Pen Bay Medical Center vows to be top hospital by end of 2014

Posted Sept. 19, 2012, at 6:27 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — Pen Bay Medical Center launched a drive Wednesday to be one of the top hospitals in the country.

“This is a journey that will put Pen Bay at the top of the nation in performance for hospitals, for medical centers and for health systems,” Pen Bay Healthcare President Wade Johnson said to applause from about 50 staff members during a kickoff ceremony held in the lobby of the hospital in Rockport.

Pen Bay contracted with Huron Healthcare which came in and did a review of the hospital. That review was completed late this summer and the recommendations were sent on to a team of hospital staff, board members, and members of the public working on the “Excellence Always” project. Johnson then went to the Pen Bay Board and got approval to take the steps necessary to become, what he said, would be in the top quarter of hospitals by the end of 2014.

The national assessment firm identified several areas that need improvements, including patient experience, clinical care, physician services, the workforce, and facilities and building operations.

Board Chairman Everett Spear III noted an analogy between what the hospital is doing and that of his family’s hardware business. E.L. Spear is a fourth-generation, 112-year-old business that has managed to prosper by adapting to change.

“If we didn’t change, we would have been out of business,” he said.

Spear said the key to excellence is stewardship.

“We have to work to continuously make it better. We want to hand it off to the next generation better than when we got it,” Spear said.

One area that the hospital will work on to make improvements is patient satisfaction.

Pen Bay has consistently received patient satisfaction scores lower than the state average, based on surveys done for Medicare. In a survey of more than 300 patients in 2009-2010, 69 percent of former patients said they would definitely recommend the hospital to family and friends. The state average was 75 percent.

Johnson said he wants to go beyond patient surveys and focus on patient satisfaction in every interaction with the public. He said when he was in the area for an interview for the job, he would ask people in the supermarket about their thoughts on the hospital. He said some had tremendous stories to tell about the care they received while others showed there was a need for improvement.

He said transparency will be an important part of the effort. He said there will be whiteboards throughout the hospital displaying performance measures that the public can track.

The hospital is also reaching out to the business community and working on ways to help businesses reduce their health care costs. He said one owner told him recently that his business’s insurance carrier will be increasing premiums by 20 percent forcing him to change to a health care plan that will give his employees much higher deductibles.

“We need to get into the schools and the businesses and listen,” he said.

He cited the expansion of hours for pediatric practices as an example of a change that was sought by people. He said children often get sick after 5 p.m. or on weekends and that previously parents would have to take their children to the emergency room if they got sick during those times.

Johnson said the changes will be challenging but that he has not met resistance from staff.

“One of the things that struck me about Pen Bay was the quality of board members and staff members,” he said.

He said the capacity to provide services at Pen Bay exceeds any community hospital he has ever visited, worked with, or read about in his career. He said that assessment was reinforced by the Joint Commission on Healthcare Accreditation which visited the hospital a few weeks ago.

“We have the ability not just to do a really good job most of the time but we have the ability to be great — and great all time — and to deliver excellence always,” Johnson said.

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