A pas­sion for the cause

Christof­fersen fo­cuses on board ef­fec­tive­ness, the pa­tient ex­pe­ri­ence

Modern Healthcare - - SPECIAL FEATURE -

While her chil­dren were grow­ing up, Terri Christof­fersen was of­ten asked to raise money to sup­port a va­ri­ety of ac­tiv­i­ties, such as the school band. But un­like many other par­ents, Christof­fersen dis­cov­ered that she loved it.

“My pas­sion for fundrais­ing is that I al­ways be­lieve in the cause I am fundrais­ing for— al­ways, al­ways, al­ways,” Christof­fersen says.

Since that long-ago cam­paign to fi­nance high school band uni­forms, Christof­fersen, 63, has raised money for myr­iad projects and served on dozens of not-for-profit boards.

Among those boards: St. Luke’s Hospi­tal in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Christof­fersen joined the hospi­tal’s board of trus­tees in 2000, chair­ing the board from 2005 to 2007 and the gov­er­nance ef­fec­tive­ness com­mit­tee from 2008 to 2010. Cur­rently, she is chair­woman of St. Luke’s Health Care Foun­da­tion and a trustee of St. Luke’s par­ent, the Iowa Health Sys­tem, Des Moines, where she chairs the qual­ity com­mit­tee. She also is an ex-of­fi­cio trustee at St. Luke’s.

“One of the things I find re­mark­able about her is she just keeps go­ing. She is al­ways will­ing to put her shoul­der to the wheel,” says Ted Townsend, pres­i­dent and CEO of St. Luke’s.

For her ac­com­plish­ments, Christof­fersen has been named the 2012 Trustee of the Year for large hos­pi­tals—those with 100 beds or more.

When look­ing back over her record as a trustee at St. Luke’s, Christof­fersen is most proud of shep­herd­ing im­prove­ments in the gov­er­nance struc­ture, em­pha­siz­ing board, com­mit­tee and in­di­vid­ual ac­count­abil­ity for per­for­mance. This oc­curred while she was board chair.

The first step is a for­mal as­sess­ment process. Trus­tees an­swer seven open-ended ques­tions about their own per­for­mance. They eval­u­ate what they have ac­com­plished, where they would like to im­prove, and what type of

train­ing ses­sions would help them.

The gov­er­nance com­mit­tee also eval­u­ates each board mem­ber, pri­mar­ily by track­ing at­ten­dance at meet­ings and ed­u­ca­tional events. As a group, the trus­tees also com­plete an as­sess­ment of how well the board per­formed.

The board and each com­mit­tee then de­velop an­nual goals with met­rics to mea­sure the re­sults of their ef­forts. Progress on each goal is de­tailed in writ­ten re­ports twice a year.

For ex­am­ple, the trus­tees in 2006 and 2007 wanted to keep abreast of ef­forts to im­prove pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion, so the board’s qual­ity com­mit­tee ac­tively mon­i­tored scores from sur­veys, set­ting an ex­pec­ta­tion of con­tin­ual im­prove­ment.

Pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion also has been an area of in­tense fo­cus for the ad­min­is­tra­tion and board since 2005 be­cause the hospi­tal’s scores on sur­veys “weren’t as high as they needed to be,” Christof­fersen re­calls.

Christof­fersen gained first­hand in­sight on what it was like to be a fam­ily mem­ber of a St. Luke’s pa­tient while her late hus­band bat­tled can­cer dur­ing the sec­ond half of 2005. She shared her con­cerns about some as­pects of her ex­pe­ri­ence with Townsend, who re­calls, “She was very in­sis­tent that we needed to im­prove. And she was right.”

Fo­cused at­ten­tion on pa­tient sat­is­fac­tion has led to bet­ter scores. St. Luke’s moved from the 75th per­centile for in­pa­tient care on Press Ganey rank­ings in 2004 to the 90th per­centile in 2005. Scores have hov­ered at the 90th per­centile since then.

“I knew we had an op­por­tu­nity—and I al­ways look at it as an op­por­tu­nity—to make things bet­ter,” Christof­fersen says.


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