Gwinnett Medical Center: Jay Dennard, Chief Operating Officer

by HCE Exchange on April 29, 2011

In a county on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia, Gwinnett Medical Center faces an extremely competitive healthcare environment. During the past few years the hospital system has put in a lot of hard work to improve patient and physician satisfaction as well as expand the services is provides to its community.

Jay Dennard is Chief Operating Officer for Gwinnett Medical Center-Lawrenceville, the flagship facility for the health system. Gwinnett Medical Center also has an 81-bed hospital in Duluth, as well as a rehabilitation facility, an extended care center, a women’s pavilion and imaging centers.

“This is a competitive healthcare market from a provider standpoint,” Dennard said. “We know there are a lot of patients that leave our community to receive care in Atlanta, so we need to make sure we’re telling our message in the right way so that people will choose us first.”

Improved patient and MD satisfaction scores

One way Dennard said the hospital has improved its image in the community is by making a concerted effort to improve patient satisfaction scores and physician satisfaction.

“We have taken our facility from the third percentile in outpatient satisfaction to the 99th percentile,” Dennard said. Patient satisfaction in ambulatory care has also improved.

Dennard touts accountability and communication as keys to this turnaround. “We have done phenomenal work at having a cultural revolution, focusing on patients, focusing on physicians,” he said. The hospital focused on physicians as well as patients, believing that high physician and employee satisfaction would relate to more satisfied patients. That has proven to be true.

Employees and leaders also stepped up accountability to improve scores. “We sit around a table and make a commitment of what we’ll do for the next week that will enhance the patient’s experience at our facility,” he said. “Then we come back together and give a report on those activities. We hold each other accountable.”

Expanding services

To remain competitive, Gwinnett Medical Center has also found a need to expand services. Gwinnett County is the largest county in the United States without an open-heart surgery program. The hospital obtained a Certificate of Need for an open-heart program and recently began building a 40,000 square foot west wing onto their main building. The new wing will house a three-story facility that includes two open-heart surgery suites and two cardiac catheterization labs.

In building projects, Gwinnett is striving to build facilities that are not only patient-friendly but environmentally friendly as well. The hospital opened a new 155-bed tower a year ago, with patient rooms that were about 50 percent larger.

“We wanted to ensure we had continuity of care in process and design in the west wing expansion,” Dennard said. “We make sure we have the patient at the center of development, as well as work with our physicians and staff because they have to work in the new facility.”

Dennard said the hospital is focusing on green initiatives and sustainability, going for LEED certification with the open-heart project. LEED certification provides third-party verification that a building project is environmentally responsible.

“We didn’t want to just be building buildings,” he said. “We want to ensure we are a good community partner. This will set the stage for what we do in the future.”

Other construction projects to enhance services include building an outpatient imaging facility. It will have improved MRI capabilities and a PET/CT unit. That facility is expected to be operational by Spring 2011. In addition to imaging services, Gwinnett Medical Center is building a new women’s breast center with screening and diagnostic care under one roof.

“Our focus in the women’s center is providing wellness and prevention services in a spa-like atmosphere,” he said.

Staying flexible

Healthcare reform is a concern among all healthcare organizations in the United States. Gwinnett Medical is looking at ways to improve efficiency and prepare for reform.

“We are not waiting until the last minute to respond,” Dennard said. “We are evaluating supply chain management, labor efficiencies and non-patient revenue. How we can enhance the experience for patients, physicians and associates? We are also asking questions about where we fit in with an accountable care organization, and how will all this affect Gwinnett County.”

Dennard is looking to the future and is encouraged by the improvements Gwinnett Medical has made in his time with the hospital.

“With all the challenges out there in the market, Gwinnett Medical Center is poised for growth to meet needs of our community,” he said. “It’s exciting to be here. We are seeing great strides in how our patients feel about us and how our associates and physicians feel about us. I feel very fortunate to truly be part of cultural  revolution on campus.”

-by Patricia Chaney

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