Friday, July 22, 2011

Cox HealthPlans recognized for excellence

Cox HealthPlans recently received the 2011 Organizational Excellence Award, presented by The TriZetto Group, an international provider of health care software and IT platforms.

TriZetto’s claims system is the backbone of Cox HealthPlans’ business operations. The system is used to organize information on providers and customers as well as to manage payments and the claims process. Each year, TriZetto recognizes organizations that are pursuing integrated health care and making outstanding use of the claims system.

In the last year, Cox HealthPlans has achieved an average 99.5 percent procedural accuracy rate and a 99.9 percent financial accuracy rate on its claims. Those numbers reflect how well the system has been implemented and managed by the staff at Cox HealthPlans.

“This award speaks to the financial accuracy of claims and to our ability to keep costs low,” says Cox HealthPlans CEO Jeff Bond (shown above with TriZetto CEO Trace Devanny). “For the people we insure, it demonstrates a high degree of accuracy in how we process claims.”

This year, Cox HealthPlans edged out runners-up Blue Cross of Louisiana and Blue Cross of New York to win the award.

Sewing talent pays off for seamstress

Working in Linen Services at Cox South, Larissa Gibson is used to seeing torn scrubs and frayed edges on room curtains. She saw linen carts coming through the department that had zippers torn or broken and cart covers that needed to be replaced. And she saw an opportunity.

She’s been sewing since she was 15, when she spent a summer visiting her grandmother. Gibson picked up the skill quickly, learning her grandmother’s tricks as they made clothes and slipcovers for her couches. Her grandmother bought her a sewing machine and she started practicing on her own.

It’s easy to see how a woman who made her own prom dress and her own wedding dress would look at a worn cart cover and think: “I bet I could fix that.”

That’s what she told linen manager Patty Scott and Environmental Services director Ronnie Lightfoot about several of the items that were coming through the department. They saw the opportunity as well. Over the last year and a half, the skill Gibson learned from her grandmother has been helping CoxHealth save money and get more out of the resources we already have.

“I was amazed that I had somebody with that skill in my department,” Scott says. Gibson fixed a few hems on blankets and curtains and before long people were bringing her items to repair. “Ronnie and I just decided we need to get her a sewing machine!”

Scott and Lightfoot set up a sewing station in Linen Services and worked with HR to create a job description and a pay scale to make Gibson an official in-house seamstress. Over the last year, the work has expanded and Gibson has devoted many of her shifts in Linen Services to sewing.

In the past, a scrub top with a torn pocket would have become a rag and Cox would spend $13 to get a new scrub top. Gibson is now able to repair those items and get them back in service.
She’s reupholstering stools used in surgery and she’s creating custom covers for arm pads in the operating room.

“If the cushion covers get a pinhole in them, the OR can’t use them,” Gibson says. “But the padding is still good – instead of throwing them out, we can just replace the covers.”
Recovering the pads can be done quickly and it eliminates the need to replace the pads entirely at a cost of $300-$400 apiece.

Her work is also creating efficiencies for staff working on patient floors. The cubicle curtains in patient rooms come in a few different sizes, but the tags would frequently come off, making it hard to tell what size a folded curtain is. Gibson has fixed that by color coding the stitching at the curtain’s edge – when it’s time to replace a red-stitched curtain, simply grab another red one and it’s a perfect fit.

She’s also been able to alter curtains and reattach the netting that can become torn at the top.

“When you have a cubicle curtain that might cost $500 and you can alter it or repair it instead of buying new, that’s huge,” Scott says. “If you have to send something out to be repaired, it can cost $100-$150. Larissa can stitch those back up in 20 minutes.”

The work continues to pour in as more departments find out about Gibson’s talents and Scott and Lightfoot say it shows no sign of slowing down.

“Larissa has a fabulous skill set and a gift,” Lightfoot says. “Last year we saved between $50,000 and $60,000 just by having Larissa use her skills to do repairs.”

Gibson says she couldn’t be happier that the hobby she picked up from her grandma is paying off in her daily work.

“My grandmother is really proud,” she says with a laugh. “She’s one of those people who can do anything: she sews, she was a florist, she does carpentry, she does it all. I try to be a lot like her. She was a great person to learn from.”

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CoxHealth expert applauds new mammography recommendations

Joanne Schahuber, director of the CoxHealth Breast Care Clinic, fully agrees with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommendation that all women with an average risk of breast cancer should be offered annual screening mammograms at age 40.

“This new recommendation from the ACOG agrees with the long-standing guidelines from the American Cancer Society (ACS), which we have always endorsed,” she says. “Research has proven that early detection of breast cancer through mammography saves lives.”
In 2009, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended that women seek mammograms every other year beginning at age 50, upending the existing ACS guidelines. This recommendation raised concerns in the mammography community and caused significant confusion among women.

“We quickly noticed in our clinic that a significant number of women over the age of 40 were not scheduling their annual follow-up mammograms. When contacted, these women provided the task force recommendations as their reason,” Schahuber says.

While happy the ACOG has come out in support of the ACS guidelines, Schahuber remains concerned that many women are confused about when to begin annual mammograms.

“Women need to begin annual mammograms at age 40, sooner if they have certain risk factors. We are concerned that ten years from now, we’ll see more women with breast cancer that could have been caught earlier, had they not delayed their mammograms.”

Night out supports Good Samaritan Fund

Join CoxHealth at Zan the Club, 311 S. Patton Ave., for the Women’s Red Hot Night event 6 – 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 4.

Sit back, relax with your friends and enjoy a wine tasting, food, massages, manicures, hair design, a take-home gift, complimentary valet parking and much more.

Event proceeds will benefit the CoxHealth Foundation Good Samaritan Fund, which helps the uninsured and underinsured pay their medical bills. Every month more than 100 applications for assistance from this fund are received, yet only 30-40 people are able to be helped. Events like this bolster the fund, and help the Foundation help more people in the Ozarks.

There is a $35 per person fee. For more information or to reserve your seat, call 269-7037 or visit

Friday, July 8, 2011

Lorenzo Williams Charity Weekend kicks off

The Lorenzo Williams & Friends Charity Weekend got under way today with a golf tournament at the Millwood Golf & Racquet Club. The charity weekend features several current and former Missouri Tigers currently playing in the NFL; proceeds benefit Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. A youth football camp is also planned for Saturday.

Williams (shown above with his mother) and several of the players will also take part in an autograph event benefiting CMH Hospitals on Saturday night. The event will be held 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 9, at Big Whiskey’s American Bar & Grill at 311 Park Central East in downtown Springfield.

Several former Missouri Tigers currently playing in the NFL are scheduled to be in attendance. They include: Jeremy Maclin (Philadelphia Eagles), Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville Jaguars), Brad Smith (New York Jets), Sean Weatherspoon (Atlanta Falcons), Aldon Smith (San Francisco 49ers), Martin Rucker (Dallas Cowboys), William Moore (Atlanta Falcons), Danario Alexander (St. Louis Rams), Chase Daniel (New Orleans Saints), Atyyiah Ellison (New England Patriots), CJ Mosely (Jacksonville Jaguars) and others.

Admission to the autograph session is $25 per person. Or, take advantage of the Big Whiskey’s Special for $10 per person with a Big Whiskey’s food/drink receipt dated June 24-July 7, 2011 (minimum $10 receipt). Each paid admission allows for up to two individual items autographed (no limit to number of autographs per item; player appearances subject to change without notice).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

In Joplin tornado's wake: Hope rises

On the Thursday after the Joplin tornado, CoxHealth Connection editor Randy Berger visited the city to report on CoxHealth’s role in the recovery efforts. While the devastation is overwhelming — EMT Chris Lecompte examines the damage near St. John’s (top) — it’s outweighed by the spirit of hope we’ve seen in Joplin. Below is Berger's column from the July issue of CoxHealth Connection, along with images from photographers Russ Weller and Heather Van Gelder:

Everything you would say when faced with a disaster like the tornado that struck Joplin on May 22 falls short when you’re standing in a debris field that used to be a neighborhood. “Unbelievable.” “Otherworldly.” “There are no words.”

All those expressions are trite, but accurate.

When I arrived in Joplin along with Pre-Hospital’s Pat Brown and Mike Dawson, the city was entering its fourth day of search and rescue. Dawson was planning to check in with CoxHealth ambulance crews that had been providing coverage non-stop in the storm’s wake. Brown, a Joplin native, had volunteered to take us on a tour of the devastation in her hometown. Media Technology’s Russ Weller and Heather Van Gelder were gathering video and still images and I, with a notebook and pen, was planning to find words to convey the indescribable.

As we pull into Joplin, parts of Range Line Road near I-44 appear normal, with the exception of rescue vehicles and road signs twisted into abstract sculptures. Turning into a neighborhood on 20th Street, everything changes. West of Range Line, the reference points for what life was like before 5:35 that Sunday afternoon are few: a home with a single wall surrounded by splintered debris, a closet – dress shirts and polos hanging neatly inside – standing alone on a foundation.

As we get closer to the center of the tornado’s path, there are no signs of what had been houses, only unrecognizable debris, all the way to the horizon. On that Thursday morning, only two things remained vertical in the disaster area: tree trunks, minus all limbs and bark, and people – Joplin residents, rescue workers and volunteers taking the first steps toward rebuilding. With so much destroyed, the people from Joplin and the surrounding areas who converged on the disaster zone to help stand out in stark relief.

Over the next few hours, we had the chance to see many people who embody the spirit that will drive Joplin’s recovery. You see it in first responders, law enforcement and National Guard troops working the streets. You see it in the volunteers doing cleanup, barbecuing food and handing out water on street corners.

And you see it in the humbly recounted stories of CoxHealth employees who were on the scene that night and have played an ongoing role in the weeks since. To them, they were just doing their jobs, but their work in the first few days was the leading edge of a tide of recovery efforts and community support that is now even larger than an EF5 tornado.

By now, we all have personal stories about where we were on the evening of May 22. Emergency Department director John Archer had just returned to Springfield from a 2,800-mile motorcycle ride. He had heard a storm was coming, but he didn’t realize how bad things were until he got a call from assistant ED director Crystal White. She had seen that St. John’s in Joplin had been struck by a tornado and was on her way in to work.

White prepared the ED for an onslaught of patients while Archer worked with Dr. John Duff, senior vice president of hospital services, to set up Incident Command. By 7:30 p.m., ED staff had been called and were on standby; many staff members had already come in, anticipating the worst.

“We were doing the best we could to get all of our patients out of the department, either admitted or discharged,” White says. “Everyone was working to get that done. The entire hospital worked unbelievably well that night, from Med-Surg and ICUs to EVS and Central Supply.”

The department also identified nine nurses, six techs and three ED physicians who were dispatched to Joplin with two vehicles full of supplies. Ham radio operators arrived in the command center in the South ED, allowing for some of the earliest contact with first responders in Joplin.

It wasn’t until 2 a.m. that the first patients arrived in the ED and the horror of what had happened became obvious. The department received multiple trauma victims, people who had been trapped under walls and patients who had been impaled by flying debris.

“We deal with trauma every day, but nothing like this,” White says. Many of the ED staff were in tears from the stories they were hearing. Nursing home residents explained how they had been trapped in rubble, a young mother had taken cover at home only to have her two small children ripped out of her arms, a man who had covered his wife with his own body in Walmart to protect her awoke to learn that he had survived, but she had not.

“He was having a lot of trouble understanding that,” White says. “All night, the chaplains and social services helped us tremendously, not only with patients but with our staff as they coped with this tragedy.”

Throughout the evening, Pre-Hospital crews were seeing that tragedy unfold before them in Joplin. Paramedic Jason Blum and his partner, EMT Stacie Mountain, were on one of the first ambulances to arrive. They bypassed the main damage path as they came into Joplin, but signs of destruction were apparent everywhere.

“It looked like a war zone. Shell-shocked people were standing around on the sidewalks, just watching this convoy of ambulances roll in,” Blum says.

After stopping at an EMS staging area, the pair arrived at Memorial Hall. On the way, they passed several pickup trucks loaded with injured patients and the bodies of storm victims.

“The main triage area at Memorial Hall was like walking into a movie,” Mountain says. “Bloodied people were walking around, more people were being carried in. It was overwhelming.”

Mountain and Blum say that for the size of the disaster, the response was surprisingly well organized. Hundreds of patients had arrived at Memorial Hall, but hundreds of health care workers were also on the scene, ready to help.

By 10 p.m., Pre-Hospital had 15 CoxHealth ambulances in Joplin helping transport patients.

“Our immediate mission was trying to move patients out of Joplin,” says Mike Dawson, EMS operations manager. “This was a massive effort for EMS. On a regular Sunday, 15 ambulances cover four of our regular response areas. To deploy 15 ambulances in 3 or 4 hours is a remarkable thing.”

For the first two days, EMS crews continued to transport patients to relieve first-aid and triage stations as well as Freeman Hospital, which was undamaged but overrun with patients.

By day four, Cox EMS crews were working out of a temporary staging area at Freeman, where they were responding to local emergency calls. As we pulled up to the hospital with Brown and Dawson on Thursday morning, a Freeman nurse came up to our vehicle and thanked the pair for the help CoxHealth EMS was providing – “You guys have been great,” she said. Dawson and Brown say they’d been fortunate to hear that sentiment quite a bit recently.

“The Cox EMS people have been really talked about in this area,” Dawson says. “We’ve had a phenomenal outpouring of bravery and tireless work that our people have put in to make this possible.”

All across Joplin, health care workers were putting in extra work to make sure that those who needed care could still receive it, even as almost a third of the city lay in ruin. After making our stop at Freeman, we went up Range Line to Joplin’s north side, where we found the staff of Oxford HealthCare operating out of the lobby of Destiny Church.

Carl Wilson, a regional director at Oxford HealthCare in Joplin, had been at his home near Webb City on Sunday evening when the tornado struck. After the storm passed, he drove into Joplin to check on the Oxford headquarters, which was near St. John’s Hospital. The facility was destroyed. Oxford’s emergency backup location was at St. Mary’s Catholic Church – seen in the photo above – where all that remains standing is the cross.

As he drove near the scene only an hour after the tornado, Wilson says he was struck both by the devastation and the early signs of human resilience.

“It was pure mayhem on one hand, but then you had people out there doing whatever they could to help another person,” he says.

An Oxford employee was a member at Destiny Church and the pastor offered the building as a temporary office space. By 8 a.m. Monday, Oxford was up and running in the church lobby. Since phone lines were down, staff members worked to comb the neighborhoods, frequently on foot, tracking down clients.

Oxford president Karen Thomas told us that by Wednesday, staff members had made contact with all of their nearly 2,000 clients in the Joplin area.

“Our staff has been dedicated,” Thomas says. “The devastation has been emotionally draining, but they’ve jumped in and they did whatever they needed to do to meet people’s needs.”

On that Thursday morning, you could look east from the now-iconic shell of St. John’s Hospital and see people working to meet the needs of their neighbors in a field of twisted rubble. Looking at the debris, the phrase that comes to mind is “nothing looks like anything.” Without Joplin resident Pat Brown (above) to tell us about what kinds of homes and businesses had existed there just four days earlier, it would have been impossible to imagine.

Brown also shared some important perspective. She lived in Pierce City when an F3 tornado flattened the town in 2003, and she’s seen that town rebound. She reminded us that while the devastation right now is overwhelming, it will be overcome in time.

Even as we were talking on day four, you could already see the first signs of rebirth: Amid the stubble of twisted tree trunks, a crew was raising the first wall of a new building, festooned with an American flag. Near Main Street, someone had scrawled in black spray paint on a newly exposed living-room wall: “Down but NOT out.”

“This is a tragic, tragic thing and everybody here has their own story,” Brown says. On Sunday evening, she had been at work when the storm hit. Working in EMS, she says she’s developed the ability to keep some emotional distance during a crisis.

“We have compassion for our patients, but we have to turn off the emotional side of things a bit,” she says. “We have to be able to separate ourselves to do what’s expected of us.”

That was especially difficult on Sunday night, as Brown came in to do her job as a regional manager for EMS, while hoping her own family was safe in a basement in Joplin.

“This is my hometown; it was emotional when I turned on the TV and saw St. John’s,” she says. “I saw open fields that I knew weren’t open fields before. And I couldn’t get a hold of my family.”

As she scrambled to get ambulance crews together, off-duty staffers started calling, telling her they were on their way in. Her family was fine and out of the storm’s path, but in those first few hours, it was the support of her co-workers that let her do such an important job in a time of crisis.

The worst of times focused everyone on the task at hand. In the weeks since, that kind of focus has persisted on a community-wide scale in Joplin and southwest Missouri. In the months ahead as we help our neighbors rebuild, we should find ourselves inspired and driven by the spirit of teamwork and community that our CoxHealth family showed in those dark first days.

“That night, I thought, ‘I have the best team in the world,’” Brown says. “I had crews who came in and helped – they let me do my job and they helped me do my job. I’m so proud of them; they’re good people.”

How to help

A team from Joplin has launched a website that is a comprehensive resource for people affected by the storm and for those who wish to help. It can be found at