Childress Regional Medical Center: John Henderson, CEO

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In the southwest corner of the Texas panhandle is a town called Childress, population 7,000. Childress Regional Medical Center is the 39 bed, rural hospital that serves that population, as well as another 23,000 or so rural Texans in the region.

Eight family practice physicians practice in the hospital-based, rural health clinic. Also based from the hospital is an ambulance service, home health and hospice services and dialysis services. The hospital generates about $40 million per year in gross revenue.  Approximately 80% of those charges are a result of outpatient services. Childress Regional has grown to about 240 full time employees.

“The culture of this medical community is great,” says John Henderson, CEO since 2001.  “We have broad-based support from the community. We have a strong governing board and a great local medical staff that’s been here for a few years. There’s a sense of pride in Childress Regional that I appreciate. We value things like honesty and compassion—teamwork. All things considered, I think we do a pretty good job for the communities we serve.”

Capital Construction

In the last two years, Childress Regional completed a construction project that expanded the physical therapy services. They added a therapeutic pool and brought MRI services in-house. Prior to that, they were doing mobile MRI a couple of days a week. “We actually purchased that equipment and started providing that service on a full time basis. Last year we ended up with an electronic medical record and went paperless in our clinic,” says Henderson.

The hospital selected a Texas company, e-MDs, for their electronic medical records system. The company focuses solely on programs for clinics and ambulatory care.

“EMR implementation—there’s no getting around it—it’s going to be painful at times,” Henderson says. “It’s not just about the technology, it’s as much about the change. Our physicians were all supportive and had a good attitude about it and are doing relatively well, but the way a 65-year-old physician handles automation is different than the way a 29-year-old physician who has grown up with a computer handles it. Those are difficult issues. There are things we’ve still got to work through related to the interface, but all things considered we’ve had a relatively good experience.”

Emphasis on Quality Care and Patient Safety

“When you do a good job of quality and safety, there are savings,” Henderson says.  “A poor or sloppy job costs not only the payers, but the hospital.” He reports that the hospital has been working harder at focusing on patient safety performance measures than in the past. “We’ve implemented a patient ID program where we’ve standardized arm bands across all departments of the hospital,” Henderson says. The hospital has installed medication dispensing units on the floor to reduce medication errors. Bedside reporting is another recent change they’ve made. “We’ve also invested a lot in nurse training and education, which I think is good for the short term, and the long term, as well.”

As well as improving quality measures for the hospital, this investment in personnel has helped them provide answers to recruiting in a rural area. “Rather than recruit someone from a metropolitan area to come to rural Texas—that’s a culture shock and we find they don’t tend to stay or stick—it works very well to foster area students who value a rural quality of life and help them get the education or training they need in return for service when they are through. That is a real good recruiting program for us.”

Recognized as a Top Hospital

In spite of its small size and relative isolation, Childress Regional ranks top among hospitals nation wide. They were listed as a Top 100 Hospital by Solucient and Modern Healthcare in 2005. In 2007 the hospital received the Governor’s Award for Quality from the Texas Medical Foundation. They’ve also been named an employer of excellence by the Texas Workforce Commission.

Childress Regional seeks input to add services based on the needs of its community. “Patients will tell us, ‘I wish I didn’t have to travel to an urban area to get this service.’ Then we validate that through discussions with our local medical staff. We’ll say, ‘Yeah, that’s legitimate,’ or ‘No, that’s probably a little bit more than we should be doing.’ Once we have both of those audiences supportive, then it’s just a matter of finding the right people to provide the service.”

“What we do as a rural healthcare provider is important and it affects everybody. We try to work together and I think when we do that, we accomplish a lot. We have an obligation to the people we serve. We want to do a good job for them and we take that very seriously,” says Henderson.

-by T.M. Simmons

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