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New Hillcrest Hospital President Talks Goals, Transparency, Safety & More

Dr. Brian Harte became president on Sept. 1.

Dr. Brian Harte is pictured. He is president of Hillcrest Hospital. Photo Courtesy of Hillcrest Hospital.
Dr. Brian Harte is pictured. He is president of Hillcrest Hospital. Photo Courtesy of Hillcrest Hospital.
Though he didn't expect to wind up as its president, Dr. Brian Harte says there's no place he'd rather be than Hillcrest Hospital.

He became president on Sept. 1, following a reorganization at community hospitals throughout Cleveland Clinic's system. Part of his sentiment relates to his previous stint as chief operating officer at Hillcrest. He followed that up by spending 18 months as South Pointe Hospital's president before the announcement.

Harte, also a general medicine physician, estimates that Hillcrest is three to four times the size of South Pointe with more services, including open-heart surgery and radiation therapy. In a question-and-answer interview, Harte talked about why he won't shy away from that challenge and why practicing at Hillcrest is like "getting a chance to sing or act on Broadway."

Here's an excerpt:

What has the past month been like for you?

"It's coming back to a very familiar place. I've been a Cleveland Clinic physician nine years, but for much of that time I've been on staff at this hospital as a physician. For about a year and a half period, one of my developmental roles was as the chief operating officer here. Many of the physicians, I know. Most of the leadership, I know, most of the managing directors. Many of the nursing leaders, I know, and the facilities leaders. There's certainly some familiar faces, but I think it's a complicated place. There's a lot of great, amazing and medically complex things that happen at a large hospital like this.

For me, it was less about getting to know the people and their roles as it was just getting back up to speed. It's been a pleasure that way to sort of reconnect and reestablish former relationships and also see what some of the differences are. There continue to be some great investments from the Cleveland Clinic on the facilities side. Things we were just talking about two years ago and have come to pass. Those are great for our community and great for our patients and great for our caregivers. There's been a lot of evolution of attitudes of what Hillcrest's role is in the health system. A lot of pride, there's a lot of great things that have happened here.

"What are my goals? My goals are, as a clinician, I think it is fundamental to what we do that our language be the language of quality, the language of service. Those are our priorities. Those are not the things that we look to make time for, they're the bedrock of why we're here. Getting the chance to practice at Hillcrest is like getting a chance to sing or act on Broadway. It's the place that everybody that, I think, aspires to be. The place that acquires immense talent and also the place where the spotlight is. You've got to be aware that our community, our patients and, quite frankly, our organization has very high expectations of us. I welcome that."

A lot of people would assume the main campus (of Cleveland Clinic) would be like Broadway.

"I think we can be the best of all worlds here. Community hospitals are fantastic places. For the health system, in many cases, we are the doorstep to the entire organization for the communities we live in that engenders and creates responsibility of openness to our community, of mutual respect, of access and availability. Community hospitals, I think, really thrive with that kind of culture ... We don't do pancreas transplants, but we do complex, open-heart surgery. We have a neonatal ICU. We take the amazing and complex miracles that happen at the Cleveland Clinic and we meld them here with a community openness, responsive culture, so we get the best of both worlds."

What are some short- and long-term improvements people will notice under your leadership?

The first thing I should say is that (former Hillcrest President) Jeff Leimgruber is one of my absolute mentors or role models. I think the evolution and development of culture he brought here, his mindfulness of the importance of community is something that he taught me from the first day I got to the door here. The two things I think I can bring are No. 1, a clinical language around quality and around service that melds the clinical component, based on my experiences as a physician, and the community component ... That is what I'm emphasizing. When I go to talk to patients I want to know what is that we're doing well from a service standpoint. Those are things you want to do as much of as possible. We want to be the best. We want to be the most exceptional, most highly regarded hospital on the planet, period. And also, what are we not doing well? The purpose of asking the questions, of transparency, is to make problems and opportunities known. Not so we can feel bad about them, but so we can fix them.

"The second is that people will notice that I will be very visible. I take every opportunity to not only walk the halls of the hospital, but to ask our staff how do they think we're doing? What are their goals? What is they need for us to achieve our goals together? To go into patients room and have that very frank conversation and give the information back to our team ... I give every patient my card, I give every patient my cell phone. I can't meet every patient, but the ones I can, I can try to be a role model with them ... It's that important to me because it's that important to the organization that this hospital be exceptional."

With regard to police and incident reports at the hospital, are there going to be any improvements to security?

When we talk about safety in the health care industry, but a lot of times it's about patient safety. The right medications, the right interventions, but we also work in a hospital. It's a big hospital and it's a hospital that serves a big community ... we take care of lots of patients and lots of different kinds of patients. We take care of trauma patients and patients that come from far away through various means. The best way I can answer that is that the safety of our employees and our visitors is also paramount. We can't always prevent or foresee every issue.

"Just as an example some of the efforts we go to, our entire clinical leadership and security huddle every morning at 8:30 and look at known and potential risks to our patients, to our patients, to our caregivers and how we can best mitigate them. We're very vigilant about that. Our security manager is excellent. He has a great rapport with our nursing staff, and we've spent a lot of time thinking about that as we've grown."

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