By SFC Jeremy B. Barber
I was recently given the unique opportunity to participate in AHRA’s Partners in Learning program, sponsored by GE Healthcare. This was a great opportunity for me to see how our peers and colleagues operate within the civilian healthcare sector, since I have been working and managing as an active duty soldier in military healthcare for the last 18 years. I chose to visit the Akron General Health System, an organization of 11 different facilities that is currently undergoing realignment with the prestigious Cleveland Clinic.
I was eager to learn about their facilities’ best practices, namely in the realms of human resource management, financial management, coding, capital purchasing, radiation safety, and marketing. In the military healthcare system, we usually don’t follow or implement civilian guidelines or rules when it comes to our day to day practices. We do follow the NRC, FDA, and any MQSA and ACR guidelines; but when it comes to hospital management, the army has its own unique standards based off its healthcare program called TRICARE and the Defense Health Agency (DHA).
On day one I sat down with Akron General’s radiation safety and compliance officer who explained to me in detail the lengthy Ohio Codes that govern their imaging practice. This was already a huge difference from my facility’s operations! While reading though her list of daily, monthly, and yearly radiation protection regulations and laws, it became obvious to me that my job as a radiology manager within the military was much simpler. The state laws that Akron General needed to adhere to just aren’t found in federal healthcare facilities.
I noticed more differences when we began conducting door to door house calls to physician offices within the surrounding community. Yes, you heard me right; we conducted actual meet and greets with current and potential physician partner practices to ask them what services they might need and if they have any ongoing concerns. This allowed for the local Akron General Health & Wellness Center to not only get their foot in the door, but also to solicit any new services that they could potentially offer. This was old-fashioned marketing at its best; to go out and seek your provider teams and meet with them face to face to exchange ideas for improving patient care.
During my week long learning program with the management team, I was introduced to the practical concept of a hospital wellness center. Through my interactions with the staff and patients, I began to realize what an innovative wellness program Akron General was offering to its community and ultimately to its patients. It was a simple philosophy: offer services to keep and sustain a healthy population, and when a customer is in need of a doctor or other medical treatment, services are just down the hall. It was a concept that was being flawlessly executed by bringing the community in to the hospital by offering fitness classes and equipment along with some ancillary community services.
There were countless other fruitful benefits that Akron General offered, including yoga classes; child care; AED, CPR, and first aid classes, nutrition and weight loss programs; and even periodic wellness checks. I’ve never seen all of these services offered in one location before, and especially not at a hospital. I can honestly say that Akron General operates more like a community outreach center providing preventive services, and less like a hospital that is geared only towards diagnosing and treatment.
With my week coming to an end, I felt that my time at Akron General’s wellness facilities was well spent. I truly felt that I was able to bring home some different management practices to implement within my department at home. It was an eye opener to see how lean and functional this institution was, while also far exceeding the basic needs of a community hospital. Let’s hope that the military is willing to take and implement Akron General’s best ideas to turn our facility into a similarly model organization!
I would to thank the management team at Akron General Hospital, GE, and AHRA for this unique opportunity to develop my career.
SFC Jeremy B. Barber is the non-commissioned offer in charge (NCOIC), medical home service line at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, WA. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.