Indiana Critical-Care Facility’s Focus on Community Yields Impressive Results

by HCE Exchange on April 2, 2014

Lynzee-McDowell-thumbWhen Decatur County Memorial Hospital, a critical-care facility in Greensburg, Ind., was planning its mission goals for 2014, the hospital leadership decided to focus on culture, quality, service, and finance from both an internal and an external perspective. They also wanted to better define the plans for the hospital and work on branding it in a fresh, new way.

But above all, Decatur County Memorial Hospital was concerned with one vital component of its operations: how it related to the community.

“We are an organization that is in the county,” Lynzee McDowell, marketing and communications manager of Decatur County Memorial Hospital, said. “We are a small hospital. Really everything we do is for our community. We don’t want to just guess their needs and the services they want.”

To effectively communicate with the community, Decatur County Memorial Hospital set up four focus groups. The leadership wanted answers to such questions as, “How can we satisfy our patients?” and “How can we provide safety for visitors and their families?”

As a result of the feedback received from these focus groups, the hospital was prompted to build a new medical surgical unit, and its vendors were prompted to enhance the security of the facility to ensure that all parties would be accounted for when on the hospital campus.

“Really there has been an overall cleaning up of the structure within,” she said. “We’re focused on making it a comfortable place for our community to come and making it the hospital they choose for their healthcare needs.”

Acting on the community’s advice

One of the pieces of feedback that motivated Decatur County Memorial Hospital to build a new surgical suite was dissatisfaction with the semi-private rooms in the old unit. The new unit now has 22 private patient rooms with bathrooms and different amenities designed for both patients and their visitors.

Another improvement motived by the focus groups was an investment in new signage.

“We know that a big part of patient satisfaction is being able to find your way around a place that is unfamiliar,” McDowell said. “We’re going to work on getting signs in place so that people know where they’re going.”

Branding has also taken on a new meaning for Decatur County Memorial Hospital. The organization is aiming for its brand to be more than just color, font, and a logo. Its brand has to expand on the slogan, “The quality care you want close by.” The leadership envisions the hospital brand as being an answer to the question, “What are we to this community?”

Therefore, the focus groups were only the beginning of Decatur County Memorial Hospital’s outreach to the community.

“Everything we do we try to do local,” she said. “Whether it’s partnering with another organization or it’s purchasing signage, we really want to give back to the community and make them feel that not only are we here for you to come to us, but we want to come to you and support you as well.”

Developing a culture of wellness

Creating community wellness has become a major focus also. Because Decatur County Memorial Hospital sees itself as the primary healthcare representative in town, the leadership firmly believes the hospital should be setting the standards and pace for wellness.

Over the last few years, the hospital has focused on an employee wellness initiative and has hired a wellness coordinator who works up different activities and competitions to promote good health among employees and develops educational material on staying healthy, along with weekly weigh-ins and measurements.

The wellness initiative has paid off in dividends, McDowell said. In August, Decatur County Memorial Hospital was named the healthiest workplace in Indiana for the 100 to 499 employee range.

Then, in February of this year, the hospital was named the No. 2 healthiest workplace in the nation. The organization also received a Community Engagement Award, largely for its Healthy Fair, the LiveWell wellness program, and the StayWell initiative through which the hospital partnered with local schools to provide screenings and other services by way of a third-party payer.

“The awards are certainly accomplishments,” she said, “but the programs we’ve put in place while winning those awards I think is more of an accomplishment to me and it says something about the hard work that the staff has really put into everything.”

The StayWell initiative relied heavily on Decatur County Memorial Hospital’s two physician offices, Tree City Medical Partners and Primary Care, to help with the development of the program. Both offices willingly extended their hours and accepted greater patient volumes to accommodate the needs of additional patients.

Furthermore, unlike other hospitals in the region, Decatur was able to offer free flu clinics, both standing and drive-thru, to the community and surrounding counties.

McDowell pointed out that the changing healthcare environment prevented many hospitals from offering this service for free and in many cases, it was eliminated altogether.

This is another reason, she said, why “rural hospitals are not to be looked over.”

A small hospital of great ambition

Despite being in a small town, Decatur County Memorial Hospital doesn’t view itself as a small-town hospital. Instead, it seeks to be as thorough and complete a healthcare resource as its big-city counterparts.

For example, the hospital has the highest-grade CT scanner in the area, digital mammography units, bone-density scans, visiting cardiologists across several subspecialties, two hyperbaric chambers that require no physician referrals, a wound care center, pediatric therapy, and a speech clinic.

McDowell said she reminds colleagues she encounters at conferences and professional events that rural hospitals are just as innovative and sophisticated as the sprawling health systems of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas.

“Rural hospitals are really staying up with the times and showing that we can be just as great and very comparable,” she said. “We offer the same things that one might expect from a big-city health system.”

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