Common sense changes for some big gains

Hospital president reflects on first year on the job

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Minor adjustments and common sense can make for major changes.

That could well be the maxim of Robert Haffey, who will mark his first year as president of Kent Hospital this Friday.

Haffey took an hour Thursday afternoon to review the achievements and challenges at Kent. His latest initiative is to reduce the nightly administration of medication so as not to interrupt a patient’s sleep.

“They’ll wake you up to give you a sleeping pill,” he said of other hospitals with a laugh.

While surely an exaggeration, Haffey, who holds a Masters in Business Administration, MSN and RN, estimates with a careful review and planning of patient medication schedules the number of nightly medication administrations could be reduced by 30 percent. This would give patients more uninterrupted sleep while giving nurses more time to plan discharges and visit with patients who aren’t sleeping.

Such a common sense approach is the bedrock to Relationship Based Care, RBC, that Haffey introduced soon after arriving here from serving as the president of Springfield, Pennsylvania-based Delaware County Memorial Hospital. RBC employs some common sense measures to care, such as using the patient’s first name, listing the names of care providers on a board in the patient’s room and fulfilling patient requests, and is being implemented throughout the hospital on a unit by unit basis. Five units are using the system with six more to go by the end of the year.

Haffey has also directed his attention to the Emergency Department as well as operating rooms in addition to coping with what every hospital administrator copes with – finances. He talked about the planned acquisition of Care New England by Partners Health Care that was shelved before it reached review by the Department of Health and the Attorney General and Lifespan entering Warwick with an urgent care facility at Hoxsie Four Corners.

“I think the strategy is pretty obvious,” Haffey says of Lifespan. “They’re trying to take patients from Warwick up to Rhode Island Hospital. I’m thinking that our Warwick residents are very loyal to Kent Hospital and, frankly, don’t want to go up to Providence. They’d rather be cared for here. So, I don’t really view it as a threat.”

Collapse of the Partners deal in the face of strong opposition from Lifespan and a public campaign that it would pull patients out of Rhode Island and diminish the quality of Rhode Island care played out soon after Haffey arrived at Kent. But while that chapter has closed and CNE backed away from the governor and Rhode Island Foundation’s efforts to bring Lifespan and CNE together, Haffey said the decade-long relationship with Brigham and Women’s, a member of the Partner Group, remains strong.

He is also encouraged by the hospital’s financial picture, which he views as an ongoing challenge. He reported the hospital is about $1.2 million ahead of its budgeted profit of $6 million for the fiscal year.

“The results for August are not back yet, but all the indicators are showing that we should do well in August, and September [the last month of the fiscal year at Kent], we’ve started out really busy in September. So, I think for the year we’re going to exceed budget but it’s grinding every day and just monitoring everything and making sure we have the right amount of staff – not too little, not too much,” he said.

Asked to identify accomplishments in his first year at Kent, Haffey said, “Employee morale, physician morale, we’ve grown in volume, so our surgical volume will be the highest it’s been…”

He said the hospital would perform more than 10,000 surgeries this year, the highest in its history. He attributes that to operating room efficiencies and a program where staff identified and prioritized different projects.

“[The] first couple projects were around pre-admission testing, block times and efficiency through the OR. The staff was involved in every piece of that. We’ve seen some efficiency in OR turnover time – from the time the patient is finished in the OR and leaves and then the team comes in and cleans the room for the next patient – what we call ‘wheels out, wheels in”…We’ve decreased the time,” he said.

Haffey isn’t all about numbers and metrics to measure performance. He’s made an investment in the state, having bought a home in South Kingstown and he’s buoyed by the reception he’s received and community feedback.

He said after speaking at the Warwick Rotary Club people waited to talk with him “to tell me about the great experience either they had or a loved one had. For me, that was very rewarding. They were telling me Kent has really turned things around. I hear it in the community, we get comments from patients.”

Haffey has made a practice of acknowledging positive comments made about hospital staff with a letter to the staff member. It doesn’t end there. If the same staff member receives additional patient accolades they get a second letter and a $5 gift card to either the hospital gift shop or cafeteria; on the third occasion they receive a pair of movie tickets, and by the fourth and fifth time they are invited out to dinner. Six people will be going out to dinner shortly.

What might they be talking about over the table?

“[We’re going] to ask them what is it that you’re doing that you’re getting all these comments from patients?”

It just could be a few simple things, like greeting patients by their name, reviewing with them a medical plan of action and getting them a cup of coffee when they need it most.

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