Compliance • Audits/Analysis • Reimbursement/Regulatory • Education/Efficiency
Interview with Glenn Van Ekeren, President of Vetter Health Services
Kris Mastrangelo, President of Harmony Healthcare International (HHI) interviews Glenn Van Ekeren, President of Vetter Health Services in the 2017 AHCA Provider Lounge. Glenn discusses the standards he set for his thirty facilities in order to become a world-class organization. With an impressive level of optimism, Glenn encourages his facilities to take AHCA's quality initiative to the next level.
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Kris Mastrangelo: Welcome to the American Health Care 68th Annual Convention. We're lucky today to have Glenn Van Ekeren from Vetter Health Services in Nebraska. Glenn it's great to be with you. Glenn is the president of the organization. We are happy to discuss today what's going on in the industry, specifically your insight and what keeps you up at night and really what's your approach to keeping you so successful?
Glenn Van Ekeren: Wow that's a wide-open field. Well I think you know as we as we look ahead it's interesting because we've learned so much in the past seven years. We've been on a journey to become a world-class organization and at that time we weren't really sure what that all meant but we set some standards. We set thirteen standards that we wanted to achieve and decided that this is what was going to drive everything that we did every day and so yeah even with all the challenges and setbacks maybe at times and the things that we're facing I just don't want to be deterred from what's really important. So, our decision to become world class is going to impact the lives of those we serve and that's why we're in the business were in. So if I look back or I look ahead the goal remains the same and again I guess I would comment one of the decisions and one of the reasons why we decided we wanted to be a world-class organization is so that we could change the view of long-term care in America and we may not be able to do it in America but we have 30 facilities in 30 locations and we've challenged them to say what is it you can do in your location to change how people view our profession and I really believe that we can do that by doing what we do like no one else does it. Do it at a level that nobody's even thinking about. So that remains our motivation even in the midst of chaos and turmoil and a lot of other things we're still motivated by the same things.
Kris: That’s amazing. And did you happen to see the keynote? And you mentioned thirteen principles. Can you share some of those?
Glenn: I did, Yes absolutely. Well it's interesting as we began talking about what is it going to mean to be world class initially the big picture was well we just want to be the absolute best that's what we want to be and as Mark commented and Jim Collins commented you got to be able to measure that. I mean you can't just throw something against the wall and hope that that's going to help you to be world class. So, we began to evaluate those things that we believed were paramount in us achieving that level of performance and some of the items that came to the surface first flowed out of the whole quality initiative with AHCA. So, we bought into that right away: the reduction of rehospitalization or the use of antipsychotics. And we said whatever AHCA sets as a standard let's set it even a little higher because that would be world class. So, we began there and then we looked at things like our team member satisfaction, customer satisfaction. We looked at our revolving-door and retention rates with staff - that became critical to us. We are really committed to having an injury free environment for our team members and so we look at our injury free situation and say hey that ought to be one of our standards is that we would every year be injury free in our facilities. The CMS five-star rating became a part of it - whether you like it or not it is a part of who we are and it's a standard - that's how we're being gauged, so we use that. We used the survey process. I know I'm missing a few things but those are the things that became critical to us and we just we stay very committed to saying what are the strategies we need to put in place as Jim said to get the flywheel going. You know, what are those and how do we create momentum? How do we move toward that whole goal of being a world-class organization?
Kris: That's impressive, especially with 30 facilities - that's not easy to toggle and it’s a skillset. Great leadership of course and when you're navigating through this your attitude is optimistic – in other words, how do you think about it in your head - it's overwhelming, the regulations - we've got that everyone's saying it, but yet you've got this sort of can-do attitude and that has to bleed out for your employees.
Glenn: I mean I hope so. You know Howard Hendricks once said if you if you want your employees to bleed you need to hemorrhage. So, I think my responsibility as a leader is to hemorrhage my positive energies into what we want to achieve. Yeah, I guess I see no value in being a pessimist, I'm a realist. I understand the challenges that are here but I'm also an idealist and my whole goal is to take what's real and what's ideal and how do we pull them together and we make the very best out of this situation that we that we possibly can. You know the new policies, new procedures, requirements of participation…all of those can either become an excuse for not getting better or they can become a reason for us to find new and innovative ways for us to achieve the levels of quality that that we want to achieve and I've never known a professional excusiologist to accomplish anything great so I would rather we focus our energies on the things we can control and then we give it everything we have. Give it 110 percent every day and stay committed to what we know we do well and just keep doing it better and better. Like I said, let's do what we do like no one else does it and you can't do that if you're looking at the Dark Side of the Moon.
Kris: You get caught up in it and you know another book a great book The Ritz-Carlton, The New Gold Standard talks about define and refined and the attitude is if we could turn back the clock how could we do it better. It's that attitude and I think something you said earlier is that yes, we're being inundated with this all these regulation changes but if you really look at them and the whole scheme of things the recommendations are best for patient care. Maybe by applying them, yes, we want to have better reimbursement but at the end of the day it's you know you’ll get there. We'll get there. We'll get there, we have to show it but you got it spend your energies on just building it.
Glenn: Absolutely. You know the reimbursement is a given so we can beat that topic to death but it's one of those things that everybody has to deal with. Deal with it in the best way possible and make the best of the situation that you have but at the same time you know we encourage all of our team to be strong advocates. Get involved in the political system, advocate for what's right. This is all about doing what's right for our seniors. That's why we're here and yes, we do need to be reimbursed adequately in order for us to provide the level of quality that we want to provide…just don't get hung up on that being your single item of conversation. There's a lot more to our world than just that.
Kris: And one last comment: 1998 I lived through it, PPS came in and the original structure there was an inequity in the payment, the BIPA Beneficiary Improvement and Protection Act came out two years later. They figured it out, they tweaked it so they got the reimbursement for their needs. Having said that, the emotions that I'm seeing right now are so reflective of 1998 and again and what I'm also trying to say is that they're nervous, they're afraid, they’re unsure. We've done this before and I guess my final comment is that you know it's easy to look back when we have struggling times. Character is how you perform when you're under duress and we're under duress so we have to be our best and get it done because when we look back it's going to be fine, we're going fix it. We'll be fine.
Glenn: Yeah you know and I'm an old guy now. I look back on all of the things we'd been through and any time I've been through adversity I came out stronger on the other side and so maybe that's why today I tend to be a bit optimistic about things. We’ve been there - been there, seen it done, it got the t-shirt, sold it at a garage sale and decided you know I don't need to go down that path anymore. So as adversity strikes us to deal with it the best you can. We have incredible people around us in our organization with incredible talent to do what needs to be done and so it's not up to me anyway, I mean we've got we've got 3,500 team members who want to do what's right for our residents. I need to give them the reason to do that and the freedom to do that and we're just blessed to be able to be in this profession.
Kris: And they’re blessed to work for you and your attitude and your optimism. We’re so phenomenally grateful for your time.
Glenn: Well thank you. It's good to be here.