New York Gracie Square Hospital: Johnny Kuo, Chief Operating Officer

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Johnny-Kuo-thumbNew York Gracie Square Hospital has been a fixture within the Greater New York Metropolitan Area since 1959. A member of The New York Presbyterian Healthcare Network, this 157-bed inpatient facility provides psychiatric and Dual Focus care to mentally ill and chemically addicted adult and geriatric patients.

New York Gracie Square is especially focused on the Asian community; however, Johnny Kuo, chief operating officer, was quick to clarify that New York Gracie Square’s patient population is actually quite diverse.

Kuo also said many people aren’t aware of the extent of care New York Gracie Square provides to its patients.

“It’s a basic need of the community,” he explained. “There are not many psychiatric facilities around Manhattan.”

The last few years of economic turmoil have made New York Gracie Square’s operations even more important to its area, and the hospital is expanding its patient floors from seven beds to 27 beds. It is also in the process of upgrading to electronic medical records.

Providing care to victims of a bad economy

Kuo said this expansion has come about largely because of the bad economy.

“Within the last four to five years, the economy has really hit a lot of family members, the people without a job,” he related. “We see a lot of these types of patients. They did really well in their careers, but they lost their job. A lot of these patients come to us.”

Most patients tend to stay for a short period of time, seven to 14 days, because they need counseling, reassurance, courage, and the motivation “to get their feet back on track.”

It’s important, then, he said, that his team is not only dynamic in the leadership and care they provide, but also knowledgeable.

“I think that the executive healthcare manager needs to be knowledgeable of the current guidelines and regulations, professional standards and credential requirements,” Kuo explained. “Being properly informed of the prerequisites is necessary for efficient management.”

Quality driven by passion

Kuo himself has an established role within the community, having been COO since August 2000. He refuses to settle for “merely acceptable” service and keeps raising expectations for the quality of the care and services New York Gracie Square provides.

During his time at New York Gracie Square, he has forged a tightly knit team, he said, one that contributes to the hospital’s quality, something reflected in the fact that they have met or surpassed all of CMS’ core measures and standards.

So high are his team’s expectations of what New York Gracie Square can and should do, that Kuo really focuses on one solitary, but vital element when recruiting new leaders: “Their passion.”

“When I look at [potential hires], I make sure they have the passion for their role as the leader,” he stated. “I make sure they really like what they’re doing, really like being challenged with responsibility, and set an example to the staff members.”

He also wants his leadership team to not fear possible failure but to embrace it head-on, always moving forward.

“That to me is considered passion,” he concluded.

Patient safety is the agenda

Kuo strives to channel this passion into patient safety.

“That’s a key element for people to know,” he said. “We are focused heavily on patient safety. No matter the agenda in any type of meeting that we have, patient safety is always the highest on the agenda.”

He added, “We don’t play around with the patient safety at the facility, so [family members] know that we have highly skilled and trained professionals above taking care of patients.”

The hospital is currently transitioning to the Six Sigma model of care, another way in which he wants to test his team’s abilities and limits until they’re top-notch professionals.

“We are developing people at all positions to achieve excellence,” he said.

Kuo has also emphasized evolving education since the earliest days of his tenure, when he required all of his therapists to be licensed in clinical care.

“We have to provide the latest education at the facility where the people are if we expect to remain the top program,” he said. “The hospital has to improve process, customer service, and quality of care.”

His staff is very creative in coming up with ideas that challenge and expand the program, he added. They are the action plan for New York Gracie Square’s future.

In fact, his team represents the advice he gives to all healthcare professionals.

“Be focused on what you’re doing. Be good at what you’re doing. And be faithful at what you’re doing.”

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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