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Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health at 125 Years: Still Leading

Jan L. Bergen
President & CEO, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health
May 6, 2018

When Hospital Day was first celebrated in 1921, Lancaster General Hospital had already been serving its community for 28 years. Today “Hospital Day” has grown into National Hospital Week, and Lancaster General Hospital has grown from its beginnings in a three-story residence at 322 North Queen Street (where 53 patients were admitted in its first year) into a modern, sophisticated system that, as part of Penn Medicine, offers patients virtually every possible health service, from research, prevention and screening to highly specialized treatments not available anywhere else.

As Lancaster General Hospital celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, it’s instructive to reflect not only on our growth over the last century-and-a-quarter, but also on the very nature of what healthcare is and what it must become in the future.

When LGH opened in 1893, hospitals were places with very limited options for treating the sick or injured. This was an era before antibiotics, before X-rays, before vaccines. An era when a patient’s recovery was as likely a matter of luck as it was a matter of the skill and good intentions of doctors and nurses.

Our knowledge about health and healthcare has certainly expanded since then, and Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health has been on the forefront of these advances over the last 125 years. Today, we are nationally recognized for the quality of our care. This year, LGH became one of only seven hospitals nationwide to simultaneously hold the highest, five-star quality rating by Medicare; be among Healthgrades’ America’s 50 Best Hospitals list; hold an “A” safety grade from the Leapfrog Group; and be ranked by U.S. News as a High Performing Hospital in all nine adult procedures and conditions.

We train physicians, nurses, and allied professionals. We participate in cutting-edge research. With the new Frederick Building and our new Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital both welcoming patients this year, we continue to invest in modern facilities and technologies that make our care safer, more effective, and responsive to the needs of our community. And, with Penn Medicine, we are positioned to accelerate and expand our capabilities in each of these important areas in the years ahead. We already have brought enhanced access to advanced surgical services and seamless coordination with world-class specialists that were previously unavailable in our region. Our linked electronic medical records enables care that is even more coordinated.

Still, as an industry and organization, we must be committed to continuously improving in areas such as safety, quality, cost, and the patient and family experience of care. Recently, as part of our Healthcare Scholar Lecture series, we invited noted physician, author, and public health researcher Atul Gawande, MD, to speak to an audience of community leaders and healthcare professionals on this topic.

Dr. Gawande is well-known for his best-selling books about how healthcare is provided and experienced by both patients and caregivers alike. Some of his recent research has been dedicated to understanding the variations among different healthcare providers—for example, understanding why higher cost doesn’t always lead to better results—and identifying how some hospitals and caregivers produce better patient outcomes more efficiently, more safely, and at lower cost.

In his remarks, Dr. Gawande talked about the difference between knowledge and execution. Healthcare providers throughout the developed world have lots of knowledge, but poor patient outcomes and higher costs can still result because of poor execution. Dr. Gawande spoke about the importance of system design that can reduce execution errors, such as the use of clinical checklists by doctors and nurses. Also key: communication among providers, patients, and families that identify what the patient’s goals are for his or her care.

During his remarks, Dr. Gawande noted that both LG Health and Penn Medicine have been early adopters of reimagining how care is provided. Our focus on care redesign is based on our desire to consistently deliver a high level of quality and safety for our patients. I believe this is one of the most exciting and meaningful developments in which LG Health has ever been involved.

The founders of Lancaster General Hospital—who opened a hospital with seven private rooms and a ward—probably would not recognize our large and sophisticated organization today.  And they might be overwhelmed with how complex healthcare has become and awed by our knowledge of disease and the breadth of illness and injury we treat successfully today.

But I would like to think that those founders would see our physicians, nurses, employees, and volunteers today as kindred spirits who share the same mission that has spanned 125 years: to relieve suffering, to support and enhance life, and to make Lancaster County the healthiest community it can possibly be.

As we mark another National Hospital Week, these values remain unchanged and our dedication to living them each day is as strong as ever.

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