The George Washington University Hospital: Kimberly Russo, Chief Operating Officer

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With a national reputation for quality and service and a range of patients that includes heads of state, The George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C., holds itself to extremely high standards for patient care.

“Healthcare is about providing high quality and service to patients so they can get on with their lives,” said Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Russo. “Everything we do must be about the patient. We value the patient’s perspective and evaluate every decision on how it impacts their care or access to care.”

The hospital has embarked on a major quality initiative that touches almost all aspects of patient care. Russo said the hospital plans to be a national leader in quality, service, and patient safety measures in the next three to five years.

Hospitals must improve quality, while also reducing costs, and GW Hospital is using Lean Six Sigma principles throughout the hospital to achieve these goals.

“Lean initiatives are helping us improve throughput in the facility as a whole, including the emergency department,” Russo said. “We are looking at how efficiently we get labs and other results turned around, and how quickly we get patients back to their lives.”

GW Hospital also has a range of employee and physician initiatives, which studies have shown leads to improved quality.

Enhancing the environment of care


The hospital’s new facility, which opened in 2002, already has cutting-edge medical equipment and is completely wireless. GW Hospital is nationally recognized for its robotic surgery program and was the first hospital in Washington, D.C, to have the da Vinci ® Surgical System.

Technology remains a focus at the hospital with investments related to monitoring equipment, telemetry, the electronic medical record, upgrades to cath-lab suites, and monitoring for intensive-care units.

With nearly 10 years in the new facility, GW Hospital is experiencing growing pains and is planning to expand care to meet its patient’s needs. The 371-bed hospital sees about 71,000 patients each year from tourists to local residents to visiting dignitaries. It has a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a breast-care center, oncology care, a cardiology program, and a host of other services.

In 2009, the hospital felt the need to expand its surgical suite to address increasing volumes. The first phase, completed in 2011, added two operating rooms and added 15 pre- and post-op beds, as well as redesigned the endoscopy suite. Phase two is to build a hybrid OR, two additional operating rooms, and more intensive critical-care beds.

“The surgical-suite expansion will enhance the surgical programs we’re known for, specifically neurology, minimally invasive surgery, robotic surgery, cardiology and vascular surgery,” Russo said. “This project will meet the needs of our community in the triad of The George Washington University Medical School, the physician practice, and the hospital.”

In addition to surgical-suite expansions, the hospital is working on expanding and improving the emergency department. With 60 percent of patients coming through the ER, Russo said the hospital is implementing Lean initiatives focused on throughput when making construction decisions.

Nationally recognized leadership


In addition to the reputation already established by the hospital, Russo is making a name for herself among hospital executives. She was recognized by Modern Healthcare in 2010 as one of its Up & Comers, a program that spotlights rising stars who have made “significant contributions in healthcare administration, management, or policy.” In 2011, she was recognized by Becker’s Hospital Review in “Rising Stars: 25 Healthcare Leaders Under Age 40.”

Russo has been COO of GW Hospital since 2009 and served as an associate administrator before that. With a clinical background, Russo always has the patient’s perspective in mind. She received a master of science in speech-language pathology from Rush University in Chicago, Ill., a bachelor of science from Illinois State University, and later earned an MBA from Gallup University, along with working her way up in hospital administration.

Along with quality and patient initiatives, Russo focuses on employee engagement as a top priority.

“Human capital is a huge investment and is most valuable to you as an organization,” she said. “Although quality measures, scores, and profit are important to viability, having an engaged, happy staff greatly impacts your outcomes and the service you provide.”

In the coming years, Russo will have her hands full with implementing reform and managing the challenges coming in healthcare. She said GW Hospital is being efficient with the right staff, making the right strategic decisions, and working on value-based purchasing to address whatever comes its way in the future.

Russo envisions the hospital being a market leader in the coming years and an employer of choice.

-by Patricia Chaney

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