This is the first in our Healthcare Heroes interview series, profiling the nurses, doctors and caregivers advancing the quest for exceptional patient care and experience.
Dr. Scott Wolf is the CMO and COO of Mercy Medical Center and Sisters of Providence Health System in Springfield, Mass. Mercy recently won an inaugural Accountable Care Compass award for Improving Organizational Efficiencies from the Massachusetts Healthcare Association. The award recognized the positive cultural change and improved patient care and experience driven by Mercy’s CareConnect transformation initiative, anchored by an innovative hub-and-spoke model for care coordination.
Dr. Wolf provides a physician leader’s perspective on the challenges Mercy faced, always putting the patient first, and improving physician satisfaction and engagement through better care delivery. This is part one of Dr. Wolf’s Q&A with us.
What major changes in health care prompted your facility to embark on a care transformation journey?
We were at a crossroads in our organization. We had gridlock in our emergency department, we had inefficiencies in our throughput. Patients were waiting a long time. From a quality perspective, even though our quality measures were heading in a positive direction, they weren’t quite where we wanted them to be, and I think also from an overall patient, provider and employee satisfaction perspective, we had some work to do.
Tell us about your hospital environment before beginning your CareConnect transformation journey and adopting a new model for care coordination.
Well, our hospital environment before embarking on this journey I think was like any other typical hospital organization. We struggled with efficiency, we struggled with throughput, we had gridlocks in our emergency department. We were in silos, we were functioning in silos. It’s that typical spaghetti bowl where processes were disorganized. There were inefficiencies in our system, and it was reflecting in our scores and quality scores, in our patient satisfaction scores and in our physician satisfaction scores.
How does a systematic approach to health care and care coordination improve every level of patient care and experience?
Well, the systematic approach to health care improves the entire throughput process of a hospital organization. Remember: the patient’s experience begins before they come into the organization. It starts in the emergency room, all the way through their inpatient stay, and then outward upon their discharge. And if there’s any link in the chain that doesn’t perform to perfection, the whole system is going to get backed up. So if you have patients waiting in your waiting room to come into a bed, their services are going to be delayed, their care is going to be delayed and their hospital stay is going to be longer than it needs to be.
What does Mercy Medical Center’s system aim of doing the right thing the right way, every day, for every patient mean to you and to your organization?
Our system aim of together doing the right thing the right way, every day, for every patient keeps the focus of our organization on the patient, and that’s really where it should be. We want everybody in the organization, no matter what role they play, to be focused on that patient and on that patient outcome.
Why is efficient, predictable and reliable operational performance critical to the long-term success of your facility and well-being of your patients?
So, efficient, predictable and reliable operational processes are critical to our ability to provide care in an efficient and an effective manner. At the end the day, we need to serve our patients, and our patients deserve the care that we provide to them, but in an efficient and effective manner. And those three ingredients are truly what you need in order to be able to produce that level of care with the operational efficiency that’s required in today’s market.
How does CareConnect and the hub-and-spoke care coordination model Mercy adopted improve the experience for physicians working with Mercy?
The CareConnect model has had a tremendous impact on the experience of our physicians. The inherent ability to take the white space, the downtime, out of the hospital day has made the lives of our practicing physicians much more efficient. And if their hospital time is more efficient, then their overall practice is more efficient, because they can spend more time at the bedside, more time with critical information, and less time waiting.
How was your organization able to drive positive physician buy-in for the new changes in culture and process with CareConnect?
The greatest challenge at the beginning of this journey was to get the clinical staff to embrace a new model of care. You can imagine that especially for physicians, they’re rooted in their traditions of how they provide care at the bedside and throughout the hospital organization. To get them to embrace a new model of care was indeed challenging, but it was interesting when we first started this journey, we began piloting the process amongst our medical clinicians. And soon after, about a month after we launched the initiative, my surgical staff came up to me and said, “When is it our turn? We want to be part of it.”