Category: Thought Leadership
July 27 2016
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Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tenn., believes that great culture and empowering physicians to play a bigger role in making decisions is crucial for a successful health care system. Dr. Michael Ugwueke, President, COO and future CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, discusses how he is leading these efforts to strengthen physician and patient satisfaction.

You’ve spoken about the importance of the hospital-physician relationship. What is Methodist Le Bonheur doing to strengthen this relationship?

Our philosophy is to be a physician-led organization. Many of our physicians serve on our board of trustees, the highest decision-making leadership team in the organization. We also have six physicians who serve on the leadership team of our strategy group. The leadership team meets weekly and is responsible for the management of our systems operations, which include resources allocations and are accountable for our balanced scorecard goals. Our physician’s involvement with these teams gives them the opportunity to weigh in on important decisions and provides a valuable physician perspective for the rest of our leadership. Our physicians are true partners in our decision-making process, and that’s what we wanted to achieve as an organization.

Can you talk about Methodist Le Bonheur’s Physician Leadership Academy and your involvement?

Three years ago, we started the Physician Leadership Academy at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare with an emphasis on creating a consistent physician leadership model that is unique to our culture and strategies. Physicians can attend various seminars to learn what a physician leader looks and acts like; however, we wanted to create a consistent physician leadership model that is unique to our organization.

The Physician Leadership Academy was created to achieve four key objectives:

  • Develop contemporary leadership and management skillsets needed for today’s physician leaders
  • Increase effectiveness of physicians to drive the necessary change, both among themselves and their colleagues to improve quality
  • Create a collaborative culture where physicians feel they are truly partners with non-clinical staff to help achieve system goals
  • Create shared vision, mission and values as the foundation of our culture

Traditionally, physicians move up in leadership within an organization by virtue of Medical Executive Committee elections. What often happens is one physician stays in a leadership role for years because others don’t believe they are qualified, have the time or competency to do the job. We want to change this dynamic through this program and make physicians more comfortable assuming leadership roles.

To make this all happen, we work with the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, which has an MBA program geared toward physicians. We also work with the American Association for Physician Leadership to design a curriculum based on what physicians need. It’s a highly selective 11-month program, with 25 physicians accepted through an essay submission process. CEOs also provide recommendations based on a physician’s leadership qualities and ability to collaborate with others. Once accepted, physicians attend five hours a month and are required to participate 80 percent of the time, or they will not graduate. Physicians in the program are not given a
pay incentive because we believe physicians must want to do it to improve themselves, not because of a financial incentive.

Our third group of physicians will graduate this September, making a total of 75 physicians who have completed the program since inception. These physician graduates meet every two months as part of the Medical Chief of Staff Council, to discuss programs they would like to champion for the organization, as well as provide input on major initiatives.

Can you talk about the culture of Methodist Le Bonheur in a successful physician leadership strategy and the hospital’s relationship with physicians?

Our culture is known as “The Power of One.” The ability of one individual to make a difference in the life of our patients. It is manifested in many ways, through simple acts that demonstrates our mission in the community and as a faith-based organization with the primary goal to improve the care we deliver to our patients.  We believe it takes only one individual to make a difference. We want our physicians to understand the importance of this culture and become a part of it in the way they deliver care.

How is Cerner working with Methodist Le Bonheur to build strategy with your physician leadership? Can you describe the role of these leaders in implementing Cerner?

We have collaborated with Cerner since 2003. For our electronic medical record go-lives, we got our Physician Advisory Group involved from the beginning to evaluate things like integrations, process improvement, workflow optimization opportunities to make sure the system was adaptable and acceptable for physicians and their colleagues.

When implementing our computerized order entry system in 2007-2008, before Meaningful Use, there was initially a lot of pushback from physicians moving to this system. Our north hospital was first to go live on the system and many vocal physicians told us the new system would slow them down. We worked with Cerner to plan our go-live, shadowed our physicians, checked workflows and provided real-time support to address any issues. After the first go-live, one of our physicians sent me an email saying the new system was “transformational for him.” Now, we get constant testimonials from our physicians on how they could never go back to the old way of doing things.

You championed the 30-Minute Guarantee policy for emergency departments at Methodist Le Bonheur. Can you explain this program and Cerner’s involvement to help provide high patient satisfaction?

The goal of the 30-Minute Guarantee for our emergency department (ED) is to create a sense of urgency for Associates and physicians to see patients as quickly as possible. For every patient who isn’t seen within 30 minutes, I personally send a letter of apology and gift card to them. Our goal is to meet this guarantee with our patient at least 80 percent of the time.

In 2007, we implemented Cerner’s FirstNet® ED system. We looked at the data from our ED and determined only three tests were needed immediately at the first point of care. By using this data to identify these tests, we improved turnaround time. This allowed us to streamline processes across the system. In the beginning, we were doing most of the data gathering manually from different sources. Now, we use the IT Dashboard in FirstNet® ED, which eliminates the need to pull data manually. We do this reporting on a daily basis. It has accomplished almost a 28 percent increase in volume in our ED, and patient and employee satisfaction is high.