With a resume as thick as a medical chart, Dr. James Wood impressed the staff at Piedmont Medical Center when he was named chief medical officer in December.
There was academic excellence, both as a student and a teacher. Wood was Phi Beta Kappa and medical school class president at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He was a teaching professor at Emory and the Medical College of Georgia.
A former researcher in surgical neurology at the National Institutes of Health, Wood was an accomplished writer and editor with two textbooks to his credit, as well as more than 100 articles and chapters in medical journals.
He was a practicing neurosurgeon in Atlanta. His administrative skills included serving as the president of the medical staff at Atlanta Medical Center, a 400-bed hospital with about 700 physicians.
Rock Hills Piedmont Medical Center has 288 beds and 325 physicians.
Nine months after Dr. James Patterson, the previous chief medical officer, had departed PMC, some on staff might have wondered: What will Dr. Woods focus be?
While he can slip into the thickest, polysyllabic medical talk, the bespectacled, balding, bow-tie wearing Wood quickly dispels any notion that he is an absented-minded professor.
From his first week forward, Wood could be found on the medical floors during 9 a.m. rounds, dropping into rooms to listen and participate in the bed huddles with doctors, nurses and patients. He put listening first, building teamwork second, and above all, stressed patient satisfaction.
His job description, stripped to the simplest terms, is improving patient care, he said.
He was the right selection for chief medical officer, to lead us in a new direction, said Jamilla Hasan-Jones, Piedmonts interim chief nursing officer.
The right selection, said Hasan-Jones and others, because Wood can be hyper-focused on a problem or individual patient, but can pull back and see things from 10,000 feet, collecting reams of data to determine how things should operate.
He is a present leader, said Tina Cronin, Piedmonts interim director of quality. Thats really important, to see a leader as a role model. That says a lot that hes out there with the staff, doing the work, willing to earn their trust.
Wood says several things sold him on Piedmont. One was the chance to reunite with Piedmonts chief executive officer, Bill Masterton. The two had worked together in Atlanta, and Wood found Masterton to be honest, hardworking and thorough in his duties.
Masterton said he wanted Wood because of his clinical credibility and because he is a great advocate for physicians and quality care.
While driving around Rock Hill, Wood says he was impressed with Winthrop University, the citys downtown area and the parks and green spaces.
Its an elegant, calming atmosphere, he said.
So the 64-year-old Wood accepted Mastertons offer to help turn Piedmont around.
It cant be one person that turns it around, Wood said. It needs to be the entire medical staff.
The quality of the staff was a prime consideration in his decision. Wood knew he wouldnt have to start from the ground zero. The staff was already serving the sickest of patients, and it wasnt shying away from those needing heart, stroke or neurosurgery care.
As proof of the staffs quality, Wood points to top performer status on quality measures such as heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care from the Joint Commission in 2011. A Medicare quality of care study released a year earlier rated Piedmont as worse than the national average for care for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia from patient data from mid-2007 to mid-2010.
Piedmonts most recent medical honor is from the American Heart Association, the American Stroke Association and the states Department of Health and Environmental Control which rated PMC as a Hospital of the Year for 2012.
All of the honors measure the quality that was in place when Wood came.
Wood and Masterton are not content to rest on these accomplishments.
They know that if you dont meet Medicare quality of care measures, you could incur a 1 percent penalty on your Medicare gross revenues. They know that meeting quality can be more difficult as patient volumes grow.
To meet quality measures, they have initiated a Time Out before surgery where anyone on the surgical team can delay the procedure if they feel something isnt right.
We want to empower anyone of the team, Wood said.
Another effort to meet quality measures is post-discharge care. You cant control the environment of what happens before the patient comes, but we can do a better with the after care, he said.
Much of the post-discharge care focuses on patients lifestyle choices, getting them to eat right or exercise so they wont be readmitted. Readmissions could also affect Medicare revenues, Wood said.
Wood has used his meticulous method of inquiry to talk with staff members about when they fall short of quality measures, said Hasan-Jones. His focus is making sure the goals are met every time, Hasan-Jones said.
Other changes include a neuroscience center that combined assets from Piedmonts stroke center, its epilepsy center and heart center. The heart center is doing electrophysiology, which examines problems with heart rhythms and finds the best treatment for them.
Wood is both optimistic and realistic about the changes.
Improving quality can be a tough grind, he said.
Nonetheless, Woods relentless drive to always do more has resulted in a high set of expectations.
We are judged on satisfaction. That will change as perception changes and that could take years, he said. We dont want to wait that long.
Don Worthington • 803-329-4066