TCU Partnerships Shape the Future of Medicine

Leadership programs at two Fort Worth hospitals take physicians into uncharted territory.

(This story by Trisha Spence was originally in the Winter 2018 issue of TCU Magazine.)

Peaks the Dragon sat among dozens of furry friends inside a Build-A-Bear Workshop. The mythical blue and lime green creature is the mascot of Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth.

A 4-year-old boy and his 2-year-old sister went through their bears’ heart ceremony, dancing with and kissing the small fabric hearts when instructed. The children closed their eyes and made wishes before inserting the hearts into the cotton stuffing.

The boy, missing a couple of front teeth, selected an outfit while a Build-A-Bear employee sewed up his black bear. The boy’s outfit, red Chuck Taylors, jeans and green MVP T-shirt, was complete with a badge of honor: a Thomas the Tank Engine sticker. He chose a blue outfit for his bear and a hat with ear holes for good measure.

Once upon a time, Dr. Donald Beam, medical director of the Life After Cancer Program at Cook Children’s, and his fellow physicians thought amenities such as Build-A-Bear (the first of its kind in a hospital) distracted patients, making them late for their appointments.

Photo of Dr. Donald Beam examining a patient

Dr. Donald Beam examines Malachi Ordonez. The physician’s leadership group analyzed Cook Children’s throughput process. (Photo by Mark Graham)

Physicians often are aware of such operational issues but don’t always have a seat at the table when hospital administrators make choices. That may be changing, however, since Cook Children’s and another hospital in Fort Worth teamed up with TCU Neeley Executive Education to equip health care professionals with leadership and business tools.

Working with the executive program, hospital administrators customized course curriculums and project assignments for their organizations’ emerging leaders in the business of health care.

In the Cook Children’s leadership program, Advancing Healthcare Leadership, Beam’s project team members realized they were wrong about the reason for patients’ appointment delays. The misperception was uncovered when the group was tasked with improving the throughput, or the time from patient arrival to departure.

A digital time stamp showed the hospital’s fun features, such as Build-A-Bear, the tongue drum in the Child Life Zone or the hospital’s Lego model, did not cause the delays. Walking through the hospital’s throughput steps, the physicians in Beam’s leadership group witnessed superfluous procedures instead of the straightforward process they expected.

For example, the inpatient medical records system required patients’ parents to redo and re-sign forms during every visit. The group’s suggestion: minimize redundant paperwork. With a combination inpatient/outpatient system, all visits would be linked.

“The goal is to not just improve the patient experience, but I think if people get through this process and they’re not as stressed and not as frustrated, they get much more out of it,” said Beam, a pediatric hematologist/oncologist. “It’s a 100 percent reflection of us. The happy patient is the one who is more likely to do the right thing.”

Read more in TCU Magazine.