September 1, 2006

Meeting reviews elevate progress, charts course for future initiatives

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Meeting reviews elevate progress, charts course for future initiatives

Dan Beauchamp, M.D., left, presents an outpatient patient satisfaction award to Sam McKenna, M.D., D.D.S., at last week’s elevate Leadership Development Institute meeting.
Photo by Susan Urmy

Dan Beauchamp, M.D., left, presents an outpatient patient satisfaction award to Sam McKenna, M.D., D.D.S., at last week’s elevate Leadership Development Institute meeting.
Photo by Susan Urmy

Current organizational trends were found to be positive and the mood in the hall was decidedly upbeat as some 850 Vanderbilt University Medical Center supervisors gathered last week for the latest elevate Leadership Development Institute.

The group took stock of organizational improvement efforts, learned about new management initiatives and got some pointers from a panel of VUMC's top-scoring managers in employee satisfaction.

The daylong seminar was held at the practice gym at Memorial Gymnasium, with half of the organization's managers and faculty leaders attending on Thursday and the other half getting the same program on Friday.

The group learned that supervisors will hold individual performance review conversations in the coming months with each person whom they supervise. The conversations were presented as a mid-year addition to VUMC's annual employee performance review cycle.

Also laid out at the seminar — departments will begin working this year on internal customer satisfaction surveys. Those who provide services to internal customers were asked to settle on survey methods by January and establish baseline results by June.

In terms of crowd response, the highlight of Thursday's session came when five faculty physicians were given awards for outstanding patient satisfaction scores, drawing standing ovations. Each ranked among the top 1 percent in patient satisfaction with overall quality of care in 2005 within the national customer database maintained by PRC (Professional Research Consultants), a company that surveys patients for Vanderbilt and for numerous health care organizations across the country.

On Friday, another eight faculty members were recognized as having achieved the same distinction. The 13 honored were Sean Donahue, Gaelyn Garrett, Todd Huber, Louise Mawn, Sam McKenna, David Morrison, James Netterville, Bruce Shack, Paul Sternberg, Douglas Weikert, Jason Wendel, Ruth Young and John Zic.

Vanderbilt's hospital units and clinics are also entered in PRC's national rankings. David Robertson Jr., M.D., director of the Clinical Research Center, accepted an award on behalf of his unit, which finished among the PRC national top 1 percent for satisfaction with overall quality of care.

At the start of the seminar, Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs, read a glowing letter from a Nashvillian who, during recent visits, found a new level of personal service at VUMC. Following the reading of this letter, much of Jacobson's quarterly progress report likewise offered evidence of important positive shifts at the Medical Center.

VUMC is subject to public reporting for some 130 clinical quality measures, and in 2006 the Medical Center managed to rank at or above the 50th percentile nationally for 90 percent of these measures. The 2007 goal has two parts: sustain current performance on any measures where VUMC fell within the nation's top 10 percent in 2006; and close the gap by at least half for any measures where VUMC didn't reach the top 10 percent in 2006.

“Quality has to be our first, middle and last name; not a byproduct of what we do, but our core strategy,” Jacobson told the group.

PRC runs seven satisfaction surveys for Vanderbilt, corresponding with various inpatient and outpatient areas, and for 2006, the goal was to rank at or above the 90th percentile in PRC's national database on satisfaction with overall quality of care, and at or above the 95th percentile on patients' likelihood to recommend an organization to others. With seven surveys, that comes to 14 patient satisfaction targets in all, and VUMC hit 10 of the 14. Areas that succeeded in 2006 will have the same targets for 2007, and areas that fell short will aim to improve their national ranking by at least 5 percentage points.

Jacobson said VUMC's 18-month employee retention rate is moving in the wrong direction, from 63.8 percent in fiscal 2005 to 59.6 percent in 2006. Total job turnover also moved in the wrong direction, from 16.3 percent to 17.2 percent. Jacobson mentioned four programs that will help VUMC improve retention and turnover: targeted employee selection; employee performance review and management; career development; and reward and recognition.

VUMC hit its patient volume goals for the year, and the balance sheet inched past the goal, coming in at $46.6 million, but Jacobson said that, all things considered, this margin was “thin.”

“For a $2 billion operation that has the vision we have and the need for capital to build world class facilities and resources, that bottom line should be $80 million.” Jacobson said one essential step toward a greater bottom line will be to push for correction of the financial inequities given rise by changes to the state's TennCare plan.