Balancing the management of multiple in-house specialty services is no easy task, especially for rural hospitals that too often face limited resources and staff. After struggling to efficiently manage its in-house emergency department (ED), Decatur County Memorial Hospital (DCMH) turned to TeamHealth for more consistent staffing and innovative ED management practices.
Challenges at Rural, Critical Access Facilities
Decatur County Memorial Hospital has been in the Decatur County, Indiana, community for almost 100 years. The surrounding community has a population of about 25,000 people in a rural farm setting. The facility faces universal challenges that rural, critical access hospitals must overcome each day. Obtaining and sustaining the necessary resources and clinical support to provide quality care are chief among them.
“Critical access hospitals across the country are closing at a very high rate. It’s a concern everywhere, but that’s not a concern that we have here. And it’s because of our focus on our core values. That’s our focus on our partnerships with our patients, with our community and with TeamHealth.” – Cathy Wichman, MSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer
Because of this, hospital leadership sought a partner to help bring innovative solutions to the ED to ensure patients received the appropriate level of care and resources. In addition, the facility needed consistent staffing that included strong leadership to help maintain quality and gain access to best practices.
Building a Lasting Partnership
TeamHealth and DCMH began a partnership in April 2020 to help address the specific challenges the facility faced. Transitioning to any care model comes with challenges, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic was a primary difficulty for the facility, as the surrounding community had one of the highest per capita case counts in the nation. However, the clinical team was able to immediately perform even amidst the challenges of the pandemic, and the timing proved to be ideal. With open communication and rapport-building, the teams were able to smoothly transition to the partnership model and provide uninterrupted care.
“The partnership works so well because TeamHealth and DCMH set common goals for the hospital and our community.” – Dr. Jassin Jouria, Emergency Medicine Physician
Early in the partnership, it was vital for TeamHealth and DCMH to set common goals. Some of these included improving operational flow, standardizing and tracking key metrics and expanding best practices for clinical quality. Overall, these goals had two common threads: to partner in service of the community and enhance patient care.
Executing Strategies to Achieve Common Goals
Once the team established these common goals, they worked on fostering collaboration and accountability. The consistent feedback and benchmarking helped each clinician identify areas for improvement. Moreover, the teams received the necessary support, resources and education to enact any needed changes and grow clinical strengths. This also empowered clinicians to participate in the department’s clinical and operational decision-making and ensured shared successes among all team members.
With accountability and transparency in place, the team also sought operational and back-office support to efficiently manage the ED. When the partnership began, hospital leadership, staff clinicians and the facility medical director set a common goal to improve patient flow. They focused on improving key ED metrics while also focusing on the relationship with other departments, such as the hospitalist team, to enhance patient flow and experience. Through active collaboration and open communication, the teams established consistent protocols informed by best practices. Ultimately, this strengthened the quality of care patients received.
Achieving Five-Star Results
The healthcare landscape continually evolves. The necessary evolution of patient awareness, persistent changes in care delivery and the expansion of telehealth are just a few of many. However, one indicator of quality that has not changed in its 20-year history is the coveted Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) five-star rating. Only about 13% of hospitals nationwide achieve a five-star rating, and it is a vital indicator to patients and clinicians about the quality of care a facility provides.
“To know that we are among the top 10% rated throughout the nation in clinical quality, particularly in a rural area, is just extraordinary, and it makes all of our staff feel extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, but also what we contribute to our community.” – Rex McKinney, President and CEO
In 2021, DCMH received its five-star rating. The facility and TeamHealth provide quality care to patients, and the five-star rating is a testimony to the entire team’s dedication. With a strong partnership in place, the teams continue to enhance patient care – creating a collaborative effort to maintain the quality that helped achieve this success. Most importantly, the community can have confidence in the hospital’s ability to care for them when they need it most.
Partnering with TeamHealth
TeamHealth brings clinical and operational excellence to our facility partners across the country each day. Whether a hospital seeks improved patient experience scores, consistent staffing, innovative solutions during difficult times or anything in between, we create a customized, scalable solution. Once we identify needs and common goals, we build the foundational partnership that allows us to improve and sustain quality and safety. Our job does not end there, though, as we grow and evolve with our partners, adjusting to their unique needs over time to ensure continued success.
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