It's a Wrap! 2019 Executive Conference Highlights

Support Services Leaders Connect in St Petersburg

On October 15-17, 70 support services leaders from hospitals and health systems across the US met at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (JHACH) in St. Petersburg, Florida for the 2019 HSSF Executive Conference, the thirteenth such gathering. The event was exclusively for VPs and directors in operating positions who oversee such disciplines as EVS, food and nutrition, security, facilities, construction, supply chain, biomedical engineering, and patient transport. Many participants had been to previous HSSF conferences, but the group also included first-timers from MedStar Health, University of Colorado Health, UCLA Health, OhioHealth, Northwell Health, Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, Yale-New Haven Health, and Emory Healthcare.

JHACH, with its history of excellence in pediatric care since its founding in 1926 in response to the polio epidemic, provided excellent hospitality, food service and meeting space for discussions about innovations, successes, and challenges in managing support services. Our host was Anna Stratigos, Senior Director of Support Services, Retail, and Supply Chain. 

St. Petersburg, having recently undergone a seaside urban renaissance of sorts, surprised conference participants with its excellent restaurants, entertainment venues, and cultural attractions. 

A View into JHACH Support Services

Roberta Alessi, JHACH Executive VP and COO; Jennifer Nickoles, VP Operations and System Integration for Johns Hopkins Health System; and Anna Stratigos kicked things off on a day showcasing support services at JHACH and Johns Hopkins Health. 

Some highlights of the day:

Jennifer Nickoles, recently tasked to lead the integration of the Hopkins system, presented the challenges lying ahead of her and the organization, including the culture change required. Cheryl Koch, VP Operations and Facilities at Johns Hopkins Bayview, described the system’s ongoing initiative to convert food service to self-op, advising support services leaders in the room to “Understand the contract you have and what you’re paying.”  

Angelo Mojica, Senior Director Nutrition and Culinary Services for Hopkins, explained an innovative initiative to encourage healthy food choices using a detailed approach to identifying and discounting menu options based on standard food costs and behavioral economics. Alison Arnott, VP Support Services at Hopkins Sibley Memorial told about how they created a garden on the hospital grounds for employees to use.

Anna Stratigos told the story of JHACH’s origins and proud history as a children’s hospital. Larry Green, Director of Safety, discussed emergency preparedness and presented the details of the hospital’s impressive contingencies that enable it to operate entirely self-sufficiently in case of a bad hurricane or flooding, serious hazards given their low elevation and location near Tampa Bay. Zac Burchfield, JHACH Support Services Business Manager, shared how analytics has provided valuable insights into how to manage the supply chain more efficiently.

Presentations were followed by a tour of support services operations sites, including kitchen and tray line, patient floor, EVS facilities, central distribution, laundry and linen room, loading dock, helicopter transport facility, and waste handling equipment. JHACH personnel also provided an ad hoc tour of the Energy Center and decontamination facilities after the conference’s close.

The day concluded with a reception and dinner at 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House on Beach Drive.

Members Take the Mic

The vast majority of the presenters at the conference are HSSF members, who are support services leaders in operating positions.

On one afternoon, concurrent tracks focused on EVS and food and nutrition.

In the EVS track, Michael Dansberger kicked things off with a presentation of how JHACH’s EVS department contributes to patient satisfaction, recommending that others “Try getting into the patient’s bed and observing.” Amanda Macy and Ashley Campbell of Ohio Health and Science University inspired the group with a story of how they bootstrapped a transition to self-op, using best practices and collaboration. Sean Shapert of MedStar Health partnered with Kelsey Budd of Surfacide to explain EVS’ role in the hospital’s bundled approach to infection control, which recognizes that the battle against HAIs must be fought on multiple fronts. On the same topic, Doug Hastings of UPMC presented their approach, which includes emphasis on disinfecting high touch areas and a “secret shopper” to monitor compliance. Rich Keehle of UHS wowed the crowd with his invention of a “bathroom button”, a simple device patients can use to call out a bathroom needing cleaning. Finally, Frederic Stell of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center discussed sustainability and waste management, including the ugly truth about the decline of recycling in the face of shrinking markets for recyclable waste.

Meanwhile, in the food and nutrition track, JHACH’s Curt Melhorn and Stephanie DiCostanzo presented their hospital’s program for managing allergens. Yolanda Mullings from Hopkins Sibley Memorial explained their new process and digital system for rounding on patients to gauge satisfaction real-time.  RJ Franz of UPMC reported on the outcomes of an effort he launched (and presented to the group last year) to reduce FNS employee turnover with engagement and training initiatives. Finally, Angelo Mojica and John Currie of Johns Hopkins talked about their work to convert their GPO in just eight weeks. The cross-department collaboration involved 3000 purchased items and extensive changes to the CBORD system.

The last day of the conference featured member’s presentations on a broad array of support services topics and time set aside for open dialog.  

The Support Services Shorts session gave each presenter no more than five minutes to do their thing – as a quick way to provide just enough information to prompt other interested conference participants to approach presenters afterwards. Gary Colpaert from Froedtert Hospital taught a technique for showing staff appreciation using acknowledgement of contribution rather than rote thank-yous. Jocelyn Fuller of Mount Sinai West shared her transport staff’s successes using lean techniques to bring processes under control and improve performance. To quote Jocelyn, “If you are fighting fires, you are probably an arsonist!” Ernest Hodge from Inova Fairfax explained how valuable volunteers can be if kept engaged (They conduct 70% of discharges in his shop!). Finally, Chuck Pickering from Children's Hospital Los Angeles discussed the issues and solutions regarding managing behaviorally-challenged patients.

The Shorts session was followed by in-depth presentations. Bob Mulrooney of Christiana Care enumerated the construction projects underway at his growing system and the complex task of planning for support services. Nick Proto from Yale-New Haven Health told about the security challenges that spill over from the local community and how the system has prepared to meet them. He advocated for the Department of Homeland Security Risk Assessment. Last but not least, Donnie McLaughlin from UT Southwestern Medical Center presented their RTLS system including 19,000 assets and supporting a wide range of asset management functions. On a related topic, Brian Stepien of OhioHealth told of their pilot project to use RFID tags on patients to signal discharges.

Whew! By the end of the conference heads were spinning with support services food for thought. But attendees also agreed that they had learned about practical solutions they could take back to their operations and implement.

Wrapping Up

Conference participants--and all HSSF members--can access the presenters' slides here (requires logging on to Member Portal).

At the close of a conference, conference participants wrote down what they would say to anyone considering attending next year. Here are some unadulterated quotes (seriously):

 “One-stop shopping for ideas/strategies for support services departments.”

 “Great organizations represented.”

“Even if the presentations are outside of your specialty there is value in learning from colleagues.”

“Bring business cards, step out of your comfort zone, and network, network, network!”

A Note from Jeff

I want to thank Anna Stratigos and her team for hosting, with particular shout-outs to Teri Cohen, Jen Garcia, and Curt Melhorn. Thanks also to the conference sponsors, who helped make it possible. They are Surfacide, Gordon Food Service, US Foods, Sentact, and Zeno Office Solutions. It was a pleasure to have their representatives with us at the receptions and dinner. And thanks to Carrie Kuempel (HSSF’s VP Membership Services and my wife!).

Stay tuned for announcements about next year’s conference as well as other HSSF activities. To help members stay connected in the interim, HSSF offers through its new website an online forum for posting questions and a directory. Members can also contact me if they’d like help with an introduction, or an answer to a question like, “Is anyone in the Forum doing [fill in the blank]?” I’m happy to help members in their pursuit of support services excellence.

Jeff Wickham
Managing Director, HSSF
[email protected] 

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2019 HSSF Executive Conference