Friday, July 26, 2013

CoxHealth staffers 'Stuff the Bus' with 243 backpacks

We put our new Community pillar into action for less fortunate school children in the Springfield area on Thursday as we participated in the Stuff the Bus project. In stops at Cox South and Cox North, we collected 243 backpacks! 

If you missed out, don't worry, you can still help Stuff the Bus by visiting any Springfield Walmart Supercenter on Saturday, August 3. Busses will be at all locations and you can drop off backpacks while you're shopping.

The list below includes what you’ll need to provide one child with a backpack and supplies. 

School box 
Crayons (24 count) 
Glue sticks (2) 
Glue Bottle 
Spiral notebook 
Pocket folders (3) 
Composition notebook

Monday, July 22, 2013

Great turnout for Girls Just Wanna Run

Saturday's Girls Just Wanna Run event in Springfield drew 930 runners, just shy of a record! Thanks to everyone who came out and helped us take another step forward in building a healthy community!

CoxHealth partners with Reliable Chevrolet to hold free car seat safety check

The best way to protect a child during an automobile accident is to make certain that child is securely fastened into a child passenger seat that has been properly installed in your vehicle. But achieving proper installation is often easier said than done. 

That’s why CoxHealth is holding a free car seat safety check Saturday, July 27, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m., at Reliable Chevrolet, 3655 S Campbell, in Springfield. CoxHealth’s car seat installation experts will be on hand to check and install car seats for parents, grandparents – anyone who needs to transport a child safely. 

No registration is required for this free event. For basic car seat safety and installation tips, visit

CoxHealth Trauma Services is available year-round to perform car seat checks by appointment. Contact, or call 269-0920.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Get ready to Stuff the Bus for local kids

We are excited to once again be involved in a Springfield community project to provide school children with new backpacks and school supplies to get them ready for a great start to the new school year. 

This year’s Stuff the Bus event at CoxHealth will be held Thursday, July 25. The school bus will be stopped at Cox South from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., and at Cox North from 1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. 

You can make a difference to give school children in Springfield a great start to the school year by collecting a backpack and filling it with school supplies on the list below. Then, look for the big yellow “Stuff the Bus” school bus parked on the Cox South and Cox North campuses July 25. 

Supplies to bring to provide one child with a backpack full of school supplies include:

School box
Crayons (24 count)
Glue sticks (2)
Glue Bottle
Spiral notebook
Pocket folders (3)
Composition notebook

Last year, CoxHealth provided more backpacks than any other participant and we want to once again show our community what our value of compassion is all about! Join us for “Stuff the Bus” Thursday, July 25. See you there!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

CoxHealth named a Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News & World Report

For immediate release
July 16, 2013

For the second year in a row, CoxHealth has been named a Best Regional Hospital by U.S. News & World Report magazine in the publication’s annual Best Hospitals guidebook. In addition, CoxHealth was recognized as a “high-performing hospital” in the specialties of gastroenterology and GI surgery, gynecology, nephrology, and pulmonology.

“We are proud to be the highest ranking hospital in our service area, and the only Springfield area hospital to receive this recognition two years in a row,” said Steve Edwards, CoxHealth president and CEO. “This is a wonderful national recognition of the care and compassion provided by our physicians and staff. We are flattered to be included in what has become the gold-star recognition of hospital quality.”

“A hospital that emerges from our analysis as one of the best has much to be proud of,” said Avery Comarow, U.S. News health rankings editor. “Only about 15 percent of hospitals are recognized for their high performance as among their region’s best.” 

The rankings are largely based on objective measures of hospital performance and hospital resources, such as patient survival and safety data, and nurse staffing levels. The rankings are meant to function as a GPS-like aid to help steer patients to hospitals with strong skills in the procedures and medical conditions that represent the biggest challenges. The full list of rankings is available online at, and will appear in print Aug. 27. 

CoxHealth is the only locally owned, not-for-profit health system based in Springfield, Mo. It is accredited by The Joint Commission, distinguished as one of the nation’s Top 100 Integrated Healthcare Systems (2006-2012) and committed to caring for the community. 

Established in 1906, the organization serves more than 900,000 people in a 25-county service area in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, offering a comprehensive array of primary and specialty care including five hospitals and more than 84 clinics in 24 communities. The health system includes Cox Medical Center South, Cox Medical Center Branson, Cox North Hospital, Meyer Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital, Cox Monett Hospital, Oxford HealthCare (the nation’s second largest hospital-based home health agency), Home Parenteral Services (home infusion therapy), CoxHealth Foundation, Cox College, Cox HealthPlans and more.

CoxHealth receives Gold Seal from The Joint Commission

Hospital granted Gold Seal of Approval for total hip and knee joint replacements 

CoxHealth has earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for its knee and hip replacement programs, by demonstrating compliance with state-of-the-art national standards for quality and safety in disease-specific care. 

CoxHealth underwent a rigorous on-site review in early June. An expert from The Joint Commission evaluated the organization for compliance with standards of care specific to the needs of patients and families, including infection prevention, leadership and medication management. 

“Our staff and physicians at the Meyer Orthopedic and Rehabilitation Hospital and the Cox South orthopedic unit are dedicated to providing our patients with the safest, highest quality care,” says Tyler Hedden, CoxHealth vice president of clinical services. “This certification is a validation of that work, and our drive to provide the best care for the communities we serve will continue to result in excellent outcomes for our orthopedic patients.” 

“In achieving Joint Commission certification, CoxHealth has demonstrated its commitment to the highest level of care for its patients who receive elective knee and hip replacements,” says Jean Range, executive director of Disease-Specific Care Certification with The Joint Commission. “Certification is a voluntary process and I commend CoxHealth for successfully undertaking this challenge to elevate its standard of care and instill confidence in the community it serves.” 

The Joint Commission’s Disease-Specific Care Certification Program is designed to evaluate clinical programs across the continuum of care. Certification requirements address three core areas: compliance with consensus-based national standards, effective use of evidence-based clinical practice guidelines to manage and optimize care; and an organized approach to performance measurement and improvement activities.

CoxHealth earns ‘Most Wired’ honors

Nation’s Most Wired hospitals demonstrate progress with Health Information Technology 

CoxHealth has again been recognized as a Most Wired: Most Improved hospital in the 2013 Most Wired Survey, recently released by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine. 

The survey, conducted in conjunction with the American Hospital Association, measures how hospitals across the country are adopting information technology to improve patient care. This year marks the survey’s 15th anniversary, and the third time CoxHealth has been recognized. 

“I’m pleased to see the hard work and dedication of our information technology staff and organizational leaders recognized with this award, and I’m thankful for the physicians and caregivers who have embraced these IT solutions,” says Bruce Robison, CoxHealth vice president and CIO. “Each step forward improves our ability to provide an excellent experience for our patients.” 

The CoxHealth Si3 IT team has implemented projects that improve patient documentation, advance clinical decision support and evidence-based protocols, reduce the likelihood of medication errors, and rapidly restore access to data in the case of a disaster or outage. 

“This year’s Most Wired organizations exemplify progress through innovation” says Rich Umbdenstock, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association. “The hospital field can learn from these outstanding organizations ways that IT can help to improve efficiency.” 

Health Care’s Most Wired Survey, conducted between Jan. 15 and March 15, asked hospitals and health systems nationwide to answer questions regarding their IT initiatives. Respondents completed 659 surveys, representing 1,713 hospitals, or roughly 30 percent of all U.S. hospitals. The H&HN cover story detailing results is available at

Residency takes a big picture approach

Family medicine physicians are key to integrating care, helping patients manage their health. 

As best as she can remember, Dr. Stephanie Pendergrass has always wanted to be a physician. She doesn’t recall what sparked her interest in medicine, but she remembers a story she wrote in the first grade about being a doctor. She followed the path she set early in life and years later, after she graduated from medical school, she returned home to Springfield to attend the Cox Family Medicine Residency. 

Like her original pursuit of medicine, her choice of family medicine was based on instinct. “I knew I wanted to do family medicine,” Dr. Pendergrass says. Like many family medicine physicians, she was drawn to the appeal of caring for a patient over the years and seeing many members of the same family.

“We’re treating people, not just a medical problem. I’ve been able to tell a woman she is pregnant, then taken her through pre-natal care, then delivery, and now I see her and her son. That’s very exciting to me – I love that.”

After completing her residency early this summer, Dr. Pendergrass has joined the ranks of more than 150 physicians who have graduated from the program since its inception 25 years ago. As the program completes its first quarter-century, leaders say the comprehensive training the Cox Family Medicine Residency provides is more vital than ever – for CoxHealth, for the region and for the future of patient care in a shifting health care climate. 

Those are big claims, but spend a little time with residency leaders, such as Dr. Larry Halverson, founder and senior faculty physician, and Dr. Tim Fursa, residency director, and they make it clear that seeing the big picture is at the heart of family medicine.

They’re quick to point out that family medicine is set to play a key role in addressing our national health care crisis. Across the country, health care costs are going up, but the outcomes aren’t always getting better. The question becomes: How do we get more value out of the system? What skill set does a physician need to make a difference for patients?

“We have to look at individuals and their needs – not just acute needs, but ongoing needs,” Dr. Fursa says. “How can we change their behaviors and their habits to support a healthy lifestyle? We have to understand the whole person and how to engage them with specialized care.”

Because of the relationships they build with patients and families over time, family medicine physicians are in a unique position to provide comprehensive care and improve community health. 

It was the need for more family medicine physicians in a growing region that led Dr. Halverson to leave his practice in Aurora to help found the residency. At the time, the average age of a family medicine physician in southwest Missouri was 62. Dr. Halverson and the early residency leaders knew that with the region’s growth, there would be a real need for more family physicians. Over the last 25 years, the residency has helped meet that need: 92 of the residency’s graduates are practicing within 100 miles of Springfield.

Dr. Fursa says that from the beginning, the mission of the residency has been to train doctors that can go out, anywhere, and provide care in any environment: from the hospital setting to rural practice to international medicine. The full-scope training is especially important for physicians who may practice in rural or remote areas, where there may not be another physician within 100 miles.

“Not all of our physicians do those things, but the training to do so enhances their skills,” Dr. Fursa says. Leaders point out that many residencies don’t do obstetrics, an important skill set for physicians who are the primary doctor for a community. Here, the residents enjoy support from CoxHealth hospitals, where they are able to work directly with expectant mothers. 

Dr. Stephanie Pendergrass visits with patient Angela Hall of Springfield during a visit at the Family Medical Care Center at Cox North. 

When the residency began, Dr. Halverson envisioned a program that focused on providing prenatal care and delivering babies. While that’s still a large part of the residency, much of the focus now is on helping patients manage chronic conditions. 

Dr. Halverson points out that nationally, about 1 percent of patients consume almost 30 percent of health care dollars, while 5 percent consume about 50 percent of the total.

“With more than 90 percent of people, we’re doing fine, so we focus on those 10 percenters. Focusing on that group is what primary care does,” he says.

There are few family medicine providers on the north side of Springfield, so the Family Medical Care Center at Cox North serves a valuable community purpose.

“Many people in that 1 percent of the population that consumes 30 percent of health care costs live right here,” Dr. Halverson says. Providing primary care for patients with limited resources can head off the need for more expensive care later. And, it’s simply the right thing to do.

In addition to meeting a community need, the residency serves as a laboratory for innovative ways to provide care. Halverson and Fursa both note that electronic medical records at CoxHealth were piloted first at the residency in the mid-1990s before their use became the standard system-wide. Now, they believe the residency’s new approaches to managing chronic conditions could become the standard for patient care in the future. They may even offer the key to a health care holy grail: improving outcomes while reducing costs. 

Among the innovations going on at the residency:

Providing a medical home: In 2010, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) certified the Family Medical Care Center as a level three patient-centered medical home, the first such clinic in southwest Missouri and only the second in the state. The patient-centered medical home model is designed to strengthen physician-patient relationships and better integrate a patient’s care. 

Dr. Fursa says that when practices pursue medical home status, they sometimes choose easy things to focus on. But FMCC picked three chronic conditions that affected most of their patients: diabetes, depression and pain management. If they could affect those three things, they could make a difference in patients’ lives.

Pioneering group visits: The residency is exploring new ways to serve patients beyond the traditional one-on-one between a patient and a doctor. Now, patients with conditions such as diabetes are seen in a group setting. They are still able to get prescriptions, tests and referrals just like in a regular visit, but they all receive education on diabetes during the session. The group environment gives patients more access to their physician, while the physician saves time by providing the education once, rather than in individual sessions. 

Support groups: FMCC is currently hosting “Healthier Together,” a support group for patients that provides education and encourages healthy lifestyles. “Patients can influence each other and people change in groups better than individually,” Dr. Halverson says.

Drs. Halverson and Fursa say that as they work with patients over time, family medicine physicians are in the best position to see the entire scope of a patient’s situation. Whereas much of medicine is focused on specific interventions to fix a problem, the overall view a family medicine physician provides can be key to improved outcomes. 

Dr. Halverson cites an anecdotal example from another health system: A patient receiving dialysis comes in for treatment, only to remove his IVs early and leave. A few days later, he lands in the ER, suffering from renal failure. The ER solves the immediate problem, but they’re not in a position to look into the overall case. 

A social worker who was part of a patient-centered medical home team was able to do an in-home visit, a service that the residency also provides for its patients. At the home, she noticed that the patient had trouble sitting still. He told her he was restless and it was always hard for him to be calm – especially in a stressful situation such as receiving dialysis. Only one thing kept him calm: painting. The social worker suggested that he be allowed to paint while receiving dialysis. The strategy worked and he returned to his regular course of dialysis. Because the social worker on the family medicine team was able to look at the entirety of the patient’s situation, a simple change was able to head off a complex, expensive intervention down the line.

Dr. Halverson says that’s the power of family medicine. Skilled physicians like those the residency trains are able to coordinate a patient’s overall wellness, which produces benefits that reverberate throughout the health care system. 

“The data shows that if you have more primary care doctors in a population, you have lower costs and better outcomes,” Dr. Halverson says. “The solution to overcrowded ERs isn’t just to provide more ERs. Part of it is to get more family medicine physicians on the front lines to provide ongoing care that can help people manage their health.”

Dr. Pendergrass says the residency has given her the chance to oversee the full range of care for her patients – being on the front lines for everything from the birth of a child to end-of-life care. It’s simultaneously challenging and rewarding, but she says that seeing her regular patients make positive lifestyle changes is one of the best parts of working in family medicine. 

“You work a lot in any residency, but here you really take ownership of your patients. On day one, patients look at you as ‘my new doctor,’” she says. “That’s a lot of pressure, but it’s good pressure – you’re not an observer of the situation, you’re the doctor managing the situation.” 

With her training complete, Dr. Pendergrass and two of her fellow residents are joining CoxHealth full-time this summer in the Diagnostic Clinic, where they will be providing inpatient, outpatient and prenatal care.

This summer, eight new residents will be joining the Cox Family Medicine Residency, beginning their journey from medical school graduates to primary care physicians trained in the full scope of patient care. Dr. Fursa says the field of family medicine draws a special kind of physician, one who is eager to take on the wide variety of challenges and issues patients may present with in the primary care setting. 

“For the family medicine physician, some uncertainty is part of the territory,” he says. 

A big part of the skill set for new physicians is being able to navigate uncertainty and help patients find the correct solutions. “We’re often faced with situations where we can’t know all the answers, but we train to know the pathway to get the right answer.” 

Leaders say that flexible approach is valuable both on the small scale with individual patients and on a larger scale as we evolve to provide patient-centered care in a changing environment.

“The people who choose this program are purpose-based and value-based,” Dr. Fursa says. “Their heads and hearts are in the right place to take care of patients.”

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Volunteer finds a way to make a difference

Beth Christensen says working at a hospital is something she’s long dreamed of doing.

“I love helping people and serving people,” she says. “My goal is to help the hospital become a better place for patients, doctors, nurses – everyone who comes here.”

Volunteer coordinator Pat Long says that desire to help is one of the first things everyone sees about Beth – that and her contagious smile. Beth says she wants those things to be noticed before people notice that she is deaf and has cerebral palsy.

In the past, Pat had worked closely with the deaf community in Springfield and as soon as she met Beth, she knew she wanted to find a place for her to volunteer.

“She believes in the hospital and it’s important for volunteers to believe in what we do,” Pat says. Pat saw Health Information Management director Robin Gann on the shuttle one morning and mentioned Beth. Robin set her up with an interview and she was a perfect fit.

Since last February, Beth has been lending her talents as a volunteer in HIM, filing charts and double-checking information as it’s entered into the system. She has a good eye for detail and a lot of experience in office settings, so the work comes naturally for her.

“Paid or not, I love to help people and helping the hospital,” she says. “This hospital is wonderful and awesome.”

Her desire to work in health care evolved from a painful chapter in her life. Growing up, she saw the inside of a hospital more than she would have liked. Her father, who suffered from hemophilia, was in and out of hospitals for years before he passed away in 1994.

“For a long time, I didn’t like going to hospitals because of my grief,” she says. “Now, after many years, I’ve accepted it. Hospitals are wonderful places, not horrible places. They save people’s lives. These are places where God is here to help people and care for people. And my smile can bring joy. That’s what I believe.”

Now, with some experience inside the hospital setting, Beth says she hopes to work toward an employed position at CoxHealth, ideally in Health Information Management.

“There are such nice, wonderful people here, working together as a team,” she says. “I believe in teamwork.

“I believe disabilities shouldn’t be barriers for working anywhere. I don’t allow it to bother me. I keep a positive attitude, smiling and happy, no matter what I do. I never say ‘I can’t,’ I say, ‘Yes I can.’”