Leadership Central Penn reached its last class of the year, and it found itself visiting Geisinger and the Ronald McDonald House of Danville. The topics for the day included current healthcare issues facing Geisinger and patients in the region, the history of Geisinger and what the healthcare market looks like with the changes in government regulation.
The day kicked off with an introduction and welcome by Deb Templeton and Bob Davies at the Foss Home. The class learned a little about the history of Geisinger, and how this renowned healthcare organization ended up in Danville. There is a lot of folklore about this story, but the facts are as advertised: Abigail Geisinger wanted the best for the area in healthcare. Being one of the only people in the area with a car at the time, she got to see the needs and suffering of people around the region, as the car was used as an ambulance. This ignited the passion that propelled her to “make it the best” hospital possible.
Of course, many know that Geisinger is an integrated system with 13 hospitals, a drug and alcohol treatment center, 200 clinics and 33,000 employees. All of these facilities increase demand for electricity, which is being met by coal, natural gas and nuclear power. However, Mike Gerrity told the group about another way to meet this demand — innovation. Geisinger has substantially lowered its energy demand over the years through green and LEED certified buildings, solar power, lighting retrofits, a cogeneration plant, and the steam turbine chiller project. Geisinger’s energy costs through these efforts have resulted in a drop from $4-$6 per square foot, for the average hospital, to $1.19 per square foot. It has saved 33,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually due to cogeneration, two million kilowatts of energy are saved with the chiller project and more energy is saved everyday with the previous stated efforts. All of this makes the air we breathe healthier, our water cleaner and our health better.
The next presenters, Rachel Manotti and Sam Balukoff, provided data and the opportunity to discuss the healthcare market and the current issues in our area. The data helped frame the needs in our area related to healthcare, so that we had a local understanding of why decisions on the provider and insurer side are made. The class also got to question some of the care decisions as community members. The hot topic was the opiod epidemic and how Geisinger is dealing with this. What was shared is that the patient’s needs and the standard of care are always the focus for the system. However, there is also government regulation that can cause slowdowns in the ever-changing healthcare landscape. One error or change can easily require pages and pages of process implementation, which even the electronic health record can’t correct from an efficiency point of view.
After a lunch break, the class boarded the tour bus with Bob Davies for some more history and a Danville driving tour of Geisinger’s facilities. The tour showcased the growth over time of the fields that are now pediatric clinics and outpatient facilities at Woodbine Lane, the vast fleet of helicopters that transfer critical patients in and out of Geisinger, and even the old limestone pillars, long thought lost, from the original hospital entrance. Many take for granted the opportunities offered by Geisinger as an employer, health care innovator and leader, and local provider of care. After experiencing the intimate experience, this class won’t soon forget the value that Geisinger offers to our region.
Once the class wrapped up at Geisinger, it was off to the Ronald McDonald House for a discussion on pediatric advocacy with Dr. Amanda Beach, pediatric resident. Dr. Beach made an impassioned presentation on the needs of children. The most impactful on the group was the need for better mental health screening and access. The class learned of the changes from the American Academy of Pediatrics to assist pediatricians in doing mental health assessments and short term interventions to assist the children in their care. However, even in our area, sometime kids that need mental health services are delayed due to a lack of access from limited providers locally and nationally.
The final opportunity for the day was a discussion about the families served by the Ronald McDonald House and the new Ronald McDonald Family room located within the Janet Weis Children’s hospital. These facilities allow families to be close to their children when they travel here for their care. The house has a slogan, “we keep families with sick children together.” The tour allowed the class to see the facilities of the house that allow families to have some “home” comforts while helping their children deal with their health concerns. The home has served 380,000 guests from 65 of 67 counties in PA, 34 states and 27 countries since 1981.