Setting and Meeting Tangible Goals: Q&A With Julie Manas, CEO of Sacred Heart Hospital

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Julie Manas is all about patients.

Whether it was as president of Genesis Medical Center in Davenport, Iowa, where she led a patient-first/patient safety initiative that brought the hospital national recognition, or in her current position as president and CEO of Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wis., the patients and their families have always been her priority.

And though her goals may sometimes seem ambitious, Ms. Manas knows how to get her team engaged and on board and how to get results.Julie Manas

Serving as CEO of Sacred Heart Hospital and as the western Wisconsin division president for Springfield, Ill.-based Hospital Sisters Health System, Ms. Manas has made progress for the patients in Wisconsin's Chippewa Valley since she joined the system in March.

Here, Ms. Manas discusses her management style, her goals for Sacred Heart Hospital, physician integration and the challenges facing healthcare in America.

Question: You've been at Sacred Heart Hospital for less than a year. What were your goals for the hospital when you first started and how has the progress to reach them been going?

Julie Manas: When I first came in, even during the interview process, I have had an overall goal of being in the top ten percent for quality, safety and service. I want to do the right thing for our patients and I want them and their family members to be highly satisfied with the care they received. I want Sacred Heart Hospital to be a place of choice for patients, physicians, volunteers and colleagues. In a way, that's part of living out our Franciscan values.

I also have responsibility for St. Joseph's Hospital in Chippewa Falls as a division president. In that role, I have rounded out my team. I have a new CMO who started on Oct. 1, and we hired a CFO for the division who will start in January.

I have also been developing relationships with community hospitals. I've talked with all of them about hopefully being their regional referral hospital of choice and also about ways to work together to keep patients in their community but transferring them if need be.

Lastly, we conducted a comprehensive community needs assessment this year. We received three main ideas to focus on from the community members that participated in that assessment: mental health, chronic disease management and prevention and alcohol and other substance abuse.

I think our progress to these goals is going well. We're not at the level I'd like us to be for quality, safety and service, but it is a journey and I know everyone has those as their top goals. I'm confident we'll get there, but there is room for improvement. I feel good about my internal and external relationships. I have been very visible in the community. Overall, I'm very optimistic about the future.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

JM: Optimism, like I talked about earlier, has always been a part of my leadership style. I've felt I've always had a servant leadership style as well. I strive to be a collaborator, not a competitor, and to build consensus, not conflict. I have been a life-long mentor.

I approach building a new team or fostering relationships in an existing team by being overt about my goals and expectations. I set the goals in advance and make sure everyone knows what we are all being held accountable for. Then, I just let the leaders do their work. I'm not about micro-managing; if we're all clear about the end results, they could get there a different way than I would have, but as long as we get there, it's okay. It is all about the end result.

Q: What do you find yourself spending the most time on?

JM: One word: meetings! The focus of those meetings is in different buckets, though.

I like to spend a lot of time connecting with colleagues. Last week, I finished our colleague updates for all employees in the hospital, which we held at multiple times during the day and evening. During those updates, we discuss our progress toward the hospital's goals.

This has also been a time of retreats. I have had multi-day retreats with the hospital board, our development board, our volunteer board, and with Hospital Sisters Health System's eastern Wisconsin division.

I have spent some time on our computerized provider order entry, which will go live in March 2013 in both hospitals. A few things need to occur ahead of that happening. I've been blessed with other go-lives that I have been responsible for in the past, and I can bring to the table how not to do things.

Q: I understand that Eau Claire is a highly integrated market. How important is it for Sacred Heart to integrate with area physicians, and what have you done to achieve that?

JM: It is critical to be integrated with the physicians. We're in a unique market. In the Chippewa Valley, we have several important physician groups that we work with. Sacred Heart is integrated with Marshfield Clinic, OakLeaf and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire residency program. Our emergency department is staffed by a contract with Infinity Healthcare Physicians. And we have employed physicians in several different specialties.

Relationships between and among physicians are important. I regularly have meetings with my counterparts at Marshfield and OakLeaf about how we can partner with them and support them, ways we can improve and other collaboration opportunities.

We've partnered with several independent physician groups in the area as well, to support their electronic medical records platform. We are implementing the EMR in their practices through that program. That will allow us to clinically integrate and share information about the area's patients easily.

We are also a part of the system-level Physician Clinical Integration Network, which allows independent and employed physicians to join and find ways to better collaborate for patient care improvement. A number of physicians in our area and physicians in Illinois have joined the network.

We also have a clinical council that meets monthly. The council is made up of 12 physicians who represent the residency program and all three physician groups we are integrated with. The members connect on a regular basis with me, and we let everyone know what's going on and ask what can we do differently and how we can better support the physicians as they take care of our patients.

Sacred Heart and Marshfield Clinic are looking to acquire a community hospital together as well, which we will finalize next spring.

Q: Sacred Heart won the 2012 Environmental Leadership Circle Award, given to hospitals that demonstrate the highest degree of commitment to environmental sustainability. What does Sacred Heart Hospital do differently to practice "green" healthcare?

JM: This has been a staff-driven initiative from the start. It's something that has been ingrained in who we are for many years and it speaks well for our Franciscan background that we are good stewards of the resources we've been given.

I have some highlights from what we accomplished in the last fiscal year: Our recycling/reuse rate is at 40 percent, and we were able to decrease our water usage by 1.2 million gallons. We have reduced our fossil fuel use by 5 percent and our electrical use by 32 percent per square foot since 2008.

This year on April 20, Earth Day, we did an all-day training session for our staff to make sure they knew what we are doing in this area, especially for our new colleagues about our recycling program. We recycle a number of things, more items than anywhere else I've ever worked. In addition to the traditional items, we recycle sharps containers, waste oil, toner cartridges and radiology film. Any supplies or equipment that has some use we either donate to the community free clinic or our system's mission outreach. The system has a warehouse in Springfield, Ill., and works to give medical equipment to countries in need.

Q: What do you believe is the most pressing issue hospitals face as we enter 2013?

JM: We need to keep focusing on quality as we move from volume to value-based care.

I think the other thing is we need to move from being hospital-focused to being a healthy system. We need to keep looking at health and how we can keep individuals in the community healthy. We need to support patients at home, such as hospitalization at home, and we need to develop stronger ties to nursing homes, home health, and palliative care.

It's all about finding ways to keep patients healthy and care of them in the least costly way, and to have fun while we're doing it!

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