Lee hon­ored for in­no­va­tions at chil­dren’s hos­pi­tals

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ACHE hon­ors four

for their achieve­ments

As vice pres­i­dent of op­er­a­tions and clin­i­cal ser­vices at Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Dal­las from 2005 to 2010, Brett Lee led a project to re­duce wait times to re­ceive an MRI from 16 weeks to one day, boost­ing net an­nual rev­enue by $5 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

He also ended the pre­vi­ous prac­tice of batch­pro­cess­ing lab spec­i­mens, and the pathol­ogy depart­ment im­proved turn­around times by an av­er­age of 60% han­dling sam­ples as they ar­rived, cut­ting $400,000 in an­nual ex­penses.

In less than a year as chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer at Ri­ley Hos­pi­tal for Chil­dren, af­fil­i­ated with In­di­ana Uni­ver­sity Health in In­di­anapo­lis, Lee cre­ated a process im­prove­ment steer­ing com­mit­tee that has kicked off sev­eral projects, in­clud­ing a real-time model for med­i­ca­tion de­liv­ery—pre­vi­ously done once ev­ery 24 hours—that could save $1 mil­lion a year in drugs wasted be­cause they were de­liv­ered too late to pa­tients who al­ready had been dis­charged.

He’s also led the first of three phases of mov­ing some of the 451-bed hos­pi­tal’s pa­tients to the new Simon Fam­ily Tower, which has in­volved the med­i­cal sur­gi­cal unit and will in­cor­po­rate the can­cer cen­ter, neona­tal in­ten­sive-care unit, burn unit, pe­di­atric in­ten­sive care and emer­gency depart­ment by the time it is fin­ished in 2013.

Lee’s lead­er­ship in bring­ing about such process and cash-flow im­prove­ments de­rives from his de­vo­tion to best-prac­tice man­age­ment con­cepts such as Lean and Six Sigma, in which he has re­ceived cer­ti­fi­ca­tion—and per­haps more im­por­tant, from his pas­sion to im­prove chil­dren’s health­care. And this work, at three of the nation’s 12 largest chil­dren’s hos­pi­tals, has earned him the 2011 Robert S. Hud­gens Me­mo­rial Award for Young Health­care Ex­ec­u­tive of the Year from the Amer­i­can Col­lege of Health­care Ex­ec­u­tives.

“Kids’ health­care of­ten­times can in­flu­ence giv­ing a child a chance at an en­tire life­time, which is some­thing that at­tracts a re­ally unique group of in­di­vid­u­als,” says Lee, 36, who be­gan his ca­reer as a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist and first found his pas­sion for work­ing with young peo­ple through ado­les­cent sports medicine. “Ev­ery­one can res­onate with the mis­sion of a chil­dren’s hos­pi­tal. They know they’re part of some­thing big­ger than them­selves.”

Lee planned to work in adult phys­i­cal ther­apy for his en­tire ca­reer be­fore be­ing re­cruited as a PT to Cook Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Fort Worth, Texas, and “when I got into chil­dren’s health­care, it re­ally got into my blood,” he says. “Once I got into the fam­ily, so to speak, I couldn’t see my­self do­ing any­thing else.”

He re­turned to 300-bed Cook Chil­dren’s to com­plete his res­i­dency af­ter re­ceiv­ing his grad­u­ate de­gree in health­care ad­min­is­tra­tion at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health. He be­came a vice pres­i­dent at Cook Chil­dren’s, lead­ing an ef­fort to triage the 70% of chil­dren who ar­rived at the emer­gency depart­ment with pri­mary-care is­sues.

“We could have ex­panded ca­pac­ity to ad­dress that,” Lee says. “But we re­ally wanted to en­gage the com­mu­nity’s pe­di­a­tri­cians in tak­ing an ac­tive role to ad­dress the is­sue.” Those pa­tients who didn’t have pe­di­a­tri­cians and couldn’t be as­signed one for in­surance rea­sons were di­rected to the net­work of com­mu­nity clin­ics in town.

Lee’s ad­min­is­tra­tive and lead­er­ship ca­pa­bil­i­ties made it easy to con­vince ex­ec­u­tives at Cook Chil­dren’s to hire him, says Rus­sell Tol­man, for­mer pres­i­dent and CEO of the hos­pi­tal who re­tired in 2007, and who served as Lee’s pre­cep­tor.

“He has a great pas­sion for pe­di­atric health­care. He’s a per­son who, as a phys­i­cal ther­a­pist, was noted for be­ing able to help kids with his mo­ti­va­tional skills and his in­ter­per­sonal skills,” Tol­man says. “He’s a hum­ble, de­cent, won­der­ful per­son, and he’s a good, strong leader. He doesn’t have the need to step out in front and take credit for ev­ery­thing.”

Those same skills and qual­i­ties served Lee well at 400-bed Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal in Dal­las, says Mark McLoone, for­mer ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent and Lee’s boss there, who is now CEO at Methodist Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in San An­to­nio.

“He al­ways treats peo­ple with re­spect,” McLoone says. “He has out­stand­ing lis­ten­ing skills. He takes peo­ple’s in­put se­ri­ously. Folks un­der­stand that, and they’re in­clined to work with him to­ward that kind of pos­i­tive, col­lab­o­ra­tive out­come.”

In ad­di­tion, he says, Lee’s abil­ity to an­a­lyze tangled pro­cesses such as those in the MRI and phar­macy de­part­ments at Chil­dren’s Med­i­cal has im­proved through­put tremen­dously.

“He can use the an­a­lytic skills, but that doesn’t lead to … the in­abil­ity to make timely, de­ci­sive moves,” McLoone says. “He has con­fi­dence in his de­ci­sions. And he does it with com­pas­sion too. He has a fam­ily him­self, and he’s truly ded­i­cated to what pro­vides op­ti­mal out­comes to kids and serves the com­mu­nity well. He is the quin­tes­sen­tial ex­am­ple of a ser­vant-leader.”

Through the ACHE’s men­tor­ship pro­gram, Lee has served the health­care man­age­ment pro­fes­sion by giv­ing back—as Tol­man of­ten re­minded him he must.

“He al­ways says, ‘I gave of my time and en­ergy to de­velop you—now you owe it to the next gen­er­a­tion of health­care lead­ers,’ ” Lee says. “I take that to heart.” Lee has served as pre­cep­tor for “at least 20” full-time res­i­dents at Cook and at Chil­dren’s in Dal­las and has par­tic­i­pated in round­tables at ACHE events in Dal­las-Fort Worth. “It was good to in­ter­act with young folks and see where they see their role,” he says.

Lee also has con­trib­uted by co-au­thor­ing a book called Grow­ing Lead­ers in Health­care: Lessons from the Cor­po­rate World (Health­care Ad­min­is­tra­tion Press, 2009), which led to an ACHE lead­er­ship devel­op­ment course and other speak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“The book is a re­flec­tion on what are some of the best prac­tices in in­dus­try, and how they can be ap­plied to health­care,” he says. “What are the con­cepts that will give you the biggest bang for your buck in terms of lead­er­ship devel­op­ment?”

Brett Lee

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