Visiting Excela Health

A few days ago I went to Pennsylvania to speak at a patient safety event sponsored by Excela Health. It was a pretty drive- through Maryland, across the Appalachian Mountains, and then into the Allegheny Mountains heading through Southern Pennsylvania. As Tom the driver and I drove deeper into central Pennsylvania, we passed through little towns- Breezewood, Somerset, Ligonier. I imagined these were old mining towns that were once bustling with life and growth. I was sad to see so many empty storefronts with “For Rent” signs in the windows.

Latrobe, Pennsylvania, was my destination. Tom is a history buff and with every trip we go on he always does a little research and shares his interesting tidbits with me. Fred Rogers (of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”) grew up in Latrobe, and so did the golfer Arnold Palmer. Plus, the banana split was first created in Latrobe.
The great people of Excela Health organized a wonderful event: a reception at 5:30 pm with delicious food, my presentation at 6:30, and a book signing to follow.
There were a couple of things that made this event stand out for me:
-It was held in the Fred Rogers Center – a beautiful facility donated by Mr. Rogers’ family. There were glass cases that held Mr. Rogers’ famous red sweater and blue coat, his blue sneakers and loafers, and the puppets- King Friday and Lady Elaine. All of this notes- yellowing and faded- that he had written for the shows were displayed in the cases. I am 44 year old. I grew up with Mr. Rogers, so it was fun to see all of this.

-Excela did something that most hospitals- at least the ones at which I have been invited to speak- have not done before. They opened up the event to the entire community. It was nice that they recognized that this topic- patient safety- was not just for the health care industry. It was about getting the patient and the family involved. This was something that I had wanted to see for many years and it was a thrill to finally be able to speak to not only health care providers, but regular people just like me.
-The book signing began much like the others. I wrote notes and signed books for doctors, nurses, board members, administrators. Then I began seeing young (really young) faces- students who were in medical school, nursing school and even students who were in high school. A young boy with a baseball cap and jeans that hung low on his hips handed me the book and said, “I think I might want to be a doctor one day.” I wrote a long note to him and handed him back the book. He read the note and then stuck his hand out to shake mine and said, “Thank you, Mrs. King.”
It was great to meet these young, fresh, bright minds and I am honored that they took time out of their evenings when they could have been doing homework, playing sports, chatting on Facebook, or watching TV to come hear me speak and buy Josie’s Story. They will read the book and I hope their dreams of becoming doctors and nurses will come true. I believe if they do, they will always remember Josie.
Thank you, Excela Health, for all of your great patient safety work. Thanks, too, for a wonderful evening. Most of all, thank you to all of the students who came to hear me. Study hard and become doctors and nurses. You are the next generation, the new culture. YOU will make a difference in the lives of many.
-Sorrel
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Boston Part 2: Health Care’s Holy Grail

Energized from the previous night’s meeting with the HCA folks, I took a cab to the John F. Kennedy Library to a conference put on by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA). The conference was titled “In Pursuit of Health Care’s Holy Grail: The Quality Movement That is Transforming Health Care”.

The conference room was beautiful with a wall of windows as the backdrop of the stage, overlooking pretty Dorchester Bay. The audience consisted of doctors, nurses, health care leaders and public policy people all from the state of Massachusetts. These people had come together to celebrate the movement and to more importantly be inspired to continue on in the improvement of health care delivery at their hospitals. The centerpiece of the event was Charlie Kenney’s new book The Best Practice: How the New Quality Movement is Transforming Medicine.
The morning began with a welcome by Cleve Killingsworth, the Chairman and CEO of BCBSMA. It was apparent to me as I listened to him that he and his organization were committed to patient safety. It seemed that BCBSMA was going beyond the call of duty. BCBSMA isn’t sitting in the back of the room, merely observing the quality movement, but its leaders are committed to leading the way and I am grateful for that.
After Cleve’s opening remarks, I shared Josie’s story and my thoughts on Charlie’s great book. I recommend this book to anybody interested in learning more about the history of the patient safety movement that is truly changing health care for the better. I hope that the book can raise awareness on the reality of medical errors and inspire people to continue their work to improve patient safety or even to take up the cause.
I could go on and on about the interesting ideas of Charlie and other safety leaders like Don Berwick of IHI, Louise Liang of Kaiser Permanente, Uma Kotagal of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Goran Henriks of the Qulturum in Jonkoping, Sweden, but instead I’d like to send you to Paul Levy’s blog “Running a Hospital”. In addition to being the President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Paul is an amazing blogger. He was at the conference, and has done an excellent job on writing about the days events. Take a peek.
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Boston Part 1: The Grassroots of a First-of-Its-Kind Law

I flew to Boston on Monday, September 16, for a conference put on by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which was to be held the next morning. Earlier in the week Jim Conway from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement contacted me and told me about a group in Boston that was doing some interesting things in the patient safety advocacy vein. He suggested that we meet.

And so Monday night I had dinner with five people from Health Care for All (HCA). HCA is a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization that is working to- among other things- create greater quality health care throughout the state. You can read all about them on their website. HCA sponsors the Consumer Health Quality Council- a very active and renowned coalition of health care consumers who have been personally affected by medical errors. The Council was created in 2006 and currently has about 40 members who are doing some impressive things: sharing their medical error stories with the public, advocating for improved health care, and meeting with legislators to introduce health care improvements into law.
A recent success included their year and a half-long work in the development and signing of a groundbreaking state law that includes:
  • mandatory reporting of all hospital-acquired infections
  • mandatory reporting of all “never events”
  • creation of rapid response methods at all hospitals
  • creation of patient/family councils at hospitals.
This was an interesting group. I urge those of you reading this who want to make changes within your state to check them out.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more from my trip to Boston, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts’ patient safety event.
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