Iowa Specialty Hospital

Fire Starter Award Recipient

February 4, 2005

There is something to be said about the excitement one feels when getting a personal phone call from the guru of health care himself. That feeling soars to a whole different level when Quint Studer is then telling you that you have been selected to receive the Fire Starter Award courtesy of the Studer Group.

Rewind four a time when the senior leaders at Wright Medical Center attended Quint’s "Taking You and Your Organization to the Next Level with Quint Studer (Nine PrinciplesSM to Service and Operational Excellence)" institute in Pensacola, there was excitement and an overwhelming feeling at the thought of changing the culture in our small, rural hospital. At the time, operating margins did not allow us to engage in a full coaching relationship.

So, we begged and borrowed everything that the Studer Group had to offer and attended every conference that we could. This really opened our eyes to the healthcare world beyond our borders. Surprisingly, we found that no matter what the size of the institution; all followed the same Principles.

Gail Boylan from the Studer Group came to Clarion, Iowa in the summer of 2002 at a quarterly Leadership Development Institute and lit the spark with the rest of the leadership crew, the medical staff and the Governing Board. Gail told the CEO that the most difficult part of the journey would be holding everyone accountable. She was right. As a result, we made some hard staffing decisions. Per Good to Great the goal of Wright Medical Center is to always have the right people, in the right seats on our "bus."

The perception of most rural health care facilities by the folks who live in the rural communities is that they are merely band-aid stations. They are seen as stops along the way to "real" care in a bigger metropolitan hospital. Wright Medical Center has taken a different approach and we are trying to change that long-standing perception.

We are quickly becoming much more than, "Just a hospital." We are positively influencing the lives of the patients in our service area and are supporting their efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. We are in the process of building and remodeling the entire medical center to be a healing environment that will reduce overall stress and thereby improve quality and service.

We offer free massages to all patients, warm spa-like robes, softer lighting, wireless internet service, complimentary long distance phone cards, in-room video games and DVD player, and gift bags upon admission complete with our own blended aromatherapy lotion, mints/candies, etc., very much in the style of a 5-star resort. We try very hard to anticipate the needs of our patients well in advance of hearing it from them.

We pride ourselves on being innovative and caring in the communities that we serve. Our staff plays active roles in most every board and volunteer organization in the county. The services of our medical center reach far and wide - from free clinics to domestic and sexual abuse centers, from wellness and fitness centers to providing meals to home bound and low-income seniors. Wright Medical Center strives to provide proactive leadership and not reactive management. We have challenged ourselves to create the new standard for which all rural health care will be based.

What service excellence has allowed us to do is raise the bar not only for ourselves but our entire community. We are finding that many other businesses are standing up and taking notice of what we are doing right and are following our lead.

Being told four years ago that we probably couldn’t afford the typical coaching relationship didn’t faze us at all. Rural Iowa requires one to be relentlessly persistent and stubbornly optimistic. At a Leadership Development Institute in 2003, the CEO happily discovered that a sense of urgency (lack of patience) is actually a good thing. He realized that the path to success does not lie in who makes the most money but who creates the best organization.

Our senior leaders re-dedicated themselves to the organization and pledged their time and talents to this new culture. Their willingness to accept complaints as gifts and challenge all staff to continually raise the bar in everything they do along with a staff willing to do what it takes to achieve greatness has proven very successful.

Over the past several years, Wright Medical Center has been asked to share our story with several other hospitals throughout the Midwest. As our accountability and dedication to the Nine Principles and Pillars grew, our flywheel began producing amazing results. And we have the numbers to back it up. In 2003, our employees were asked to take a Press Ganey satisfaction survey.

The results were staggering. Our composite satisfaction score was 95% and our morale score was at 100%. We are going to measure again in March, our turnover statistics remain at 2% and we have no RN openings at the present time. For the past three years, our growth statistics have grown by 10% each year. Our present Press Ganey National Patient Satisfaction scores are: inpatient 98%, quality of our food 94%, room cleanliness 98%, outpatient 94%, ER 99%, medical practice 82%, and ambulatory surgery 54%.

In November of 2003, we hit the "2 year wall." We broke through this by re-creating our Service Excellence Teams to Pillar Teams, which include front line employees from every department. This proved to be the communication venue our employees were wanting. We continue to have our "Reward & Recognition Team" that chooses our Employee of the Month and the Employee of the Year, and our "Celebrations, Communications, and Events Team" that keep it fun and make us all look forward to coming to work each day.

After attending the What’s Right In Health Care in June, it was very apparent that we needed to do a better job with alignment of our goals throughout the organization. In October of 2004, a new leadership evaluation and employee evaluation were rolled out to the staff using Studer Group’s HighMediumLow criteria. Discussions were conducted with all of our staff as a baseline for performance improvement. These open and honest discussions continue to aid in the development of our already awesome staff as we go on our journey from good to great.

Our journey continues as we strive for Organizational Excellence. We are looking forward to our new partnership with the Studer Group and our new rural partners.

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