In 2015 Geisinger celebrates 100 years of delivering healthcare that continues to offer quality and value to patients, changes their lives for the better, and never wavers from the uncompromising vision of its founder Abigail Geisinger.
“Make my hospital right. Make it the best,” Mrs. Geisinger told those she recruited to build a community hospital in honor of her late husband George Geisinger. The impact that request would have and continues to have a century later on the health system’s ability to redefine the boundaries of healthcare is far reaching, according to David Feinberg, M.D., MBA, the health system’s sixth president and chief executive officer.
“The vision or purpose that we are simply better goes throughout the 100 years,” he says. “It is part of our fabric and DNA.”
Recently, Geisinger realized the value of that commitment to excellence when it achieved an exceptionally low “observed to expected mortality ratio.” The ratio, which measures how many patients die out of how many should die based on their diagnosis, is considered “top-of-class” in the industry when it hits .7 or .8.
“Last month, our observed to expected mortality ratio was .5,” says Dr. Feinberg, adding that he never saw a ratio that low in his life. “We are saving twice as many people as we are supposed to. That is pretty powerful.”
In a similar fashion, Geisinger recently achieved “best-in-the-world” status as it pertains to accurately thinning a patient’s blood within a narrowly accepted range to avoid blood clots.
“These are examples of an organization striving to be the best,” he adds. “That all came from an incredible woman, who said build me a hospital and make it the best.”
Guided by Abigail Geisinger’s vision and values, Geisinger made the important decision 100 years ago to hire physicians.
“I think some of her wish to be the best was, in part, achieved by having that employed physician force,” says Dr. Feinberg, adding that the policy was not popular when it was first introduced in the early 1900s, yet now it is widely accepted in the industry. “Today, Geisinger successfully works with both employed and community physicians.”
One way in which it does this is through the Geisinger-led Keystone Health Information Exchange (KeyHIE), which links hospitals, long-term facilities, community health clinics, and healthcare professionals in more than 53 Pennsylvania counties.
“KeyHIE enables health information to follow patients across the continuum of care, letting providers access critical information, such as medical histories, allergies and test results,” Dr. Feinberg says. “All of which are key to improving outcomes and holding down costs.”
While many hospitals and health systems only now are focusing on this concept of using information and data, Geisinger was one of the first to benefit from large informatics having implemented electronic health records two decades ago.
“Geisinger was the first large healthcare organization to use Epic. Twenty years ago it was small, but today it is the premier integrated electronic health records system in use,” says Dr. Feinberg. “The data we’ve gathered in the electronic health record can go back 20 years. We also have an insurance company and are able to gather the claims data, giving us the whole picture.”
Adding value to the collected data is the fact that many Geisinger patients come from the surrounding community, where they have lived and worked for many years. This proved to be beneficial in 2014 when Geisinger collaborated with Regeneron and asked patients to voluntarily submit their DNA as part of a research study that would translate findings into clinical protocols. Instead of the expected 15 percent participation rate, 90 percent of Geisinger’s patient population agreed to enroll.
“That participation rate is possible because we have driven toward this concept that data is very important, and we’ve been blessed that this community offers a stable population,” says Dr. Feinberg. “We’ve earned their trust, and we reciprocate by coming up with new ways to engage patients in their own care.”
This success not only benefits patients, but also the community. According to a new report by The Hospital and HealthSystem Association of Pennsylvania (HAP), Geisinger Health System annually contributes more than $8.9 billion to the local, regional and state economy. As a major employer of more than 23,500 people and through the ripple effect utilization of Pennsylvania suppliers and other businesses, Geisinger also supports approximately 40,000 jobs in the Commonwealth.
“As a health system, we strive to provide quality and value to our patients and members,” says Dr. Feinberg. “It is gratifying that our efforts improve the quality of life for the people of central, south-central and northeast Pennsylvania.”
Thanks to successful endeavors such as these, Mrs. Geisinger’s dream is spreading across the country and around the world. The president, Congress, healthcare strategists, and industry experts are studying Geisinger's model in an effort to determine if what they do can serve as a model for the nation and beyond. It is the same thing, Dr. Feinberg shares, that he did before accepting the offer to head the health system earlier this year.
“I sent a team from UCLA out to Geisinger because everyone was trying to figure out what Geisinger was doing. I was captivated by the changes I was seeing,” he says. “The care we offer is unbelievable. It is actually working and everyone else is trying to pull it off.”
Having made residents of the region beneficiaries of Mrs. Geisinger's vision and generosity, Geisinger looks to a second century in which its care model and mission will continue to transform how healthcare is provided, discover new ways to engage patients in their own care, and export Geisinger quality and innovation across the region and the nation.
“We will delve even deeper into patient preferences, engagement in care, and adherence to treatment plans,” Dr. Feinberg says. “In partnership with our patients, caregivers, and communities, we will continue our quest to redefine the boundaries of healthcare.”