationally and we’ve been focusing our resources and our training on addressing this and it looks like we’ve had some good success with this effort in terms of clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction.” In addition to the Leapfrog award, patient satisfaction scores are ranked in the top 10% nationally for many areas of the healthcare system.  The system is focused on improving its performance in areas not ranked in the top 10%.  Health Grades, another organization that measures quality of care ranks PHCS in the top 5% nationally for maternal care and has awarded PHCS five stars (the highest rating possible) for Overall Joint Replacement and Total Knee Replacement.  UMCP has also earned high marks in many clinical areas from the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services in the state’s Hospital Report Card.

A New Hospital Presents New Challenges

Although the construction of a new hospital will solve many problems, from efficiency issues to technology investments, the change will present its own set of issues. Rabner is fully aware of this and is already in the process of preparing his staff for the move. “We continuously increase our investment in staff selection, development and training and we’ve intensified that even more knowing that in three years we will be moving into a new hospital with all new technology and new information systems, so the greatest emphasis is on staff training. Rabner says he’s fortunate that his organization is already fully staffed and the group has been successful at recruiting the people it needs, which allows Human Resources to focus more on training of the current staff. “That need is multiplied almost immeasurably by the demands of operating a new hospital.”

An Emphasis on Expertise

Rabner describes a unique management philosophy that he credits with contributing to the success of the organization. Where some organizations feel pressured to offer any service they can, PHCS has taken a more confident and deliberate approach to the services offered. “I’ve been focusing recently on the motto of no dabbling. And what that means is where there are services we provide and where we believe others can do better and we don’t believe we have the ability to reach their level, we either partner with someone else or we stop doing it.”

A prime example of this came in the pediatrics department. In order to make their unit a top-rated department, PHCS teamed up with one of the world’s leaders in pediatric care, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, creating partnerships in the inpatient pediatrics unit, special care nursery and the Emergency Department. “This is a great partnership because we will now have pediatric experts from the top-ranked children’s hospital in the United States on-site 24/7.  We are guided by the belief that if we can’t document that our care is at least as good as anyone in the region then we should stop offering that service or partner with someone who can help us get there.”

-by Jacqueline Rupp

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