Friday, June 26, 2015

Taking pride in CoxHealth's next step

Be among the first to see inside the new Cox South expansion on Saturday, June 27. Click here for the full event details!

CEO Steve Edwards says the Cox South expansion will be ‘better access to better care’ for our community.

When the new expansion at Cox South opens in June, we will all be witness to a turning point in CoxHealth’s evolution. When the ribbon is cut, it will mark a moment that builds on more than a century of history and sets the stage for future decades of health care.

Perhaps no one at CoxHealth has a more personal perspective on this moment than President and CEO Steve Edwards. His career has grown alongside the expansion of the health system and his history here extends back to his childhood, when he would walk the halls of Cox North with his father, longtime administrator and CEO Charlie Edwards.

Now, Edwards says the Cox South expansion stands ready to help us achieve the legacy desired by all health care leaders: bringing the best care to patients and ensuring future success.

“My dad was the kind of person who would never want his name on a building, he would just want the work to continue,” Edwards says. “What would matter most is that we’re continuing to get better and striving to serve our community.”

Providing that service requires a special kind of planning, since a hospital is a permanent fixture in a rapidly changing field. While many businesses are chasing quarterly results, health care is in the unique position of having to plan for decades. Consider that the last time CoxHealth added a facility this size was in 1985, with the construction of Cox South. By that standard, the expansion we’ll open in a few weeks will have to meet our needs at least through 2045.

Edwards says that thanks to the foresight of leaders like VP of Facilities Management Rod Schaffer and the designers, architects and CoxHealth employees who have offered their expertise and feedback, the expansion will position us well for the future.

The new patient tower gives us flexibility and additional capacity for future growth, as well as surge capacity in an emergency. In the meantime, the new design reinforces key elements of care that keep us all focused on what’s most important: our patients.

“It is better access to better care,” Edwards says. “Just the notion of private rooms reduces the chance of infection and it provides much needed serenity.”

That privacy allows for patients to have their families close by and allows family members to participate in important decisions.

“There are a lot of great reasons for private rooms, but first and foremost is the sense of humanity,” Edwards says. “At our most vulnerable point, it’s nice to have that privacy and time with your family. Good design can make care more compassionate and this creates a more nurturing environment.”

You can see the compassion-driven design in the new neonatal intensive care unit, which now features private rooms.

“If you look at the rows of bassinets in the old NICU, you can see that parents were an afterthought in the 1980s. They are so much a part of the care now and our nursing staff and our architects have put so much emphasis on the family,” Edwards says.

“This space brings families back. The parents are not going to have to go through doors with buzzers to see their daughter for a few minutes. They can be in that room, they can sleep in that room. It’s the way care should be.”

On the Pediatrics floor, Edwards points out the special design elements that CoxHealth Foundation President Lisa Alexander and System Chief Nursing Officer Karen Kramer helped to add: a bubble theme and a bright color palate – “It looks modern, clean, warm and colorful all at the same time.”

That patient-centered design extends to the inpatient neuroscience floors as well.

“In traditional hospital design, so many rooms were like an assembly line, making the patient stare at walls or at the ceiling,” Edwards says. “Every room here is designed so the patient has a view out the window.”

The design also offers features that can improve our practice. For example, the sinks are visible to patients, so caregivers can wash their hands in full view. Edwards points out that there’s science behind that: we’re more likely to wash our hands regularly if we’re being observed.

“Buildings are just shells, but they can influence behavior,” Edwards says. “Twenty years from now, I hope this design will endure and prove to have helped us give even better care.”

As the project’s completion draws near, the final touches on the exterior are making a seamless transition between the new expansion and the original Cox South facility. Those changes are drawing public attention and creating a sense of community pride in the project.

“If I’m at dinner or a soccer game, people will come up to me and compliment me as if I deserve credit, even though I haven’t raised a single hammer!” Edwards says. “There are thousands of people who have made this happen. What I like most is how much pride people are taking in it. It’s reassuring to hear employees and the community have that sense of pride in moving forward.”

For Edwards, the unique accomplishment of leading the organization through the final expansion on our main campus is a source of personal pride and a fulfillment of a mission. We asked: As a kid walking the halls with his father, would he have ever foreseen being a part of a project like this?

Edwards pauses to think. “I think the humble thing to say is no, but I kinda did,” he says with a laugh.

“If someone asked me what is my greatest accomplishment at Cox, there’s nothing that comes to mind, because there’s nothing that I’ve uniquely or solely done. We have all done these things. We have 10,000 employees and none of this would happen without them. I’m not saying that trying to be humble, it’s just true.

“I dreamed, I imagined, I hoped that someday I could prepare myself to be in this position. Almost miraculously it came to fruition. It is a testimony that if you know where you want to end up and you work toward that for decades, it’s more likely to come true.”

Edwards says that through school and through his training at Barnes and Baylor, his dream was to get the best ideas and bring them back home to southwest Missouri.

“More than anything else, I just wanted to be part of this organization. I feel like it’s an extension of my dad’s work. In so many ways, he crafted me and formed my character. Now I have this sense of duty. It is not about doing it for yourself, it’s about those thousands of people before you. And for me, those thousands include my own father.

“He would be really pleased to know how much we have grown and how much more we’re doing for our community,” he says. “I’m fortunate to be here. It’s the town I grew up in, the town my kids are growing up in – you want to make it as good as possible.”

‘A powerful moment’ for CoxHealth
CEO Steve Edwards says Saturday’s ribbon cutting is a time to reflect on a unique point in the organization’s history.

“To see this open is a powerful moment for our development. I’m proud of it and I want people to see it and be proud of it. I want our employees to say, ‘I love this place and I am proud to have a hand in designing this.’”

As the opening draws near, Edwards says he thinks about people like Larry Lipscomb, former board chair and grandson of Lester E. Cox.

“We both share a long history with the organization and there’s a kinship there. My father worked with his grandfather. I think of people like that and I hope they’re proud.”

And he thinks of his own father, former CEO and longtime administrator Charlie Edwards. “He’d like the design. He was amazingly frugal, so he’d have lots of questions for me – why did we use this material?” Edwards says with a laugh.

“He and (longtime administrator) Neil Wortley both committed their lives here. I hope they would be proud; I would love to have their approval.”