Hospital chiefs in the intensely competitive New York metropolitan area work feverishly to get the edge on their neighbors, but no one throws his heart into the job like Michael Dowling, president and chief executive officer of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.
When Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of GE, made a special appearance at North Shore University Hospital to unveil what was billed as "the world's most powerful computed tomography imaging system from GE Healthcare," Dowling volunteered to be its first guinea pig.
North Shore officials brag that the new CT is the only one of its kind in the Northeast used exclusively to diagnose heart disease. GE's new 64-slice LightSpeed Volume CT system enables doctors to capture three-dimensional images of a beating heart in just five heartbeats. The images produced by the CT gives doctors a powerful new tool for diagnosing heart disease, North Shore-LIJ boasts.
The hospital system purchased the technology for a cool $1.7 million.
Dowling, who had no prior history of heart problems, had a close call last spring. He says he had been feeling tired but didn't realize he had a problem until "fortunately for me, I got a bad chest pain." He underwent a cardiac catheterization and learned that two of his coronary arteries had about 90% blockage, he says. Coronary angioplasty and the implantation of two stents at North Shore in March cleared the blockages.
If the incident had occurred now, he would have had the CT scan instead, he says. "It's unbelievable technology. You go into a room, take off your coat, pull up your sleeve and they put in an IV," Dowling says. "Once you are moved into the machine it takes 10 seconds."
To demonstrate the diagnostic power of the LightSpeed, not to mention the prowess of Dowling's doctor, North Shore Chief of Cardiology Stanley Katz, Dowling went under the LightSpeed -- so to speak -- at the news conference. The images amounted to a clean bill of health, Dowling says. The picture even illuminated the stents, he says.
"I believe in total transparency, and I wanted to prove to everybody that I give a hard time to that I have a heart, and it works now," Dowling says.
A high-wire act
It was the hospital equivalent of an actor who, awaiting word on an Academy Award nomination, invites everyone in town to come over and witness either triumph or humiliation. Pamela Meyer Davis, president and CEO of Naperville, Ill.-based Edward Hospital, last week called the press, community members and hospital staff to observe either the tears or the cheers after the announcement of the Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing award from the Silver Spring, Md.-based American Nurses Credentialing Center.
"We were flying without a trapeze," says Davis, who joined a crowd of 250 in the hospital auditorium to hear the afternoon telephone call over a speakerphone on stage. "When the ANCC called, they asked if we were alone and everyone laughed. When they told us we'd won, the place just erupted. It was just so much fun."
The prestigious Magnet award has been given to fewer than 200 of the nation's hospitals since its 1994 inception, and Edward was one of only eight recipients this year. Davis said that applying hospitals must demonstrate compliance with 60 criteria of patient care and nursing standards before being considered by the ANCC, a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association. The 236-bed, not-for-profit spent three years preparing more than 2,000 pages of documentation and policies for the award process, which included a three-day site visit. Magnet hospitals must excel in 14 areas, including quality of nursing leadership and patient care.
Naperville is a suburb of Chicago, the capital of political shenanigans, so Outliers naturally thought the fix might have been in. Then we remembered that last year Davis and her vice president of physician integration, William Kottman, filed a civil whistle-blower lawsuit that resulted in a series of criminal indictments involving an alleged certificate-of-need scam (July 5, 2004, p. 14). Clearly, Davis plays by the rules.
"Absolutely we didn't know," she says. "I was sweating it."
She says Edward management wanted the hospital staff to know the Magnet news immediately, regardless of the outcome. "If we'd lost, we would have been fine. We're resilient. We would have rebounded and asked what we need to do to win it the next time."
Should it be called Sicken?
A sure sign of the times: The maker of Quicken, the home bookkeeping software, has launched a new product to keep track of medical bills.
Noting that healthcare costs are rising and each year3/4"half of all bankruptcies filed in the United States are related to illness or medical bills"3/4software developer Intuit debuted Quicken Medical Expense Manager, "designed to help anyone who feels overwhelmed by the chore of keeping track of medical expenses."
The marketing effort is targeting "people with chronic illness or injury, people with multiple insurance carriers, seniors, caregivers, new parents and more."
We wonder whether the software will make medical bills any more understandable to the average person or even to the people issuing the bills. Unfortunately, the systems aren't designed for hospital and medical group financial managers, who typically pay a bit more for their systems than the $49.99 suggested introductory price, after discounts, of Quicken's shrink-wrapped version.