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Food is love at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital

BHMH’s Dietary Department staff knows their work is all part of the patient experience. Pictured left to right: Barb Haskell (Manager), Laura Mae Lymburner, Vicki Atherton, Robbie Shorey, Dede SylvesterSometimes, the food served in hospitals can get a bad rap. Not at Blue Hill Memorial Hospital (BHMH). The BHMH Dietary Department considers the job of providing healthful and delicious food as an opportunity to enhance the care patients and their families receive while at the hospital. In fact, according to recent patient surveys, the hospital’s quality of meals ranks among the top four percent in the country. In an effort to help their patients during care transitions, BHMH has recently cooked up two programs they hope will heighten the patient experience.

The hospital’s transitional level of care (TLC) or Swing Bed services are designed to promote rapid and lasting recovery after a stroke, surgery, major illness, or an accident. The goal is to enable patients to return home as soon as possible. Part of this recovery includes the new TLC Lunch Bunch program. Patients who are well enough can enjoy a special lunch, served restaurant-style, outside of their room setting. They dine with therapists, providers, administration, and family members with an added benefit of practicing the skills needed to live on their own. This change of scenery offers patients a bit of real-world normalcy, including lively conversation and interaction with a diverse group of tablemates!

A farewell treat bag is sent home with TLC patients.Once it’s time to go home, TLC patients now receive a homemade “to-go” treat at discharge, courtesy of the dietary staff, along with their customary written care instructions and prescriptions. “We feel that we are an important part of the care team for our patients,” explains Barb Haskell, BHMH dietary manager. “We know that quality, healthy food is critical to our patient’s recovery and wellness. It’s wonderful to get to know each patient, including their allergies, likes and dislikes; we listen to what they have to say. It brings us great satisfaction when we can deliver on a specific request.”

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Finding the right words

Book,-reading.jpgIt can be hard to recognize patients who struggle with literacy. Some may have experienced learning difficulties in childhood and developed ways to hide their problem rather than seeking help. Unfortunately, when literacy issues affect how well patients understand medication instructions, important educational materials, physician notes, or safe care warnings once they leave the hospital, it can mean patients end up back at the hospital with the same condition or worse.

To identify patients in need of literacy education and support, Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) partnered with Literacy Volunteers of Bangor to develop easy to access resources for patients and the community. In January, referral materials were provided to eight EMMC outpatient practices—these tools included posters with small cards for patients to take home, as well as education about the partnership and scripting to help providers talk about this often sensitive subject with their patients. In inpatient settings, a handout is included in new inpatient packets and information is also available in the Discharge Unit and Outpatient Observation Unit. EMMC is working to expand the program at additional EMMC specialty practices as well as with care managers at Beacon Health to further expand access to literacy resources throughout the community.

“We recently had a patient in the hospital for several weeks who was only identified as having literacy issues during the discharge process,” says Victoria Merry, MBA, director of EMMC Patient Experience. “He struggled to understand written instructions and we knew we needed to find additional tools to help.” By identifying patients early in their care continuum and referring them to Literacy Volunteers of Bangor, EMMC has the opportunity to provide better treatment and empower patients to take charge of their health.

Literacy Volunteers of Bangor offers free one-on-one tutoring to adults who want help with reading, writing, and spelling; speaking English; or going back to school. If you know someone who would like help or wants to volunteer, call (207) 947-8451 or visit

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100 veterans in 100 days

Matt Crosier is a recruiter for EMHS Talent and Acquisition in Human Resources—he’s also a military veteran. His career in the military as an artillery sergeant and most recently a recruiter for the U.S. Army, fostered skills like leadership, teamwork, innovation, and perseverance—just the type of employees EMHS likes to hire.

20170322_143126-Revised-(2).jpgIn September of 2016, EMHS joined 146 other businesses from across the state in the Hire-a-Vet campaign. This campaign challenges participating organizations to partner together to hire at least 100 veterans within 100 days. We’re glad to report that the goal was nearly doubled, with a total number of 197 veterans hired. All 16 counties in Maine had job openings and hired at least one veteran during the campaign. Of the 197 hired throughout the state, we are fortunate to have welcomed 42 veterans to EMHS.

Matt knows firsthand the challenges veterans can face transitioning into the civilian workforce after serving in the military. A Maine native, he returned home and enrolled at Husson University to earn a master’s degree in business administration. For six months, he searched for a job in his career field with little success. Matt recalls, “I applied to more than 80 places after I came off active duty. Based on the kind of questions I got, there was definitely a stigma around veterans.” Some questions included concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder and possible future deployments. Most commonly, veterans struggle to translate their military skills and knowledge to the civilian workplace—that is why Matt is such an asset to the EMHS recruiting team. He’s now been on both sides of the resume and can help bridge that gap.
“Veterans add a great value to our organization,” said Robin Doody, talent acquisition specialist and committee member for the Hire-a-Vet program. “Most veterans already have developed leadership skills, experience managing projects and supervising staff, and experience adapting effectively to change. My passion is to help veterans in any way possible, and being a part of the talent team and committee member, brings joy to my heart.”

Robin personally works with veterans to find careers at EMHS by referring a candidate to our recruiting team, and works with hiring managers to understand and translate military experience. As an additional resource for hiring managers, EMHS Talent and Diversity provides workshops to help develop interviewing techniques specifically for military veteran applicants and their unique work history.

EMHS is grateful to those who have and continue to serve our country. We appreciate the values of teamwork, duty, and adaptability that veterans contribute and look forward to working with our many veterans in the future!

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Why You Should Be Using Miller Drug

Miller Drug, EMHS’ retail pharmacy member, recently opened its new location at Mercy Hospital’s Fore River campus in Portland. Conveniently located for patients and employees alike, Miller Drug customers can now pick up their prescriptions, consult with a friendly pharmacist, or grab a snack and be on their way. We were surprised to discover, that some employees are unaware that Miller Drug is a member, or unaware of the many benefits Miller Drug offers for EMHS employees and their families on the EMHS medical plan.

Miller Drug employees celebrate the opening of the retail pharmacy’s new, fifth location at Mercy’s Fore River Campus on April 20thHere are four big reasons you should be using Miller Drug:

  1. Cost Savings—In addition to the 15 percent discount on over-the-counter medications, as an employee, you also receive preferred pricing on your prescription medications. This includes being able to purchase a 90-day supply at the price of a 60-day supply co-pay. “Employees on the EMHS Employee Medical Plan save $10 on 30-day prescription copays when they choose Miller Drug over an in-network pharmacy,” says Jaime Laliberte, director of EMHS Benefits.

  2. Convenience—Receive text alerts when your prescription is ready or have it delivered right to your door. Miller Drug provides mail order prescription medications free throughout Maine, which can be set up for automatic delivery. In April, Miller Drug and national pharmaceutical distributor, McKesson, partnered to provide fast and efficient prescription filling services. Miller Drug chief operating officer, Vincent Mainella, shares, “This is a positive step forward. Automating central fill will not only allow Miller Drug to become more efficient and cost effective, but will allow our pharmacists more time to counsel patients and assist with other customer service needs.”

  3. Comprehensive Services—Did you know Miller Drug can fill your pet’s prescription medication? They can also provide compounding on a scale that is uncommon for Maine. Compounding is a process of creating customized medications that are not commercially available. It can be used for a young child who may need a small, liquid dose of a drug made only in adult-dosages, or for a person allergic to one of the ingredients in the common version of a drug, for example.

  4. Community—A huge benefit to Miller Drug, EMHS, and the community is our participation in the 340(b) program, a federal program that allows qualified entities to purchase medications at a substantially lower cost. EMHS reinvests the cost savings from the program to fund medications and programs for our patients that insurance will not cover, like tobacco cessation programs and a diabetes patient care center. “It’s a critically important financial benefit,” said Jeff Doran, vice president of EMHS System Clinical Services. “We have provided more than $50 million in charity care in the last two fiscal years. Without a program like 340(b) to help with financial performance, we wouldn’t be able to support the amount of charity care we currently provide to our patients.”

From clinical programs and vaccinations, to hearing aids and walkers, Miller Drug brings tremendous value to EMHS and the communities it serves beyond prescription medications. For more information about Miller Drug, visit their website at,

Miller Drug employees pictured from left to right: Kara Smith, operations and support specialist; Brian Raymond, retail business manager; Adam Jordan PharmD, pharmacist in charge; Mary LeBlanc RPh, assistant pharmacy manager; Catherine Morris, pharmacy technician; Charles Morelli, delivery driver.

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What is Patient Safety Culture?

By Tina Scott, System Director of Clinical Performance
      Emily Burdin, System Director of Patient Safety
Safety culture is the attitude, beliefs, perceptions and values that employees share in relation to safety in the workplace. Safety culture is a part of organizational culture, and has been paraphrased as, “the way we do things around here.” Individual organizations, and even departments within organizations, develop their own culture over time. Employee culture drives our behavior, but surprisingly, is often overlooked as we develop strategies for performance improvement. In our journey to high reliability, it is so important that EMHS is mindful of our various cultures when developing these strategies.
All EMHS member hospitals participated in the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Hospital Survey on Patient Safety Culture in 2016. For the first time, EMHS has a complete, systemwide baseline of information regarding about how our staff perceive patient safety. Side-Bar-(4).JPG

Once all the surveys were completed, the results were analyzed at the system, member, and individual department or unit level. In February and March, the EMHS Office of Patient Safety shared the survey results with each organization. These debriefs, as they were called, were targeted toward executive leadership, and frontline managers and directors. The purpose of these debriefs was to share the results, discuss the drivers of change and any key themes, and talk about the use of data for safety improvement. The EMHS Office of Patient Safety also cross walked the survey data to other data sets that organizations rely on to identify other areas of opportunity.
Across the system, there were a number of common themes that arose from the survey data. Engagement in survey participation was variable across the system. Second, our employees’ perceptions of patient safety culture trail the national averages. Third, there were a number of systemwide opportunities that were identified, including handoffs and transitions, teamwork across units, and management support for patient safety. Finally, there was a significant gap in perception between leaders and frontline staff.
While there have been identified opportunities for improvement, it is important to dive in to each component to understand the questions that make up the composite to truly understand where the opportunities are. The following themes make up the composites referenced above:
Handoffs and transitions:

  • Things “fall between the cracks” when transferring patients from one unit to another.
  • Important patient care information is often lost during shift changes.
  • Problems often occur in the exchange of information across hospital units.
  • Shift changes are problematic for patients in this hospital.
 Teamwork across units:
  • There is good cooperation among hospital units that need to work together.
  • Hospital units work well together to provide the best care for patients.
  • Hospital units do not coordinate well with each other.
  • It is often unpleasant to work with staff from other hospital units.
Management support for patient safety:
  • Hospital management provides a work climate that promotes patient safety.
  • The actions of hospital management show that patient safety is a top priority.
  • Hospital management seems interested in patient safety only after an adverse event happens.

In an effort to better understand culture of patient safety data and to ultimately connect it to other EMHS data sets and initiatives, a crosswalk of data was completed at the facility and department/unit levels. The literature shows that there are many correlations between various measures of patient safety culture, quality, and patient satisfaction. The survey data was compared to Partnership for Patients patient harm data, employee engagement data, patient experience hospital data, and to the five principles and stages of maturity in high reliability organizations. With a clearer picture of their priorities, member organizations next developed action plans or incorporated patient safety culture composites into existing action plans. Understanding how interconnect our work is key for safety improvements.
Tyson Thornton, PharmD, MBA, BCPS, and senior director of therapeutic and support services at Sebasticook Valley Health (SVH) shares his experience about how this team approach to resolving issues of patient safety results in real, sustainable change:
In January, a multidisciplinary team of frontline staff and leaders at SVH met to find a way to reduce readmissions for patients with ambulatory care sensitive conditions, conditions that can be prevented and managed outside of the hospital. After considerable work, we identified the largest areas of opportunity and two key issues surfaced: we needed to standardize staff education around care treatment and address polypharmacy, an issue in which patients are prescribed multiple drugs to treat a single ailment or condition. 

As a result of this exercise, two work teams have convened to begin standardizing education of congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease treatment across all care locations. We also developed hard-wired mechanisms to refer polypharmacy patients, in all care settings, to the inpatient pharmacist staff as well as to pharmacy resources, which are currently embedded in all SVH primary care locations. 

The Patient Safety and Clinical Performance System Team is partnering with other system Leadership 2020 groups to lead the efforts around patient safety event reporting. The system team’s goal is to increase event/error reporting and use that data to learn and prevent any future patient harm. There are a number of strategies in place to meet this goal, including defining close calls and near misses, identifying methods for reporting events by unit and utilizing meaningful reports to learn and improve, and support the development and education of a root cause analysis squared (RCA2) and tracer education programs. Future Pathways articles will present our member organizations successful actions using the Culture of Patient Safety Data and event reporting data at the individual department/unit level to identify, trend, and prioritize areas of opportunity to prevent harm to our patients. Additionally, we will share how our members use RCA2 and tracers to improve systems and processes that could potentially lead to patient harm.
About the authors:
Tina Scott is the system director of clinical performance and lead system coordinator for the Partnership for Patients (PfP) engagement. Emily Burdin is the system director of patient safety and data coordinator for PfP HEN 2.0 engagement.

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A knock at the door is all it can take

Some issues in our community can seem too big for one person to make a difference—other times, there are modest ways you can help that make all the difference. A simple knock at the door or phone call to check in on an elderly neighbor is one of these ways. Our elderly neighbors are the fabric of our communities and every so often need a helping hand, especially in the isolating, cold winter months when heat and food can run scarce.
“Sometimes it's just a matter of being a good neighbor, taking a look at the situation and saying, you know, this is something that I can do something about,” says Steve Farnham, executive director of the Aroostook Area Agency on Aging.
Farnham wanted to bring this message to the public and ask community members to be a “good neighbor” to those around them, particularly the elderly who might feel isolated during the winter months. With a great idea but no budget to put it into motion, he reached out to The Aroostook Medical Center to collaborate on the project.

“We were excited to be a part of this project, however we knew that to be truly effective in getting the message out, we needed to expand the partnership,” says Karen Gonya, TAMC communications manager.
With their “Good Neighbor” theme, State Farm Insurance Company was an obvious choice for a partner. Their agencies in Houlton, Presque Isle, and Caribou were all quick to join the effort. Presque Isle’s local WAGM-TV also stepped in and donated their production time as well as matching any purchased air time with free air time.

The communications team at TAMC developed the advertising concept, wrote the scripts, and coordinated production for two television spots. The messages encouraged viewers to be a good neighbor, whether by reaching out and offering help with a specific task or by just periodically checking in on a neighbor. The campaign ran for eight weeks from mid-January to early March, raising awareness on this topic across Aroostook County.
“While focusing on the elderly, I feel the campaign reached across the generations by showing it not only takes a village to raise our children, it takes a village to care for all of our citizens, young and old,” says Kelly Landeen from WAGM-TV.