San Jacinto Methodist Hospital: Dan Newman, VP of Ancillary and Support Services & Business Practices Officer

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With economic changes in the healthcare market, hospital systems are focused more than ever on ways to improve quality and control costs. It’s important to invest in technology and patient services to stay competitive in the market, but in today’s reform-oriented climate, those investments must be evaluated against lower reimbursements and strict hospital budgets.

San Jacinto Methodist Hospital located in Baytown, Texas, has been focusing on ways to ensure high-quality patient care and manage costs. Dan Newman, vice president of ancillary and support services and business practices officer, takes a practical, economical view of the facility’s needs, while still maintaining a focus on quality.

As vice president of ancillary services, Newman is responsible for services including radiology; physical, speech and occupational therapy; laboratory services; radiation therapy, as well as maintenance, housekeeping and dietary. San Jacinto, which is part of the larger The Methodist Hospital System, has recently invested significant money in technology and creating an improved patient experience.

“Some of that technology includes a 128-slice CT scan, which reduces dosage to patients and lowers scan times,” Newman said. “No one else in our market has technology that advanced. We’ve also added a new linear accelerator for our patients receiving radiation therapy.

“We are also in the middle of constructing a hybrid operating room, which will soon offer open heart surgery in our community, a first for our hospital and market. We also licensed additional beds for a new intermediate care unit.”

The hospital has invested more than $2 million in renovating the radiology department to provide a better separation of inpatient and outpatient services to provide an improved experience for patients.

As part of these upgrades, Newman also stresses the importance of the less glamorous capital investments that must be made to go accompany them. “We have to balance investments for the benefit of the patients with investments in infrastructure,” he said. “These might include renovations to the parking lot to ensure it accommodates patients as we expand services. Signage is another example, making sure people can easily get where they need to go.”

Maintaining controls on cost is always a challenge, and Newman recognizes the need to balance capital investments that provide improved patient care and compete within the facility’s market, with complementary investments in infrastructure, as well as with overhead costs such as salaries.

“We have always been focused on being good stewards of our resources and being conscious of controlling expenses, and that has become even more important for us and the industry in general,” he said.

Ensuring quality

In addition to controlling costs, San Jacinto has always maintained high quality care for its patients, being ranked in the top 5 percent of hospitals nationally according to Health Grades. Newman sees this focus continuing to increase.

“When we look at healthcare reform there will be increased focus on ensuring high quality care more than ever,” he said. “Payments will be based on ensuring quality, giving us more reasons and incentives to ensure we’re providing high quality care to our patients.”

Newman says part of their keys to success in quality are diligently tracking errors or potential errors, structuring the leadership to support quality initiatives and helping clinicians reduce distractions and focus primarily on patient care.

San Jacinto uses an electronic incident reporting system to log and track errors and near misses. Newman says the hospital also focuses on instances where no harm occurred but the potential for harm exists.  An example would be early identification of failure to give medication to a patient. Even when no harm was caused, they evaluate the reasons behind the potential mistake and take action.

Newman also credits the facility’s chief executive officer and leadership structure for making their quality efforts so successful.

“Our CEO was previously our Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer, providing our organization with a  heightened sense of importance of providing quality care to patients,” he said. “Her philosophy drives the rest of the organization in ensuring that quality and safety take precedent over all else.”

Another aspect of leadership is the choice of a patient safety officer who has more than two decades of clinical experience within the organization and a physician as the Chief Quality Officer.

Newman also says that other changes have helped improve quality by allowing clinicians to be more focused on patient care. One change has been the implementation of a weight-based system for managing supplies. Supplies are in bins on weighted racks. When a supply is low, the system notifies the corporate office who then places the order for required supplies.  This takes the clinician out of the ordering process, freeing up more time for patient care.

San Jacinto consistently seeks ways to improve quality and manage resources and plans to see even more focus on these areas in the future. “There’s always some uncertainty with the future,” Newman said. “We’ve seen more of that with healthcare reform. What’s important is how you respond. Our focus on quality and best use of resources will continue.”

-by Patricia Chaney

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