Pocono Medical Center: Kathy Kuck, President & CEO

by HCE Exchange on March 8, 2011

Located in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, Pocono Medical Center is one of five non-profit subsidiaries of the Pocono Health System. This 231-bed acute care hospital serves the 175,000 residents of Monroe County and portions of seven neighboring counties. The hospital has 12,000 inpatient admissions and upward of 80,000 emergency room visits per year, making it the fifth busiest emergency room in the state of Pennsylvania. The organization operates with 1,850 employees, 250 medical staff, and 400 volunteers.

A Small, Comprehensive Community Hospital

Kathy Kuck, President and Chief Executive Officer, has been with the hospital since 2006 and became its leader in 2008. She is representative of the population the hospital serves as a former commuter who worked in New York for much of her early healthcare career. Now Kuck works only fourteen minutes from her home. Location makes Monroe County a prime spot for bedroom type commuters who work in New York and New Jersey. Approximately 23,000 residents commute each day, which is one of the reasons why Pocono’s emergency room sees the bulk of its activity in the evening and nighttime hours.

Because the next closest hospital is over 30 miles away, Pocono is the sole healthcare provider for the community and, as such, strives to maintain a comprehensive set of services. Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the county and in March the hospital completed the final phases of building a heart and vascular institute. With two cardiac surgeons on staff in addition to a full service cardiology interventional laboratory, electrophysiology laboratory and rehab services, the ESSA Heart and Vascular Institute is well positioned to care for the region. PMC’s ESSA Heart and Vascular Institute also ranks within the top echelon of the heart programs in the country, according to data recently released by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS). PMC received a three-star rating for overall care of coronary artery bypass graft patients from the STS, which denotes the highest category of quality based on analysis of national data covering the period from January – December 2008. Recently the medical received accreditation as a Certified Chest Pain Center with PCI, another testament to their ongoing quest for quality and service.

The cancer rate is higher for Monroe County than in the rest of Pennsylvania, which has an above average rate compared to the US. “We already provide state of the art care, but we’d like to bring the whole team together so we can provide the continuum of cancer care by putting our physician specialists and other members of the healthcare team all together under one roof,” says Kuck. The building of a new Cancer Center is planned to support this goal.

The needs of the community take top priority when developing the strategic direction for the hospital. “Many hospitals in the state of Pennsylvania have closed their obstetrical units,” says Kuck. The rate of women who don’t receive any prenatal care in the first trimester is about 24% higher in Monroe County than the state, and the rate of women who deliver low birth weight infants is also higher than the state. “As a result, we plan to open a neonatal intensive care unit so that we can take those high risk moms and treat them here close to home.”

Women’s health, obstetrics, and gynecology operate at a deficit for the hospital, but they do meet a community need. She says, “It is a balance between fulfilling our mission and having enough services here that reimburse adequately so that we can continue to provide comprehensive health care to our community.”

World Class Care Close to Home

“Everything we do at the Pocono Health System is driven by our mission to provide world class care, close to home, with a vision to create a healthier Monroe county,” says Kuck. “We received accreditation as a Level III Trauma Center last year so that our emergency patients would be provided with the best care to stabilize and treat them right here in our community.”

The relatively new cardiology program is already showing excellent outcomes, in many cases above state and national levels. Door to balloon time—the measurement of time that the patient is diagnosed with having an acute heart attack to the time the vessels in the heart are actually opened for blood flow through the heart muscle—is 62 minutes at Pocono. The national average is 90.

“Our staff jumped in with a great level of enthusiasm and wanted to have outcomes that were second to none,” says Kuck. “Our expanded cancer program is being enhanced by the same approach.”

All outpatient practices have an electronic medical record (EMR) in place and Pocono is in the process of expanding the EMR in the hospital. The outpatient EMR is being extended to independent physicians in the community, giving them connection to the hospital system to access diagnostic work and inpatient or emergency room records. “We’re moving toward a fully integrated system that will allow us to connect with our pharmacies, outpatient physicians, independent physicians within the community, and other healthcare providers,” says Kuck.

Moving Forward through Tough Times

“Certainly, the economic climate has hit us just like everyone else,” says Kuck. “It’s caused our board and everyone to pause for a moment and ask, ‘Should we continue to move forward on services that will not necessarily bring the institution any revenue? Should we wait to expand, build or upgrade services?’”

In positioning themselves for the future, the organization chooses to move forward to help ensure the most advanced treatment and technology are already available when the economic climate changes. “Certainly, the incidence of cancer in our community isn’t going to stop at a 4% increase,” says Kuck. “These are challenges that face us, but as long as we are watchful of our financial situation and plan to make good, efficient, and effective decisions relative to our strategic plan and operations, we will continue to go forward and make course adjustments as needed.”

“We’re not planning for tomorrow. We’re planning for five years from now. We have to move in that direction,” says Kuck. “It’s all about the health of our community. What is critical to us is that we do our best, as the only healthcare system in town, to meet our community’s needs, providing world class care, close to home.”

-by Tracy Million Simmons

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

ronald seliger June 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm

For someone who cares Pocono medical center has gone downhill. I was admitted to the emergency room approx 2 weeks ago. after waiting to be seen 4 hours finally wound sutured. Told by doctor Suture need to be removed in 10 days. Told to come back to have suture removed. Also told by doctor that it would take 10 min and i would be out of there. Also told me there would be no CHARGE…. I returned to hosp 6/20/11 asked if there was any charge told no CHARGE. After 1hour 30 min admitted to have SUTURES removed. Then told there would be a charge. What a scam tell patients there will be no charge and then charge insurance which i end up paying anyway. Ronald Seliger

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