The new president of Shady Grove Adventist Hospital says he’s a “born and raised” hospital administrator; his father and brother are also in the business.
“I tell people we’re very boring at Thanksgiving because all do is talk about health care,“ joked John Sackett, 56, who began his tenure at Shady Grove on April 8.
The hospital’s previous president, Dennis Hansen, left at the end of March to start a health-care consulting company.
Before coming to the Washington, D.C.-area, Sackett spent 24 years as president and CEO of Avista Adventist Hospital, and oversaw the 1990 opening of the hospital’s current location in Louisville, Colo. Sackett said Avista was designed with a focus on the patient experience, with all private rooms and a kitchen that provided room service for patients.
Though proud of the work that he’s done there, Sackett — who has cystic fibrosis — said his health would eventually require him to move to a lower elevation and that the offer from Shady Grove came at a good time.
“John has a great track record of partnering with physicians,” said Terry Forde, who used to work with Sackett in Colorado and is now the chief operating officer of Adventist HealthCare. Sackett was known for his innovations involving electronic records and patient management, he said.
Avista didn’t have the financial resources to employ many doctors, so most of its physicians were in private practice, making it difficult to track patient data across the system and rate its performance treating patients.
As an exercise, Avista undertook a costly and time-consuming examination of the paper records of patients with asthma and diabetes, which showed that there was much room for improvement in aspects of their treatment, Sackett said.
Rather than react defensively, the physicians were excited to have the data because it gave them a tangible, measurable way to improve, Sackett said.
As a result, Sackett oversaw the implementation of the hospital’s Integrated Physicians Network, which made sure the doctors — most of whom were in private practice — were all using the same electronic medical record system and database of patient information. When all of a patient’s doctors access to that patients history and test results, it cuts down on unnecessary procedures and redundant tests, Sackett said.
The network also gives the hospital data about the patient population they wouldn’t otherwise have had, such as a precise number of diabetic patients, Sackett said.
That data allowed doctors and their staff to better track which patients needed to be coming in for regular hemoglobin checks but weren’t. Staff could then work with the patients, involving the doctors only when necessary, and ultimately saving money on treatment, Sackett said.
The integrated system led to a standard of quality and cooperation among the doctors that isn’t often seen among independent physicians, said Jim Boyle, Avista’s board chair, adding that Sackett was “a visionary leader in the integration process.”
Sackett said he’s still learning about the operations of Shady Grove — which, with 331 beds, is about three times the size of Avista — and is in the process of identifying his priorities. He plans to discuss the idea of an integrated electronic records system with the hospital’s doctors, most of whom are independent and not employed by the hospital.
“The goal for Adventist HealthCare is to reach world-class excellence, and I think it’s possible. I want to be a part of that,” Sackett said, adding that he defines world-class as 90th percentile on performance ratings such as patient satisfaction.
“It’s hard. Most hospitals never do it,” he said.
A U.S. News & World Reports survey gives Shady Grove mostly “average” grades for patient satisfaction, with 55 percent of respondents giving the hospital a “high” ranking overall and 60 percent definitely willing to recommend the facility to friends and family — both scores below the national average. Avista, by comparison, received at 81 percent rating on the same criteria.
Sackett said he was still learning about the Shady Grove system and would be working with the board and medical staff to identify specific benchmarks for meeting that goal.
Apart from his new responsibilities at Shady Grove, Sackett says he plans to spend a lot of his free time as a Washington, D.C., tourist.
“This is a place I’ve always thought would be fun to live, because I love history,” Sackett said.