ALBANY — Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Scott Steiner has announced that the expert consulting firm engaged to bring strategic improvement to the health system will come onboard next week.

It is one of a few things happening within the health system intended to set it up for a stronger future. The latest of such developments came in a report before the Hospital Authority of Albany-Dougherty County during its quarterly meeting on Thursday.

Steiner said the firm, The Chartis Group, is being brought on to assist with the strategy building necessary to focus on what is expected of Phoebe by its patient base.

“Phoebe has been working to become a more reliable organization,” Steiner said.

Steiner said the firm’s services will be rolled out at all of Phoebe’s hospitals, and they will include a level of transparency meant to better help overcome obstacles.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital recently launched a patient logistics command center, known as Phoebe Care Command Center, with the objective of more effectively managing operations at the hospital.

Officials said the technology in Phoebe Care Command keeps staff members informed about when there is an influx of patients in the hospital, the need for and availability of beds across the hospital, the highest-priority admissions and discharges and other important information for ensuring high-quality patient care.

Kim Whitley, vice president of patient logistics and care coordination, told the Hospital Authority on Thursday that the center has made a significant difference.

“We were reactive prior to the command center,” Whitley said.

Hospital officials said Phoebe Care Command combines the latest in predictive analytics and innovative problem-solving to better manage patient safety, experience, volume and the movement of patients in and out of the hospital.

It is equipped with software and technology from Teletracking, a world leader in patient flow solutions. The systems and computer monitors show real-time and predictive information to resolve bottlenecks, reduce patient wait times and coordinate services among the various departments within the hospital.

A mini executive command center helped to clear barriers and improve patient flow. With the need of a sustainable model moving forward, the permanent command center was established.

“We went live on Feb. 26, and it was actually a much better day than I anticipated,” Whitley said.

A color-coded “skittle board” helps to track the flow of activity. Whitley said the data showed what needed to be improved upon immediately, including transport times — which she said have been reduced to an average of 16-18 minutes.

Overall, Whitley said, time is managed more effectively from both the patient and clinician perspective.

“We are really moving toward a lot of success,” Whitley said.

As part of the $2.5 million investment to stand up Phoebe Care Command, the hospital is hiring more than 30 employees to help staff the center, officials said.

The Light House, established in 1987 as a place of comfort and rest for cancer patients receiving treatment who cannot afford to travel, was irreparably damaged in a storm on Jan. 2, 2017. Officials gave an update to the Hospital Authority on plans for a new Light House facility expected to be built in the 500 block of West Second Avenue on the site of the old Phoebe business office destroyed in the same storm.

The new facility is expected to serve more Phoebe Cancer Center patients, with eight guest suites, private bathrooms, kitchen and dining areas and common areas for fellowship.

The former Light House was a five-bedroom home located adjacent to the hospital that provided amenities to patients receiving multiple cancer treatments in one day or requiring overnight accommodations. It is anticipated that more than $1 million will come in for construction on the new facility.

Steiner and Brian Church, chief financial officer for the health system, said demolition has been completed on buildings across from the hospital that received significant storm damage. They said the plans for those lots will include parking spaces, as the construction of a helipad on a hospital parking deck — necessary as part of an anticipated trauma designation — will take out a large number of spaces.

“We have got design for parking, but we have to take it to the (Albany-Dougherty) Historic Preservation Commission,” Steiner said.

Historical contents of those buildings were removed, and plans are underway to preserve them, Church and Steiner said.

In other meeting business, Tony Welch, senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Phoebe, was formally introduced to the Hospital Authority. Welch, who assumed his role on Feb. 1, came from Southeast Health in Dothan, Ala.

Welch has previously worked for health systems in South Carolina, Kentucky, Florida and Alabama and recently served as president of Alabama Health Care Human Resources Professionals with the Alabama Hospital Association.

In his career, he said he has worked for nonprofit and for-profit hospitals — and prefers nonprofit.

“Any profit we make (as a nonprofit) rolls into improvements and not into someone’s pocketbook,” Welch said.

Staff Writer

I'm a 2007 graduate of Georgia Southern University, and I've been a reporter for The Albany Herald since 2008. I cover news related to health care, Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, SOWEGA Council on Aging and other areas as assigned.

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