Memorial Hospital of Martinsville & Henry County: Grady W. (Skip) Philips, Chief Executive Officer

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Skip-Phillips-thumbExuding optimism about healthcare and the future of one’s organization can be difficult for many hospital leaders, but Grady W. (Skip) Philips III, chief executive officer of Memorial Hospital of Martinsville & Henry County in Martinsville, Va., possesses optimism in spades.

Philips has been in healthcare for 25 years and is excited about the trends he sees developing within the industry. One of his primary goals with Memorial Hospital is to make it more of a presence in its community and catchment area of 85,000. To this end, the hospital has been forming partnerships with community-based physicians and health services, as well as other community agencies indirectly and directly involved with healthcare.

Furthermore, Memorial has been partnering with its physicians to provide better outpatient services, reduce readmissions, and reduce primary admissions for a number of diagnoses with earlier access and treatment. Over the last 18 months, he has also been promoting community-wide initiatives around diabetes, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia.

As a result, Memorial is moving in the right direction on its core measures and benchmarks, a game of catch-up that has been hindered by some of the health challenges within its catchment area.

“We’ve got a number of health challenges in the community that we serve,” Philips said, “but most of them have to do with some of the lifestyle issues. We happen to have the challenge and the privilege of being in the tobacco belt and being beneficiaries of the Tobacco Fund in Virginia.”

Educating an entrenched lifestyle

Smoking is one of the wellness issues Memorial is facing in its community. Philips said the organization has taken a two-pronged approach to this issue. The first approach has focused on hospital employees and other employers in the region.

“We went to a wellness focus in 2012,” he said. “Our campus went tobacco-free, but in addition to the tobacco-free initiative in the middle of the Tobacco Belt, we also focused on diet and exercise with our employees.”

Furthermore, Memorial created a regional business health coalition with a majority of local employers who are privately insured. Through that cooperative, Memorial began discussing initiatives employers could put in place that would positively impact the 25,000 people collectively employed by the coalition, along with their extended families.  As a result, many of these employers established tobacco-free work sites and many of them instituted wellness initiatives that didn’t exist two years ago.

The second prong is focused on kids.

Philips explained, “There’s a significant amount of energy in the community around the YMCA, outdoor activities, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and activities in the school system to promote healthier lifestyles, really trying to reach kids in elementary and middle school, not that we ignore the high school students, but we’re really trying to help address them before they get to the stage of already trying a few things.”

The response he said has been generally, if not universally, positive.

“People have been cooperative,” he stated. “They’ve worked with us.”

Transitioning to patient-centered care

Philips is also optimistic about the patient-centered focus that is transforming healthcare. Memorial was able to successfully integrate hospitalists into its continuum of care, and from that, it was able to increase the primary care provided to its community.

As the hospitalists were added, Memorial’s physicians were able to see more people in their offices, and most of these practices have been able to add new physicians and mid-level providers over the last 12 to 18 months.  Furthermore, Memorial has been successful at recruiting physicians in OBGYN, Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Orthopaedics, and Pediatrics.

Philips credits this progress in no small way to its membership in LifePoint Hospitals.

“We are very fortunate to be part of LifePoint Hospitals,” he said, “and LifePoint has placed a fair amount of emphasis over the last couple of years on the relationships with our physicians both in the hospital and in the community.”

This emphasis has made Memorial more attractive to potential recruits who hear from the medical community that Memorial works to engage its physicians, helping them to be successful both personally and professionally.

Membership in LifePoint has also given Memorial an edge when it comes to information technology. LifePoint’s two-way interface platform, LifePoint Connect, has enabled Memorial to connect with 40 percent of its physicians’ private practices. EMR integration is also coming along nicely, and the organization has qualified for Stage 1 Meaningful Use. By the second quarter of 2013, it’s expecting to have physician order entry integrated, and all communication is now electronic on the inpatient and non-physician side.

“LifePoint provides a fair amount of resources,” Philips observed. “Many community hospitals, when they’re trying to go at it alone, don’t always have the level of support. Having that resource helps us not only improve patient safety, but also improve the quality of care we provide for the community we serve.”

With four other LifePoint hospitals in Virginia and two more over the North Carolina line, it also provides many opportunities to network services.

Guided by the future

Whatever success Memorial has achieved, Philips gives quick credit to his loyal team, a team that wears many different hats and fills many different roles.  This team is always ready to confront Memorial’s most daunting challenge: being creative in how it reaches people with access to preventative and screening services on the front end. Philips believes taking care of the patient is going to direct healthcare organizations in the future.

“The healthcare we provided for the last 40 to 50 years is not the healthcare we necessarily want to have as we age,” he observed. “As we look to healthcare both now and into the future, Memorial Hospital wants to be an active partner with the community we serve, and we want to be able to create those linkages that may mean fewer people in the hospital, but will also mean a healthier community.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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