Ellis Medicine operates with the intent of adding value to its community by offering high-quality care by talented physicians and nurses at a reasonable cost. With 125 years of history behind it, Ellis Medicine continuously evolves as science and technology change, bringing innovation to the forefront of everything it does. The health system consists of three main campuses and five additional service locations to serve the Schenectady, N.Y., community. 

“We strive to engage our employees because engaged employees end up being engaged with the community,” Acting CEO and President Paul Milton says. “We really try to focus on that and being innovative and trying new things to drive towards success. We don’t want to be a laggard in anything; we want to be an innovator. And once we get comfortable, we want to expand on that.”

Ellis Medicine has several plans and changes in the works to improve processes and implement innovations. “It’s really a challenge to do all of these things and really keep everybody engaged because things are changing so much,” Milton says. “We are staying focused on doing what’s right for this community and for Ellis.”

Ongoing efforts to improve and innovate include a new, state-of-the-art emergency department and expanded parking facility at Ellis Hospital, and a major addition to the Bellevue Woman’s Center. And with cardiology as one of its core services, Ellis Medicine is building a new Center for Surgical & Interventional Medicine. When completed in 2017, the $19.4 million, 22,500-square-foot facility will combine new technologies and bring in some of the best cardiologists in the field.

This investment will address ever-changing surgical and procedural technologies by placing all related interventional services – cardiology, radiology, vascular surgery and cardiothoracic surgery care – in one location with upgraded technology. The upgrade also will offer a “hybrid” operating room and expanded pre- and post-care service capacity.

“We’re building out a whole new procedural suite so that we’re current with the technology and with the talent coming in,” Milton explains. “That keeps access to high-quality care right here in the community.”

Looking Inward

About four years ago, Ellis Medicine saw the need to drive quality and improvement into the organization and it turned inward to do so. The organization started a lean initiative to improve performance among the staff.  

“I always think of nursing as being a backbone of an acute care hospital,” Milton explains. “And we work to get the nurses engaged in the ideas that are going to drive improvement and process improvements because it’s so important to get them involved. It improves the chances of these positive changes sticking.”

Milton says that the senior staff at Ellis Medicine spends a lot of time together to better drive these initiatives. Through offsite planning sessions and leadership development retreats, they learn how to be better leaders, help everyone develop a positive work/life balance and engage employees at all levels. 

“I’m proud of the engagement we have with the physicians and nurses and that they’re embracing innovation in such a positive way,” Milton adds. “We’re really creating the new Ellis. I’m really proud of the way the nurses and physicians have come together to position Ellis for the future.”

Growing Strong

While internally the organization grows stronger every day, Ellis Medicine wanted to work on making the organization stronger as a whole. One year ago, it started a project called Ellis Strong to make Ellis Medicine a more fit organization. Ellis Medicine partnered with Berkeley Research Group last year to look at all aspects of the organization to drive improvement for processes and weed out waste.

“Everything from revenue cycle opportunities to patient flow to clinical variations – these drive improvements in all areas,” Milton explains. “We’re seeing some good success that falls in line with being innovative.”

Ellis Medicine operates on a fee-for-service model, where it receives reimbursement for specific services provided to patients. But always wanting to be innovative, it is making a shift to the value-based payment model, which tends to reward healthcare providers for the value of services provided. By partnering with a few local insurance companies for value-based contracts, Ellis Medicine can share in the savings and receive the benefits. 

Additionally, Ellis Medicine partnered with St. Peter’s hospital in Albany, N.Y., to create the nonprofit Innovative Health Alliance of New York (IHANY) – an ACO in the Medicare Shared Savings Program. The organization’s ongoing goal is to improve the health of the communities it serves through physicians and community-based organizations working together in new, more coordinated ways to better care for individuals and lower the costs of healthcare.

“Ellis is somewhat unique as an independent hospital in our community,” Milton says. “We like our independence but know that we need to do our due diligence to see if independence is the right thing for us or if we need to align with someone. That’s our current initiative: to assess this community, see what’s going on here and determine what’s best for us.” 

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