December 12, 2018

Last year, Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives announced plans to merge their operations, and a few months ago, Baylor Scott & White Health announced its intent to merge with Memorial Hermann Health System.

These mergers will consolidate four sizeable systems into behemoth operations, and that seems to be a trend. In the last 18 months alone, there have been 197 health care merger and acquisition transactions announced. So it stands to reason that faculty and employees here might wonder, “Is Texas Children’s considering merging with another health system?”

The firm and resolute response to that is, “No.” Texas Children’s has no plans to merge with another system. Here’s why:

We care about our people. Remaining committed to Texas Children’s mission is just as important for our staff and employees as it is for our patients and their families. One of the most significant impacts, when systems merge, is the dilution of culture, and we will not sacrifice our culture or the people who have nurtured it. Texas Children’s is who we are because of who you are. We take immense pride in the culture of excellence and passion for patient care that we all share. It is the hallmark that distinguishes us. I simply cannot imagine Texas Children’s with a leadership team operating the organization for our people from a remote location in another state. Our leadership team is here, engaging and working with you to make decisions that directly impact you and our patients and families. That is our vision for our future.

We’re growing the right way. When you see nearly 200 health care mergers and acquisitions in less than two years, it’s hard to ignore. Some health care systems are growing tremendously. Some need financial stability, and others are simply expanding market share. That’s why growth continues to be important to Texas Children’s. We know market share matters. Size matters. But the way Texas Children’s grows matters to us most. We’re growing aggressively, but we’re thoughtful about our expansion – it is always aligned with our mission to advance patient care, education and research for children and women.

We’re staying focused. Texas Children’s Hospital was founded to care for children. And when we expanded our scope to include women’s services, this was a natural evolution that allowed us to create even healthier futures for children by first taking care of women who would someday become mothers. We now care for women at every stage of life and for children before they are even born. At nearly 65, Texas Children’s is the youngest of the nation’s top children’s hospitals, yet we are leading advancements in medicine for children and women around the world. We have built Texas Children’s as a system intently and passionately focused every single day on advancing and advocating for the health and well-being of children and women. We will not veer from that. Our ability to provide this focused continuum of care is in the best interest of families who seek our expertise and consistently experience exceptional outcomes because of it.

We’ve never been better. Texas Children’s just closed a phenomenal fiscal year … again. We opened the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower, expanded our business to Austin, we’re financially strong, and we’re ranked among the top four children’s hospitals in the U.S. These are just a few highlights of an impressive year, and this year is like so many others we experience at Texas Children’s, time and again. Our capacity to invest in state-of-the-art facilities and continue to expand so that we can provide care in the right place at the right time for our patients speaks to our strategic vision and sturdiness, our ability to respond to the ever-increasing demand for our services and to the exceptional care we provide.

When we say we are one amazing team, we mean that. We have one mission here, one focus and, as a single, cohesive team, we are all moving toward a single destiny for Texas Children’s. Together, we are defining our tomorrow and pouring our passion, best ideas and energy into a promising, sustainable future for us and our patients for decades to come.

May 23, 2018

On Tuesday, May 22, 2018, our most critically-ill patients were moved from West Tower to floors nine through 12 of the beautiful new Legacy Tower.

At 7 a.m., seven specially-trained clinical teams began safely transporting more than 45 critically-ill patients to their new, spacious, state-of-the-art critical care rooms. The amount of planning and effort behind this monumental move was almost inconceivable. More than 150 staff were involved, and the careful transfer of our patients took more than 7 hours. Once our patients and their families settled into their new spaces, our staff focused on what they do best – providing the highest quality pediatric care to our patients and their families in a new, family-focused environment.

This phase one opening of our 640,000-square-foot, 400-foot-tall Legacy Tower marks a significant milestone in our 64-year history that will help us continue to serve our patients and their families, particularly children who are critically ill and have complex needs. We are opening with six technologically advanced operating rooms – one with intraoperative MRI – and 84 ICU beds, including dedicated surgical, neuro and transitional ICU beds.

In September when phase two of Legacy Tower opens, it will be the new home of Texas Children’s Heart Center® and will include an outpatient clinic, four catheterization labs with one intraprocedural MRI, cardiovascular intensive care unit, four CVORs, and cardiology acute care beds.

While all of these enhanced clinical amenities will better enable us to care for sick children, the truly special thing about Legacy Tower is that it was built for and with the input of our patient families. During the construction process, we listened to the wants and needs of Texas Children’s patients, families and the staff who cares for them, and we implemented many of their suggestions.

We heard parents when they told us they wanted to be able to sleep in a bed next to their child instead of a chair. That they wanted to be able to take a shower without leaving their child’s room. And that they wanted peaceful places to take a break when needed, without having to leave the hospital.

We also have a therapy dog dedicated to Legacy Tower. Bailey, a lively 18-month-old Golden Retriever, will offer comfort and encouragement to our patients. My wife Shannon and I supported the addition of Bailey for the hospital’s Pawsitive Play Program to enhance the emotional well-being of our patients. Bailey will help patients feel less anxious, reduce their perception of pain and fear of the hospital and will really complement our holistic approach to care.

As a whole, we want our patients and their families to be as comfortable as possible while they are here with us, and we want our clinical teams to have the best environments in which to work and the best tools with which to care for our patients. With Legacy Tower, we will achieve all this, better than ever before.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the realization of the opening of Legacy Tower. The leadership, the collaborative teams, the innovation and ideas from knowledgeable front line staff … all of these elements are what got us here. Together, we have taken another step to fulfill the legacy of Texas Children’s, and I walk these halls today – as should you – with immense pride. Today is a new era and a blessing, to us and to all those we will serve for decades to come. Congratulations Texas Children’s.

Click here for a video of our staff and employees sharing their thoughts about the big move!

 

December 22, 2017

I love this time of year – not simply because of the wonderful holiday spirit that surrounds us (although I do enjoy that too!). But I always appreciate the time to reflect on the year we’ve had. And this has been a year that tested our leadership, showcased our culture, and most of all, demonstrated our determination.

If you felt especially busy this year, it was not just a feeling, it is a fact. We had an incredible year that set records across the system, including:

  • 33,659 surgeries
  • 227,985 patient days
  • 126,112 Emergency Center visits
  • 87,242 Urgent Care encounters
  • 438,501 Health Plan members
  • 3.7 million patient encounters

I know this is a really busy time, and we may not even realize the tremendous work we have done as an organization over the past several months. So I want to share a few of the hallmarks of a pretty awesome year.

  • Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands – Last Decemb122217OTMEOYsurgery225er, we opened the Outpatient
    Building at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, and we followed in April with the opening of inpatient services. There was an immediate response from the community. Within the five months remaining in fiscal year 2017, we had 991 admissions, 2,078 surgeries, 5,204 patient days and more than 12,000 EC visits. The families in North Houston were ready and waiting for Texas Children’s Hospital.
  • Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus – Now in our seventh year, we continued to see strong growth and expansion at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. In FY2017, we had 3,707 admissions, 6,934 surgeries, 15,004 patient days and more than 43,000 EC visits. And can you believe we now have over 1,000 employees and more than 200 faculty at the West Campus? It’s just amazing.
  • CareFirst – Our CareFirst initiative continues to unfold with our progress on Legacy Tower at our medical center campus. We celebrated our topping out of the tower in February, and we officially named it Legacy Tower in May. We’ve completed the exterior of the tower and the interiors of floors 8-10. Excitement is definitely building as we get closer to the May 2018 phase I opening. Also, as part of our CareFirst initiative, we opened Texas Children’s Mission Control in July. Located on the third floor of Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, this suite is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and sharp employees from Room Management, Transport Services, Critical Care, Security and Facilities. The opening of Mission Control immediately improved the transfer process of our critically ill patients to and from Texas Children’s. Just months after the opening, we had reduced the time from dispatch to pick-up by 20 critical minutes.
  • Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women – On March 26 we celebrated five years of delivering 122217OTMEOYhappyfive230high quality and comprehensive care to women and newborns. In fiscal year 2017, we had 5,719 births and a 21% transfer rate to our NICU. The results at the Pavilion remind us what a sound strategy it was to move into the obstetrics space, giving us the ability to help secure our NICU volumes and, more importantly, to ensure the best possible outcomes for expectant mothers and their babies.
  • Austin expansion – In May we announced our plans to expand our pediatric and OB/GYN services into Austin, beginning with the opening of a welcome center in January 2018, followed by a Texas Children’s Urgent Care clinic in March 2018 and a Texas Children’s Specialty Care practice in October 2018. Over the next five years, we plan to expand our network in Austin to include four pediatric urgent care clinics, 18 pediatric primary care practices, three pediatric specialty care locations and two maternal-fetal medicine practices.
  • U.S. News rankings – The 2017 U.S. News and World Report Best Children’s Hospital 122217OTMEOYheartcenter225rankings were announced in July, and Texas Children’s shined again. Eight of our pediatric subspecialties ranked in the top 10, and the other two are very close and steadily climbing. Perhaps most exciting this year was that we had another specialty to rise to the very top spot – Texas Children’s was ranked No. 1 in the nation in cardiology and heart surgery.
  • The Promise Campaign – We reached a significant milestone in Promise: The Campaign for Texas Children’s. By the end of September, donors had contributed $408.9 million, pushing the organization ever closer to its $475 million fundraising goal. The amount raised during fiscal year 2017 alone – $124.7 million – is a new annual high for the hospital’s fundraising team.

As much as I have shared above, there are still many more stories of triumph and resilience across Texas Children’s. Take a look at Texas Children’s Health Plan. We had a tough year, but we’re on the right path, and we’re responding to the tremendous needs of the children who depend on access to exceptional heath care. What we’re already seeing as a result of the challenges we faced this year with STAR Kids and in caring for a huge population for medically dependent children is that we’re learning quickly, right sizing appropriately, and we are thinking like a system. That bodes well for the Health Plan, and it makes for a healthier future for all of Texas Children’s.

Last, I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention Hurricane Harvey. Together, we weathered this historical storm that devastated the Houston area, and together, we came out on the other side of it stronger. The resolve, determination and courage of our staff and employees were inspiring. I was simply in awe of you, and the way you supported each other, our patients and their families. It was a shining moment for us that showcased incredible strength and kindness.

And that was Texas Children’s in 12 months. Wow! It is quite a lot to reflect on and appreciate. With each passing year, we continue to get better and better. We take challenges, and we create opportunities. We encounter problems, and we recalibrate swiftly. And we prove time and again that we are one amazing team.

I’ll see you back here in 2018 for the next chapter of this remarkable story. Until then, happy holidays!

December 11, 2017

One of the most frequent calls I get is from a concerned parent asking for my assistance to get an appointment for their child. On August 1, I held a meeting to discuss patient access and scheduling at Texas Children’s. I heard from each member of my leadership team and was advised that they receive calls for assistance every day. Did you know that we have nearly 100 distinctive sites that schedule patients and approximately 600 FTEs dedicated to this extremely decentralized process? This issue is extremely widespread across our system and it isn’t just A problem at Texas Children’s – it is THE problem at Texas Children’s.

I appointed Dr. Larry Hollier, Associate Surgeon-In-Chief and Richelle Fleischer, Senior Vice President of Revenue Cycle to co-chair a task force to study and make recommendations on how we can significantly enhance the patient scheduling process throughout the Texas Children’s enterprise. That multi-disciplinary task force has been hard at work, and I want to thank them, our nursing and medical staff leadership, and our In-Chiefs for all of their support and hard work. In addition, I know you are all aware that I have made access and patient scheduling a goal for the organization this year.

I’d like to share the thoughts from the mother of one of our Texas Children’s patients. She has a chronically ill child and every time she wants to get an appointment for her child within the Texas Children’s system, she takes a deep breath, says a prayer for her own patience and for that of whomever might be at the other end of the phone at Texas Children’s. She mentally prepares “to go to war.”

This is exactly what many of our families face when they attempt to get their children here to receive the care they need. And those words – “go to war” – those really are the words we heard from a frustrated, yet determined mom simply seeking the best for her child. Sadly, she is not alone. In a recent patient access survey, “frustrated” was the word families most frequently used to describe our scheduling process. Should it be that hard? Should a family already stressed by a health issue be further challenged by our system? No, it should not be that hard.

We are so much better than this, and we can do better. We pride ourselves on being the best at what we do and providing exceptional care. But if our expertise is locked behind a maze of limited availability and complicated processes that vary from service to service, we end up denying care to those who need us most. We can work smarter and more efficiently to do the most basic thing our patients and their families expect of us – we can open the door to our system and make it easier to get inside.

Fortunately for us, we already have the tools and technology in place to more than meet our patient families’ needs. What’s actually more critical to effect the changes we need is a shift in the way we think and a willingness to move out of our comfort zones and to do what’s necessary to make getting here easier for our families. Truly caring for our patients means being attentive to every element of their experience with us. In this case, it means we must change the way we do some things.

A few weeks ago, I emailed you about our FY2018 goals. As an organization, we are focusing on four priorities: Access, Care Coordination, Quality and Finances. In a few weeks, we will be making some changes specifically targeting the access challenges. Although we have leaders working diligently on the issue of access daily, I want everyone at Texas Children’s thinking about this. What can you do to help families get into our door? No one knows our system as well as you do, so when an idea hits you, I want to know … leave me a note below.

Demand for our care and services is ever increasing. The wisest thing we can do to ensure the health and future of Texas Children’s is to maintain the respect and reputation we have earned. Our goal is to exceed our families’ expectations. And being the one amazing team we are, I know we can do this. We must.