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Wrapped in love

As caregivers, we are often right there beside our patients as they fight the toughest battles of their lives. We become cheerleaders, coaches, and sometimes confidants as we help guide each patient and family through what many times can only be described as feats of Herculean strength. This is certainly the case at Mercy Oncology/Hematology where registered medical assistants Linda Daudelin Harmon and Helena Rothwell work.

Helena recently shared through a submission to how the personalized and compassionate care Linda provided to “Anna,” a patient, truly inspired her in her own work. She said, “Anna, a melanoma patient, was only in her mid to late thirties while we were caring for her. She struggled with mental illness and unfortunately did not have a family member to lean on during this very difficult time. Understanding this situation, Linda made a concerted effort during every one of Anna’s appointments to make her feel loved and cared for.”

“Most people want to be heard, want to know they are safe and respected,” Linda commented when reflecting on the experience. “I try to see the whole person, not just the illness they have. The world might see her as a troubled and vulnerable person, but we saw her as someone who had a very special beauty within. We all loved her because she was so authentic and genuine.”

Helena-(left)-Linda-(right)-Mercy-Oncology-6-5-18-1.jpgAt one point during the time Anna was receiving treatments, the department had received a wonderful donation of beautiful hand-made quilts. Linda knew that having one of these quilts would mean the world to Anna and she immediately took the opportunity to carefully choose one that would be perfect for her. “The next time Anna came in, Linda presented the quilt to her. I will always remember how much that quilt meant to Anna—such a simple, kind gesture,” Helena recalled.

“A blanket has always been significant to me because I see it as not only something to keep you warm, but also as a type of hug that wraps around you and offers comfort and security—it wraps you in love,” said Linda.

She continued, “We miss Anna very much, but I am truly glad during this challenging time in her life that we were able to provide some happiness and comfort. Anna was a very talented artist, dancer, and had a great sense of humor, even about herself. She let us see that because she felt safe with us.”

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A case for asking "dumb" questions

DSC_0129.JPGLeah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, encouraged a packed room of EMHS employees, executive leaders, board members, and guests at the inaugural EMHS Quality Summit to start asking the “dumb” questions if we want to promote quality, safe care for our patients.

Leah was the summit’s keynote speaker and described her role at The Leapfrog Group with a quote from Peter Drucker, a well-known management consultant. “My greatest strength as a consultant,” Drucker once remarked, “is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”

“That’s me, that’s my whole career,” Leah professed. “I’m willing to accept that I am ignorant and ask some pretty dumb questions.” Those “dumb” questions, however, have yielded some extraordinary answers when she gets to the bottom of big issues like skyrocketing healthcare spending, or patient harm and deaths due to preventable hospital errors. She said when asking these questions, it’s important that we insist those answers are given in plain language—subject matter experts tend to speak in industry jargon.

As an advocate of hospital quality and transparency, The Leapfrog Group collects, analyzes, and disseminates self-reported and publicly available quality data into easy to understand ratings and reports. Leah argues transparency is the keystone to improved safety and quality in our national healthcare system—it's about asking the right questions and getting answers healthcare consumers need to make informed decisions about their care. 

At EMHS, we also believe in the power of transparency to affect positive change in quality and safety for our patients—that idea was the seed from which the Quality Summit grew. The summit, held at Wells Conference Center in Orono on May 15, was designed as an opportunity to showcase individuals and teams who are making real differences in care quality and safety. EMHS members submitted 66 nominations for the prestigious Quality Summit awards. From those, six finalists were chosen to present their quality initiatives and examples of leadership in hopes of taking home top honors and bragging rights in two award categories.

Iyad Sabbagh, MD, EMHS vice president and chief quality officer, officiated the Quality Summit and said, “When it comes to healthcare quality and safety, it’s important that we take the time to learn from the outstanding work we are doing across the system to advance quality for our patients.” Dr. Sabbagh went on to say that the annual event creates an opportunity to share ideas, network, and create a strong culture of safety within the system.

First place for the Excellence in Quality Leadership award went to VNA Home Health Hospice’s Kristine Rogers, Jessica St. Peter, and Leah Wright. The trio took top honors for their work in medication reconciliation. Sebasticook Valley Health’s Family Care Outpatient Pharmacy Collaborative took first place in the Quality Performance Excellence category.

Check out the nominees' presentations, photos, and more at

Below is a list of the top six nominees out of 66 submissions for the summit—congratulations to all!
2018 EMHS Quality Summit Award nominees
    Excellence in Quality Leadership:

  • 1st place: VNA’s Kristine Rogers, Jessica St. Peter, and Leah Wright
  • 2nd: EMMC’s Dr. Robert Hoffmann 
  • 3rd: Acadia’s Lindsay White and the occupational therapy team

 Quality Performance Excellence:

  • 1st place: SVH’s Family Care Outpatient Pharmacy Collaborative
  • 2nd place: Mercy’s Pressure Injury Prevention Team 
  • 3rd place: Inland’s inpatient team for its commitment to improving the patient and family experience.
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The heart of supply chain

TB.JPGPeter Ver Lee, MD, FACC, interventional cardiologist with EMMC Heart Care, peered at a computer monitor set up outside an interventional suite on Penobscot Pavilion 2. We watched his patient’s pre-recorded looped imaging display the inner workings of her heart—it’s plumbing, specifically. Her coronary arteries appeared dark and bolded like an interstate drawn on a map, pulsing as they carried blood around her heart. Dr. Ver Lee pointed to an artery just barely visible to an untrained eye. This, he said, is where the blood flow to the patient’s heart nearly ceased.  
For thousands of patients per year who come to EMMC Heart Care, interventional cardiologists like Dr. Ver Lee determine just how severe the restriction of blood flow is within patients’ arteries and decide if they require the use of a stent to treat their condition. A coronary stent is a small mesh tube—about an inch long and 1/8 of an inch in diameter—placed in a coronary artery to keep it open and blood flowing to the heart.
The life-saving technology available to treat Heart Care patients today would have been unimaginable even ten years ago. And as the quality of technology and medical supplies our physicians use become better and more sophisticated, the cost of these tools can also be significant. That is why, in December of 2017, a team of eight interventional cardiologists, operations leaders, and Supply Chain staff, identified an opportunity within EMMC Heart Care to transition from three different stent vendors for our interventional cardiac patients to one primary vendor. So, what exactly does that mean? Our physicians are still using the highest quality stents for our patients, but since we agreed to buy most of them through one vendor, we get better pricing than we had previously. The work that providers and the system supply chain group have done thus far to create consistency in surgical products, like stents, will save the system $2.8 million annually.
DSC_0009.JPGDr. Ver Lee said his team of physicians agreed, rather uneventfully, on their preferred vendor. He was quick to point to Michelle Mayo, EMHS system director of Contracting and Sourcing, as the person who should get most of the credit for these savings. She brought the team data on their stent supply usage and recognized that if we agreed to go with one company, we could get a much lower price.
“If your team looks at the data for patient outcomes and the devices provide equivalent results, then, you can agree on one device that can be used 90 percent of the time. It can drive great results for your patients and your practice. You can’t get stuck in your own rut. Be willing to look at other approaches and consider something else,” Dr. Ver Lee told us.
“From the Supply Chain perspective, it’s very encouraging to see leadership and clinicians coming together to support evidence-based decisions that improve consistency and quality of our products and services while also lowering cost,” said Mike Whelan, EMHS vice president of Facilities and Supply Chain.
These improvements being made behind the scenes will go unnoticed by our patients, which means we continue to deliver heart care that doesn’t skip a beat.
Learn more about the teams that are working on opportunities like this at the Pathways to Our Future website: