Harrison Medical Center: Adar Palis, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer

by HCE Exchange on May 9, 2012

Harrison Medical Center was founded in 1918 as a community hospital. In 2012, it stands as its area’s busiest medical center, consisting of two main campuses in the state of Washington, one in Bremerton and the other in Silverdale. A non-profit organization, Harrison also has locations in Port Orchard, Belfair, and Poulsbo, and a number of physician offices in the county.

With 2,300 employees, 450 credentialed physicians (or 90 percent of their physicians), and 297 licensed beds, Harrison has the fifth-busiest emergency room in Washington and is a Level III trauma center.

As Adar Palis, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, was firm to point out, these statistics attest to the hospital’s steady focus on patient quality.

A board united

Palis said that the hospital board as a whole is oriented around patient quality and is involved at every step of the way. In fact, board members often spend the first hour or two of each meeting talking about quality.

“I’ve seen other boards, and they usually will focus on financial,” he stated. “Not our board. They focus much more on quality.”

As a result of prioritizing quality, Harrison will be expanding its Silverdale location by building a new tower on the campus. It will also expand it orthopedic service line at Silverdale and will be building a 24-bed unit along with shelled space for 24 more beds. Silverdale will be given four more ORs, a larger ER, and a brand-new data center and professional office building.

Palis added that Harrison as a whole is about 75 percent complete when it comes to the implementation of EMRs.

“We took a pause on that to obviously work on meaningful use, but once we attest for meaningful use within the next year, we’re going to begin rolling out bedside barcoding and rolling out physician order entry,” he said.

The board has also authorized a number of physician-alignment initiatives, one of which is health-information exchange.

“We’ve rolled out a health-information exchange in this community already, and we’ve connected a number of providers,” Palis stated. “We want to fully extend this so they can share key clinical information back-and-forth for continuation of care. It’s better for the patient. It’s better for the physician, because then they’ll have all the information about the patient from different specialists and different doctors throughout the community.”

No challenge too great

Palis said Harrison’s challenges are no different from other organizations, the overarching challenge being, of course, the uncertainty of healthcare on the federal level.

“We’re a non-profit organization so we take all patients whether they have insurance or not,” he said. “The government is going to cut Medicare. It’s going to be cutting Medicaid. Then you hear all of the stories about how many further cuts they’re going to have. That really impacts a hospital like Harrison.”

To circumvent this as best as possible, Harrison is focused on finding quality personnel and more physicians. It’s also striving to more effectively promote its three service lines—orthopedic, oncology, and cardiovascular.

Palis is involved in the promotion of the orthopedic and cardiovascular lines. This strategy involves partnering and aligning with physicians in the community.

“An ability to partner and align with our physicians in the community for the benefit of the patients is definitely something I want to always be involved in,” he said.

Furthermore, Harrison is attempting to meet appropriate-care measures, perfect-care measures, and stroke measures.

“We spend a significant amount of time working on that,” Palis said. “It’s a big focus for the organization. It’s a big focus for the service line.”

For example, because stroke measures require ERs to have easy access to CT scanners, Harrison has sought to improve this area of its service line. Its EMR also has a number of triggers to help the center meet other core measures, such as reminders for certain kinds of documentation.

Helpful in these endeavors is Harrison’s heart and vascular center, which is already recognized as one of the best in the state.

“That’s an important investment that we’ve made as far as capital to build a three-room heart-and-vascular center in the hospital,” Palis said. “We have the best door-to-balloon time in the state of Washington.”

A rising star

Palis himself exemplifies Harrison’s passion for quality. A driving force behind the center’s three-year endeavor to implement a $30.5-million electronic medical record, Palis was named one of the “Rising Stars: 25 Healthcare Leaders Under Age 40” by Becker’s Hospital Review in 2011 when he was serving as chief information officer, a role he held for four-and-one-half years.

Now as executive vice president and CAO, Palis has two overriding standards for his leadership—the patients come first and quality matters.

“The patients are the key here,” he said. “I really hope that we’re a safe place and a high-quality place  for patients to be taken care of, a destination hospital for employees, and one of the best places that employees want to work.”

To this end, he cites empathy, innovation, quality, and courage as his core values.

“All of us have been or will be a patient in a hospital,” he said. “We should treat everyone that way, and how we would want to be treated.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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