We want the public to be proud of Beebe Medical Center

October 30, 2012
Jeffrey M. Fried, FACHE, is president and CEO of Beebe Medical Center.

We all have read recent articles questioning whether or not Beebe Medical Center is being as transparent as we should be with our community. We have always tried to be an open and transparent organization, talking about the good and most often great things that happen at Beebe Medical Center, as well as being open regarding issues or incidents that result in unintended consequences. In fact, we agree with the Cape Gazette about the importance of openness and transparency. On this point there is no difference of opinion. We believe that the public does and should have the right to know what happens at Beebe Medical Center, when it’s possible to share information without harming a patient’s right of privacy. As a nonprofit community hospital we have no investors, but we have always viewed the community as our “owners” who should be aware of what’s happening in their hospital.

With respect to the two incidents that have occurred at Beebe Medical Center within the last 18 months, we should have been more open about our safety processes and systems, as well as doing so in a more timely manner, and I am sorry that we did not do that.

We can share that for both these events, we have carefully reviewed, analyzed, and changed some of our internal processes, in an effort to prevent similar events from recurring. These critical reviews were accomplished through our internal root cause analysis process. We utilize this root cause analysis for any serious event or incident at Beebe Medical Center, including situations where a patient may not have been harmed.

For example, within the same day that one of our patients was locked in an Emergency Department bathroom, we made sure that ED staff had the correct key for that bathroom. In addition, steps were taken that same day to ensure bathrooms within patient care areas also had corresponding keys.

The day following that event, an emergency key box was installed outside the door of the same bathroom, as well as all other shared bathrooms within the ED. Additionally, our locksmith personally visited each patient care manager in the hospital and ensured that they had the appropriate keys for bathrooms in their patient care areas as well as public areas. Lastly, emergency key boxes have been placed throughout the hospital and key inventories have also been compiled and documented. With respect to emergency call bell systems, we have ensured they are in working order, tested routinely, and are placed in public restrooms where we are not required to have them but believe they enhance the safety of our environment for our patients. In the case of the individual who passed away in the waiting room of the Emergency Department, within two days members of the patient access team began regular rounding in the lobby at least every two hours including waking up those who appear to be asleep. We also now follow discharged ED patients who remain in our lobby waiting for transportation home, on a computerized tracking system, so we reduce the risk of not knowing where they might be until they leave the hospital.

There are some obstacles that have prevented us from being even more transparent. First and foremost is our commitment to protecting the privacy of each person who seeks care at our hospital.

The privacy of our patients is a deeply ingrained value in our organization, and one we teach to each new person who joins our team. We re-teach it to our entire staff each year. We take privacy so seriously, that a single, intentional breach of a patient’s privacy is grounds for dismissal from the staff at Beebe Medical Center. The safety and privacy of each person we care for must take priority over public transparency. Even if we could share information that would present Beebe Medical Center in a more positive light, we will not do so if it compromises the privacy we owe to our patients.

Patient privacy is also a federal regulation through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA regulates how Protected Health Information is used and shared by hospitals, health care providers, and insurers. In both the legal cases that have received so much attention lately, as with the care provided to all of our patients, the information about their medical care is Protected Health Information and can only be released if consented to by the patient or in these two cases, their families.

I’m sure that people in our community can understand how family members may not wish to reveal publicly the health information about their loved ones, and unless they are willing to let us do so, we cannot and will not.

You should also know that our board of directors recently approved a disclosure policy, which formalized a practice we have utilized in the past. The policy says that we will inform patients and/or family members when a serious incident or medical error has occurred. Events occur in the hospital over which we have no control, but also where we do.

In either case, we want to ensure that we are being transparent with our patients, and hold ourselves responsible for making sure we communicate this type of information with those who trust us to care for them. We will also strive to do a better job of sharing information with the public, again without compromising patient privacy, but where we believe it’s important for the public to know about what has happened at Beebe Medical Center. We could have done a better job of that in both cases that have been in the news, and I apologize it is only now that we are doing so.

Beebe Medical Center is an exceptional hospital. Whether it's the federal government (i.e., Hospital Compare) Healthgrades, or Press, Ganey, there are numerous independent sources that use objective data on hospital performance which confirm that our care and service is well above comparable performance at other hospitals in the state and across the country.

We have talented and caring employees and physicians who come to work every day with one purpose in mind; to provide the best possible care to those we serve.We will always strive to do the best we can do, which also includes continually learning where there are opportunities to do things better.

We are committed to holding ourselves to that high standard. And we will strive to be a transparent organization when doing so will not compromise the privacy of the people who depend upon us to protect that right. We are not afraid of sharing what goes on at Beebe Medical Center. In fact, we are very proud of what our employees and doctors do every day to serve our community. But most importantly, we want you to be proud of your community hospital.

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