EMMC Rises to Meet Community Needs During Challenging Financial Times

01/30/2009

In the current economic climate, the financial challenges facing our nation’s healthcare system, and EMMC in particular, are intensifying. For some time we have heard from our community, business leaders, and consumers that healthcare costs are too high. We have been working hard to reduce operating costs at EMMC and bring them into a more competitive position. Some very good work has been done to control the increase in costs. Still, stemming the increase is not enough. We need to decrease our costs.

The mounting challenges in insurance reimbursement, coupled with the economic recession, mean we must redouble our efforts to keep our costs in line. The stakes are high. If we are not competitive with other providers (both in and outside of Maine) it will become increasingly difficult to preserve important specialty services close to home.
To achieve rapid and substantial cost reductions, employees at EMMC are working on many fronts simultaneously. EMMC has spent years building a strong culture of inclusion, and we will move forward with the same approach we have used for other performance improvement efforts in recent years. In coming weeks and months, we will reach out to all corners of our medical center to convene operational evaluation teams, similar to service teams that have been in place for several years now. These teams will help identify ways to deliver safe, high quality care and excellent service to our patients at lower cost.
As we move forward we will use important EMMC values to drive our decision making. We will:
  • Stay focused on EMMC’s core mission.
  • Strive to innovate and improve our care in beneficial ways.
  • Look for ways to be more efficient with currently available resources. (Every dollar we save through efficiency is a dollar we don’t need to find in other, more difficult kinds of cost cutting.)
  • Protect the job security of current employees to the fullest extent possible.
  • Build flexibility, so we can meet our mission, and adapt to changes in regional needs that develop in this volatile landscape.
  • Use the culture we have built, providing safe, high quality care, excellent customer service, and a positive work environment. Recognizing our successes and working together to aggressively improve financial performance will sustain EMMC for the patients of the region into the future.
  • Aim to preserve and improve upon key services as we go through this process, understanding not every decision will be painless.
These are complex times. We are cutting costs on one hand and building new capacity on the other. As different as these strategies are, they are both examples of our efforts to preserve EMMC’s ability to serve patients and invest in the medical center’s future. The employees of Eastern Maine Medical Center are the caretakers of an important community resource facing challenging times. The work we continue here will help ensure EMMC is healthy and ready to carry on its century-old tradition of service when it’s time for us to pass it on to the next generation of caretakers.
Deborah Carey Johnson, RN, president and CEO told employees, “We have been focused on reducing costs at EMMC for a long ime, encouraging employees to help us find ways to streamline, increase efficiency, eliminate wasted time, effort, and supplies, and we’ve had some good success. EMMC employees shine brightest when there is a challenge to be managed. We must act with some urgency to rethink our priorities, get creative about the care we deliver and focus on what we must do to be able to fulfill our mission.”
By the middle of February, Operational Evaluation Teams will be in place -- similar to the service teams used at EMMC for the past several years to achieve award winning patient satisfaction. As we clarify the team structure, we will be looking for high energy, creative employee volunteers.
Some of the decisions we need to make may be hard. Below are a few of the high level strategies we are considering at this time. This is a working list and ideas may be added or taken away.
  • Reassessment of capital purchases and projects—what can be postponed?
  • Increase in purchasing efficiency—how can we reduce supply costs?
  • Analyze leadership structure—are there areas where we have too many layers or too few?
  • Reduce variability in practice—enlist physicians to help us control costs through consistent use of best practice.
  • Eliminate wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted effort— maximize use of Lean Methodology to use our resources to their best potential.
  • Reassess our program priorities—we have many worthwhile projects underway at EMMC. We must decide which ones are most closely tied to our mission, and which we can let go of until economic times are more generous.
  • Where appropriate, quickly convene operational evaluation teams to identify potential savings, changes in practice or protocol, alternative use of resources in individual service areas.
  • Continue to monitor our service area to be sure we are planning to meet the developing needs of the patients of our region.
  • Be very disciplined in hiring for open or new positions—focus first on the work of operational evaluation teams and protect the security of the current employees to the fullest extent possible before bringing anyone new on board.
EMMC, as a responsible steward and advocate for local healthcare, will continue to balance cost considerations with individual and community needs during these challenging economic times. We are committed to a highly trained, dedicated staff and to program and facility improvements that ensure our patients and communities have access to the most up to date, exceptional care as close to home as possible.
In a memo to all EMMC employees dated January 27, 2009, Deborah Carey Johnson, RN, President and CEO, shared an update on EMMC's efforts to meet the needs of our patients and employees.