Allen S Weiss, M.D.
President & CEO NCH Healthcare System
Every three years, the Joint Commission visits NCH—and 2,000 other hospitals and healthcare systems around the country—to assess how the organization is serving its patients. Last week was our visit.
As always, it was an exhaustive, important and rewarding exercise.
Seven Joint Commissioner surveyors inspected almost every area of our system over five days. Half their time was focused on the NCH Physician Group and out-patient areas. This Joint Commission visit equated to a 31 “survey days” covering 462 standards, 2,000 elements of performance, and 3,000 federal conditions of participation.
Overall, the surveyors were quite complimentary, both of the care provided throughout the NCH Healthcare System and the team members delivering the care. Most heartening were the comments of the lead surveyor at the final summary conference, who expressed great admiration for the culture we have established at NCH, and for the clinical integration and caregiver coordination that we employ in caring for our patients. Her comments were music to my ears.
One of the three physician surveyors, a neurosurgeon from a prominent Boston hospital, said he would begin using a best practice he learned from our orthopedic service. We, too, learned many best practices from our surveyors, as we seemed to cover every inch of our 800,000 square feet of building space on our two campuses. Despite the distance covered, the Joint Commission engineer surveyor found only one area needing improvement, which we immediately corrected. He said normally in complex buildings like ours he finds scores of elements needing correction. The engineer’s NCH experience was further heightened when he ran into a community member, who, without being prompted, exclaimed that NCH was “the best hospital he’d ever been in.” The sentiment—not to mention the timing!—was much appreciated.
Survey visits to NCH Physician Group, with 34 office practices, 83 physicians and 33 advanced practitioners with 480 support personnel, yielded one recurring theme: How pleased offices were to be part of NCH and to embrace the high standards of the Joint Commission. Having outpatient certification is entirely elective and does involve significant resources, but it does ultimately create a better, safer experience for patients and those caring for patients.
Everyone who interacted with the examiners was terrific; I’d have to list thousands of names to cite them all. However, permit me to name two people who stand out. Rodney Judd and Karen Judd. Rodney helps NCH with quality and safety by teaching and motivating us every day to live up to the high standards of the Joint Commission. Karen is so important as Director of Rehab. Both are retiring soon from NCH after decades of service to the community. We will miss them greatly.
We, of course, do expect to receive some requests for improvement from the Joint Commission in the final report. But having personally shadowed a few of the surveyors this week, I couldn’t be more proud, pleased and thankful about our team of 4,008 colleagues, 1,137 volunteers, and more than 756 physicians and allied health providers for their competence and compassion. Particularly encouraging was seeing how we are growing together as a system, with the traditional inpatient side working collaboratively with the rapidly growing outpatient/ambulatory side.
The lead surveyor told us she sometimes gets discouraged reading the news about healthcare, but seeing the people at NCH was encouraging and refreshing, giving her optimism about the future. My sentiments exactly.
In September 2006, Dr. Allen Weiss was appointed president and CEO of the NCH Healthcare System, a 715-bed, two-hospital integrated health care system. NCH is one of only twenty hospitals in the country affiliated with Mayo Clinic, and has been named three times by “U. S. News and World Report” as best in the region and among the 50 best cardiovascular programs according to Truven. He is a graduate of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and completed his training at both the New York Presbyterian Hospital and Hospital for Special Surgery of Cornell University. He also had a solo practice in Rheumatology, Internal Medicine and Geriatrics for 23 years, and is board certified in all three specialties. He is recognized both as a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a Fellow of the American College of Rheumatology. His wife, Dr. Marla Weiss, is a writer and educator, and they have two daughters who are physicians.