ExcellenceNorth Alliance Presents Award to Bristol Health, Bristol, Connecticut

One bright spot during the COVID-19 pandemic is that, recently, ExcellenceNorth Alliance (ENA), in partnership with Partners in Performance Excellence (PiPEx), announced that Bristol Health in Bristol, Connecticut, earned a Silver Recognition in the 2020 ENA Baldrige-based Awards and Recognition Program.  

Bristol Health is an integrated healthcare system offering services that include hospital and specialty health services, home and hospice care, skilled nursing, and emergency medical services. It was recognized for demonstrating a system-wide commitment to safety, reliability, transparency, and community service. This commitment is built on a culture of Communication, Accountability, Respect, and Empathy. Each is implemented through its Rock Excellence Journey by incorporating performance improvement methodologies and continuous assessment to identify improvements. Both its culture and Journey connect with its vision to advance the health of the community by providing integrated, innovative, and individualized patient care.

The recognition process evaluates an organization’s strengths and improvement opportunities against the Baldrige Framework for Performance Excellence, which represents the leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice. Earning the silver level of recognition involves the submission of an application for evaluation by a team of trained volunteers. The volunteer examiners conduct interviews with the applicant, after which they provide a confidential feedback report with strengths and opportunities to support continued improvement based on world-class best practices.

As ENA’s Executive Director, Anne Warner, said, “. . . The fact that this healthcare system opted to continue the evaluation during the COVID-19 pandemic further reflects a significant commitment to excellence in all aspects of its operations. We identified many examples that verify how its Rock Excellence Journey prepared Bristol Health to adapt and respond to the virus. Lessons learned during this time are being shared throughout the system to enhance daily operations and to prepare for the future.”

I’m a passionate believer in continuous quality improvement, so I place a high value on the Baldrige Framework for Performance Excellence. Its principles have helped my own business prosper, and through serving ENA as its Chairman of the Board, I can help other organizations in Northern New England thrive sustainably. I was thrilled in January to have been presented with a Leadership Excellence Award in the Health Care sector from the Baldrige Foundation.

To learn more about ExcellenceNorth Alliance and its mission to help Northern New England organizations and communities achieve their goals as the rate of change and disruption continues to dramatically increase across all business sectors, visit http://www.excellencenorth.org.

Posted in Community | Tagged | Leave a comment

Volunteering Makes Our Lives Better!

Since coming to NH in 1995 to lead Northeast Delta Dental, I’ve had the pleasure and honor of working with so many incredible nonprofits. Organizations filled with people so passionate about improving the business and everyday lives of the people in our region. Along the way, I have been recognized for my participation. I am truly humbled and honored by their acknowledgment. I want to thank all of my fellow volunteers for their efforts in the tri-state area! Together, we’re making a difference.

Posted in Community, Leadership, Volunteering | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Dental offices reopening: Heroes work here!

Have you seen the signs thanking heroes emerging during the COVID-19 pandemic? I haven’t seen one listing dental professionals, but I think they should be included. Outside of every dental office a sign should appear that says, “Heroes Work Here!”. When you consider that the disease is spread through small droplets from the nose and mouth, and where and how dentists and dental auxiliary staff work, the risk factors of dental health care professionals approach those of other medical care professionals—or exceed them!

On March 16, the American Dental Association (ADA) recommended that dental offices close to all but urgent and emergency dental care. After several weeks of being unavailable for all elective procedures, most dentists are back to business, following the recommendations of the ADA, CDC and their state departments of health and safety to ensure the safety of their patients and staff.

During the period when dental offices were closed, teledentistry helped patients with a dental emergency access the expertise of their dentist via HIPAA-compliant live video conferences to triage the problems and discuss next steps. Teledentistry visits can often alleviate patient anxiety and eliminate a trip to the emergency room. Many dental insurance companies appreciate the role played by teledentistry and reimburse for teledentistry procedures, and many dentists have added teledentistry as a service option. Dr. Bryan Hoertdoerfer, of Hoertdoerfer Dentistry, Manchester, says, ‘We have incorporated teledentistry as an option within our business. Teledentistry is here to stay.”

Dental offices are inherently health- and safety-conscious; even so, if you’ve visited your dentist’s office since they’ve reopened, you’ve seen several changes because of the pandemic. Because dental offices have been closed, you might have to wait a bit longer for an appointment, so schedule one soon. If you haven’t visited since they’ve reopened, here are some changes you can expect.

You may be screened for COVID-19 symptoms during your appointment call, and you may be asked similar questions the day of your dental visit. Some dental offices may want you to answer those questions outside of the office, or as soon as you walk in. Your temperature may be taken. You will most likely be asked to wear a mask, which you can remove in the dental chair. You may be asked to wait in your car and call when you arrive rather than waiting in the waiting room; in the waiting room, you may see fewer chairs and no toys or magazines. Visitors are unlikely to be welcomed, with the possible exception of one parent with a young child. You may be asked to use hand sanitizer. You may hear the hum of air purifiers. You may see office areas shielded, and dentists and dental auxiliary staff (dental hygienists and assistants) wearing more personal protective equipment than usual.

Dental office safety is a joint responsibility, so please reschedule your appointment if you develop symptoms, test positively for COVID-19, or are exposed to someone with COVID-19 to protect the dental health professionals who are protecting you.

Northeast Delta Dental is pleased to have been able to support our participating dentists with PPE and financial relief while dental offices are closed, and now as they reopen. To learn more, visit www.nedelta.com.

Tom Raffio
President & CEO
Northeast Delta Dental

Posted in COVID-19, Northeast Delta Dental | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Relief to Stakeholders During COVID-19

COVID-19 has had an influence on all aspects of our lives. It’s been my goal and that of my colleagues to do what we can for our stakeholders. In collaboration my board of directors, senior management team and in-house counsel, we came up with a remedial plan to grant aid to the people we serve in our territory– Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.  In this interview with Rory Farquarson, Principal at Elixirr, I explain how we arrived at relieving some of the pain the pandemic has inflicted on our employees, providers, employers, customers, and brokers/producers. It’s a mix of caring hearts meeting the numbers [actuarial and financial] to arrive at a solution that works for everyone. We’re all in this together, and together we will persevere.

Posted in COVID-19, General Comments | Leave a comment

Professional Mindfulness: Increased Productivity; Decreased Stress

Practicing mindfulness can help tune out the added work environment distractions and stressors which COVID-19 has created. Even so, it might not seem intuitive for a successful midsize company to advance its continuous quality improvement program by training its employees in what we call professional mindfulness.

During my years as president & CEO, Northeast Delta Dental has adopted policies resulting in engaged and empowered employees. We offer training beginning with multi-faceted new employee onboarding and provide many training opportunities preparing employees for internal advancement. Despite outstanding employee survey results and winning awards for our HR practices, a few years ago we recognized that our employees were feeling the stress that comes with complex business issues in a distraction-rich environment. After researching possible stress reduction remedies, we decided to offer monthly training in the facets of mindfulness that could be applied in a business setting.

Mindfulness is often equated with meditation, possibly because the word has many definitions. At Northeast Delta Dental, we define mindfulness as “intentionally directing awareness to the present moment, in a focused and sustained manner, with nonjudgment”. The word “nonjudgment” is important because we’re trained in nonjudgmental communication, and “sustained” reflects our training in time management. We apply three elements of mindfulness: effective communication, time management, and meditation.

Mindfulness is important for communication because we are a service organization and many of us communicate directly with stakeholders, including our customers. Effective communication includes listening respectfully and trying to understand the speaker’s viewpoint before talking. Mindfulness has helped us identify time management tools that help employees work more efficiently, be more productive, and experience less stress. We also explore ways to make our meetings more mindful, apply mindfulness to our email and texting habits, and encourage unitasking rather than multitasking. Meditation is at the heart of mindfulness, and we encourage our employees to meditate regularly and provide quiet space in which they can relax, clear their minds, and let go of distractions.

Employees are encouraged to participate in training and apply mindfulness principles. About 30% of our employees have participated in mindfulness training offered since 2017. Feedback from confidential interviews conducted by an independent research consultant shows that those regularly practicing professional mindfulness receive positive benefits that include increased focus and productivity and decreased stress and anxiety.

If you are interested in exploring this topic further and are a member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), you can read my May 2020 article entitled “Living for the Moment” in their publication, Quality Progress (QP), or you can click here. Another source on the topic is Mindfulness: A Better Me; A Better You; A Better World, a book I coauthored with Annabel Beerel, PhD, the organizational expert who trains our employees in professional mindfulness. If you have any questions about professional mindfulness or practice it in your business and want to share some of your experiences, I’d be happy to hear from you.

Additional Resources on Mindfulness

The Benefits of Mindfulness – How Could It Help You?  https://inlpcenter.org/the-benefits-of-mindfulness-how-could-it-help-you/

Posted in Mindfullness | Leave a comment