Healthcare Business News
Mark Laney, president and CEO of Heartland Health

Remarkable ride

Benchmarking, teamwork help capture awards

By Mark Laney
Posted: February 1, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

I joined Heartland Health, St. Joseph, Mo., as president and CEO on Aug. 1, 2009. Since that time, Heartland was named a recipient of the 2009 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and the sole recipient of the Foster G. McGaw Prize for community service—two of the most prestigious honors in healthcare. This has been an incredible six months for all of us at Heartland.

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One of the most important elements contributing to the success of an organization is its culture. The corporate culture at Heartland is centered on a commitment to excellence in everything that we do. We are always trying to improve, and constantly benchmark ourselves against the very best healthcare organizations in the country.

At Heartland, we know that all great things are done by a team—not by individuals—so we practice team medicine. Executives, process leaders, team leaders and front-line employees are continually involved in this improvement journey. And truly, the honors that we received were achieved by a team effort.

At Heartland, everyone—employees, physician and volunteers—are caregivers. We want to provide not just good care, but care with compassion. We combine commitment to quality and safety with passion. To that end, we hire caregivers with a servant's heart.

We have very high expectations of our caregivers, and we mentor and coach them to achieve those goals.

Healthcare is not like other industries; it is a sacred trust to provide care to those we serve.

We reinforce every day that, if there is ever a question of what to do, the needs of the patient come first. We track our progress with meaningful measures and benchmark constantly. We find extremely talented people to fill our leadership roles and empower them to be innovative.

Each and every caregiver is an incredibly important team member. I connect with all of them by giving a message each month that is available on our internal Web site to reinforce that they are an essential part of our work and that I care about each and every one of them.

When I first came here, I had been told that Heartland was a jewel, but I quickly realized that it is a diamond, an incredibly remarkable place.

Over the past 20 years, this organization has done a great job of creating the infrastructure of an integrated system, which is ideally suited to successfully face challenges in healthcare. Most hospitals consist of just the hospital; they don't have a physician group, a foundation, community education, home health or hospice.

These are the pieces that need to fit together to seamlessly create care across the spectrum. Heartland has it all. We are well-positioned to be able to deal with whatever comes along in healthcare.

I thought originally that I had a good team, but actually I have the honor of working with a great team who do outstanding work. They are passionate, caring and down-to-earth.

Whether it's a physician, nurse, therapist or the person who works in the laboratory or in dietary, people make an institution great. Certainly in healthcare that's true.

Also, at Heartland we work not just on quality of care but on improving the health of people in our community and region. Our goal is that you don't have to come to the hospital. This is a completely different mindset from 10 or 20 years ago.

We understand that improving community health doesn't just mean teaching people about diabetes or high blood pressure; it also means boosting the number of kids who go to college, who volunteer and who understand what it means to be part of a community. Heartland is very advanced in how it reinvests in the region it serves.

We're not just building a great hospital but we are also improving lives in the community.

And the really exciting thing is, we believe without a doubt that the best is yet to come.

Mark Laney, a physician, is president and CEO of Heartland Health, St. Joseph, Mo.

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