RMH Blog

“Spur of the Moment” Decision Saves Life

This article first appeared in the Rushville Republican on Tuesday, January 8, 2018. 

It was a hot day in August, 2017, when Debbie Priddy, a housekeeper at Rush Memorial Hospital, looked out the window to check the temperature on the hospital’s digital sign. She doesn’t remember what the temperature was that day but she does remember the ad for a $59 CT heart scan. It was an ad that saved her life.

Encouraged by the nurses in her department, Debbie, a former smoker, decided to get a CT heart scan that afternoon. She chose the heart scan instead of the lung scan because it did not require a physician’s referral. The next day Debbie learned that a spot had been found on one of her lungs. The heart scan is not intended to scan the lungs, but part of the lungs appear at the top of the scan. This is where the spot was located. A follow up CT lung scan confirmed the presence of more spots in the same lung.

While waiting for further test results, Debbie attended a fundraising and survivor recognition event benefiting the Brian’s Cause Cancer Treatment Relief Fund of the Rush Memorial Hospital Foundation. As she watched the recognition ceremony for cancer survivors, she wondered if she would one day be among them. On September 1, 2017, Debbie learned that she had small cell lung cancer.

Small cell lung cancer is a type of cancer that spreads quickly. The doctors were not sure whether or not Debbie’s cancer had spread. Two lumps on her neck were of particular concern. Debbie was told that she would need a biopsy in order to determine if the lumps were cancerous. A biopsy is a simple procedure in which tissue is taken from the body and examined to determine the presence or extent of a disease.

The news was frightening but Debbie said she was encouraged by her oncologist, Dr Jaime Ayon, of the Sheehan Cancer Center.

“Dr Ayon is an amazing person. When he talks to you it’s like he really talks from his heart. He said, “Debbie, we’re going to beat this.” Debbie believed him.

Fortunately, Debbie’s biopsy revealed that the lumps on her neck were cancer free. This was a very positive sign.

Debbie only has one regret about her biopsy. She says, “When we did the lung biopsy I had to go to Shelbyville. If it ever happened again I’d want to have it done here, which wasn’t possible then. You feel comfortable in our home town. This is where I live. Everything that I have had done here I felt comfortable.”

Since Debbie’s biopsy, things have changed at Rush Memorial Hospital. Thanks to the purchase of new imaging equipment and a new radiologist, Dr Jon Hopkins, if she were to need the same service today, Debbie could have her biopsy done at RMH.

On November 22, 2017, Debbie had surgery to remove one half of one lung. Because her cancer had been diagnosed at such an early stage, she did not have to endure radiation or chemotherapy. Debbie was back at work in only three weeks. She was happy to be back. Debbie feels that remaining active was part of her recovery. She says, “I stayed at work. I didn’t want to take the time to dwell on it.”

During Debbie’s cancer journey, she had one special friend who accompanied her through every step. Gretchen Smith drove Debbie to her doctor’s appointments, sat beside her before her biopsy and accompanied her to her lung surgery. “No one should have to travel this road alone,” said Gretchen.

After Debbie’s surgery, Gretchen called every morning to check up on her. She stopped by with donuts, juice or lunch. They developed a friendship that is very precious to both of them. Speaking of Gretchen, Debbie says, “She is my hero. She impresses me every day. She was with me from the beginning until this very day.”

Debbie has had regular checkups since her lung surgery. So far everything has been clear. She knows that there is a possibility that her cancer could return. With Gretchen, Dr Ayon and the staff of the Sheehan Cancer Center by her side, however, she feels that she is ready for whatever the future holds. She says, “I beat this. I’m here. It if happens again, I’m going to beat it again. I have too many good people standing behind me.”

Unfortunately, lung cancer screening rates are extremely low. In the Midwest only 1.9% of the people who need lung cancer screenings actually get them. In comparison, according to the National Institute of Health, in 2017, 72.5 % of eligible Indiana women had had a mammogram within the last two years. The screening rate for colon cancer, among the qualified population in Indiana, was 62.5 % in 2014, according to the American Cancer Society.

The low rate of lung cancer screenings is one of the reasons that the 5-year survival rate (the percentage of lung cancer patients who are alive 5 years after diagnosis) is so low in comparison with the 5-year survival rates for breast and colon cancer. With fewer screenings, more patients are diagnosed at a later stage. The later the diagnosis, the less likely the chance for successful treatment.

Thanks to a hot day in August and a $59 CT heart scan, Debbie Priddy is very passionate about the need for more people to have their lungs (and hearts) scanned. She wishes that everyone would get the screenings they need. “Your lungs are so special,” Debbie says, “People just don’t understand that it’s so important to have screenings done.”

RMH scores well on MIPS report card

This article first appeared in the Rushville Republican on December 26, 2018. 

We can say that our healthcare is not just a small, local business that operates all alone, doing whatever we want it to do but how can we prove it? Wouldn’t it be nice if someone would just give us a report card?

Well, now someone has.

2017 was the first year that the Merit-based Incentive Payment System was implemented for Medicare physicians and healthcare providers. This system, known as MIPS, gives care providers the chance to get paid more for keeping their patients safe and healthy. Instead of the pass/fail models of the past, MIPS gives care providers grades. Some care providers are paid less, some are paid the standard rate and others are rewarded with extra pay for a job that is especially well done. Scores taken in 2017 and reported in 2018 indicate that Rush Memorial Hospital care providers are among the top of the class, scoring a 98.26 out of 100 on a national scale.

The first MIPS report card was broken into three categories: Quality, Advancing Care and Improvement Activities.

Quality was the most important category and accounted for half of the MIPS grade. Each MIPS healthcare facility was allowed to identify six areas to measure. RMH focused on healthcare concerns that are particularly important to Rush County: controlling high blood pressure, breast and colorectal cancer screenings, flu immunizations, etc. Rush Memorial was in the top ten percent in five of these categories and in the top 20 percent in one category. Again, these scores were measured on a national scale.

The category of Advancing Care deals with how digital health information is managed and communicated. Digital information is information that is stored electronically. It is crucial in multiple areas. Medication information, for example, must be updated in the computer at each patient visit. This allows every care provider to instantly see what medications a patient has been taking, what medications have been removed or added and what medications have been suspended. Prescriptions must be sent to pharmacies electronically and tied to a national database in order to prevent tampering or abuse. Medical information must be stored digitally and shared among providers so that they can work together to coordinate their efforts. This allows primary caregivers and specialists to work as a team to provide their patients with consistent care.

All providers involved in MIPS must have an annual audit of their electronic medical records. This assessment must be done by an outside auditor, such as Purdue Healthcare Advisors, which is doing the 2018 audit of the RMH electronic medical records. This audit assures that RMH medical records meet industry standards for security and privacy.

In the category of Advancing Care, RMH scored 100%.

The category of Improvement Activities deals with activities chosen by the hospital in order to help improve patient care. For this category, RMH chose to emphasize patient safety and provider practice improvements. The hospital participated in a nationwide patient safety program that concentrated on such issues as preventing patient falls, hospital acquired infections and hospital re-admissions. RMH also participated in a nationwide survey to assess the hospital’s internal culture of patient safety. The goal was to turn every pair of eyes in the hospital towards any possible source of harm to patients. Office workers, cooks, housekeepers and maintenance workers all learned how they could play a role in keeping patients safe.

As part of the Advancing Care category, RMH also participated in the Great Lakes Transformational Practice Network. Through this program, the federal government provided funding for the services of a national consulting firm based out of Chicago working with Purdue University. This firm sends a consultant to RMH twice a year to assess the healthcare providers and make suggestions on “evidence based” practice improvements. “Evidence based” practices are proven best practices that have been identified by systematic outside research. They are the “gold standard” of what is best for patients.

In the category of Advancing Care, RMH scored 100%.

Commenting on the MIPS score at RMH, Deb Hummel, Vice President of Quality and Health Information at RMH said, “The nice thing about MIPS is that all the scores are independently verified by the federal government. The standards we have to meet are the same across the nation. Our MIPS grade isn’t just based on what is best for patients in Rushville or Indiana. It’s based on what is best for patients all over the United States. Scoring above 98% is a rare thing… and we did it.”

RMH CEO Brad Smith is equally proud, “Our staff has been working on quality and safety initiatives for many years. I am so proud that their efforts for our community have received the recognition they deserve.”

So yes, the healthcare at Rush Memorial is local. The hospital is right up the street from the courthouse. But standards of care at RMH are national. The partners the hospital works with to monitor and maintain those standards are national. Rush County patients deserve no less.