New Jersey experienced more than 438,000 cases and 18,000 deaths from COVID-19 last year.
As an epicenter at the start of the pandemic, hospitals and health systems in the state were expected to address not only the virus, but also the immediate rise of telehealth, increased scrutiny of new treatments, personal protective equipment shortages, and more – all while revenues declined, and expenses and employee burnout increased.
Now, with vaccinations underway, hospitals can only assume their performance in 2020 will be used to influence both future care and staffing needs, with patients once again facing a choice about where they get treated, and nurses and physicians wanting to work in more supportive environments with superior outcomes.
That is precisely why awards and recognitions in healthcare matter, says Tom Scott, senior vice president and chief operating officer of CentraState Healthcare System.
“We want to be the high quality healthcare provider in the area, and when we receive these awards and recognitions, it’s not us telling the community that we’re great, but rather it’s the perspective of an objective third-party they can trust,” Scott says. “Additionally, they help to build employee pride and spirit. It’s uplifting when the staff hears what we’ve achieved. It is also an incredibly attractive tool for recruitment.”
Dr. Steven Sheris, senior vice president of physician enterprise and president of Atlantic Medical Group at Atlantic Health System, says awards and recognitions can also help with costs.
“Some entities that help pay for care, whether they be government or commercial carriers, use these awards as evidence that we deserve to be the preferred provider and partner for care delivery,” Sheris says.
According to the New Jersey Hospital Association, more than 15 million patients receive care from 113 hospitals in New Jersey each year. With more than 150,000 employees, hospitals are the largest private-sector employer in the state.
But this past year may have made all the difference to future patients and healthcare workers.
“For example, the government turned to our leaders for advice in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, viewing us as a trusted partner and arbiter of truth and science despite any political roiling, and we’re now leveraging that as we proceed into the vaccination phase,” Sheris says. “We’re going to use that trust to help share knowledge with our communities and our patients so we can move medicine forward at a crucial time in our history.”
Overall, America’s Health Rankings’ “2020 Annual Report” ranked New Jersey 4th in health outcomes and 26th in clinical care.
Still, 25 New Jersey hospitals received an “A” grade from the Leapfrog Group in fall 2020, with the grade being widely cited as a gold standard measure of patient safety nationwide.
Additionally, the Leapfrog Group recognized RWJBarnabas Health’s patient experience team for its heroism, enhanced service delivery, and quality connections with patients during the pandemic, while awarding Englewood Health with the title of Pandemic Hero of the Year for its courage and compassion while at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis.
“Throughout the pandemic, our entire team did not hesitate for one moment to care for the many communities we serve,” says Warren Geller, president and CEO of Englewood Health. “What I witnessed, not surprisingly, was each and every member of the Englewood Health team stepping up in every way imaginable.”
In particular, Englewood Health created a physician liaison team, so that those not caring for COVID-19 patients could serve as connections for patient families, including making daily phone calls and using virtual technology. Englewood Health also established an employee relief fund and heavily promoted its employee assistance programs, including mental health support for its more than 5,000 workers.
“At Englewood Health, we have a culture of family, and that feeling of being part of something bigger than you is my takeaway on how a healthcare organization can weather a public health crisis of this magnitude,” says Kathleen Kaminsky, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Englewood Health.
The American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet Recognition Program has identified 532 organizations nationwide where nursing leaders are valued for providing ongoing education and career development while successfully aligning their strategic goals with improved patient outcomes.
Though 32 health organizations in New Jersey are currently designated, five in particular were designated in 2020, with three hospitals – Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, and Overlook Medical Center in Summit – being recognized for the first time.
Additionally, while less than 2% of hospitals nationwide are awarded four consecutive times, New Jersey’s CentraState Medical Center in Freehold has been recognized four times, while Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick has been recognized six times.
“This really signifies what we’ve been able to do within the rigorous standards to which we hold ourselves,” Scott says.
Linda Carroll, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer at Saint Peter’s University Hospital, says more than 90% of the nurses surveyed at the organization were satisfied across the board.
“We’re proud and excited about that,” Carroll says. “The way you draw the best of the best is having a work environment in which your nurses can feel good about their practice.”
Largely regarded as a highly informative resource for patients seeking top-notch care, the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals List for 2020-2021 ranks its hospitals based on patient outcomes and experiences, clinically-proven technologies, professional and specialty-specific recognitions, expert opinion, and more.
Though 14 hospitals statewide met U.S. News & World Report’s hefty standards, the top five regional hospitals include Morristown Medical Center, Hackensack University Medical Center, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, and The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.
Newsweek, on the other hand, also sent an online survey to tens of thousands of doctors, hospital administrators, and healthcare professionals in 21 countries to create its World’s Best Hospitals List for 2020. Out of 1,500 hospitals globally, Morristown Medical Center was no. 38; Hackensack University Medical Center, no. 55; The Valley Hospital, no. 155; Overlook Medical Center, no. 170; and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, no. 248.
Finally, Healthgrade’s America’s Best Hospitals deliver better clinical outcomes than 95% of hospitals in the nation. In fact, Morristown Medical Center and Overlook Medical Center were the only two New Jersey hospitals named to America’s 50 Best Hospitals, or the top 1% of hospitals in the nation. Additionally, the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Centers in both Atlantic City and Pomona, as well as The Valley Hospital, were named to America’s 250 Best Hospitals list, or the top 5% in the nation. Cooper University Health Care also received Healthgrade’s 2020 Patient Safety Excellence Award.
The ever-present threat of COVID-19 has completely upended daily life. Still, healthcare workers showed up and hunkered down for the long haul, often putting in longer hours than expected to help save lives.
The laboratory team at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, for example, demonstrated tremendous innovation at the height of the first surge, achieving rapid testing with two- to six-hour results at a time when tests elsewhere were still taking days, says Robert B. Budelman III, vice president and chief development officer at Saint Joseph’s Health Foundation.
“The New Jersey Department of Health recognized this capability and awarded St. Joseph’s a $5-million grant to expand COVID-19 testing for thousands of area residents,” Budelman adds.
Sheris agrees that an all-hands-on-deck approach to the COVID-19 pandemic is what helped Atlantic Health to survive it.
“I’ve often used the phrase that it takes 18,000 team members to take care of one patient, because everybody contributes, from our doctors and nurses, to those who provide the food trays, clean the rooms, and more,” Sheris says.
At least three Atlantic Health hospitals were evaluated by The Joint Commission during the COVID-19 surge and exceeded expectations.
“We were able to take care of our patients with exceedingly high quality and superior outcomes, and to me, that’s the best recognition,” Sheris adds. “It’s really about what you do when no one’s looking.”
Atlantic Health: Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, Morristown Medical Center in Morristown
CarePoint Health: Bayonne Medical Center in Bayonne
Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood
Hackensack Meridian: Bayshore Medical Center in Holmdel, Pascack Valley Medical Center in Westwood, Ocean Medical Center in Brick
Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington
Inspira Health: Medical Centers in Elmer and Vineland
Jefferson Health: Hospitals in Cherry Hill, Stratford and Turnersville
Newton Medical Center in Newton
Prime Healthcare: Saint Clare’s Hospitals in Denville and Dover, Saint Michael’s Medical Center in Newark
RWJBarnabas Health: Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, RWJ University Hospitals in Hamilton and Somerset, Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston
Saint Luke’s Warren Campus in Phillipsburg
Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick
The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood
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