Ames: At South Texas Health System we put our patients second*

Top STHS executive says if the health system takes good care of its staff, they, in turn, are going to take better care of patients.

EDINBURG, Texas – Lance Ames, CEO of STHS-Edinburg and STHS-Children’s Hospitals, says the health system does not put its patients first. However, he is quick to point out that that does not mean they are ignored.

Ames spoke at a recent breakfast event held at the Edinburg hospital and hosted by the McAllen Chamber of Commerce. STHS stands for South Texas Health System.

“So you would think in our industry patients would come first, right? That’s probably what your goal would be if you came into the hospital. But what we are trying to teach within our health system is that patients come second,” Ames said.

“So, who is coming first? It’s our employees. Our view is, if you treat your employees well, if you help them get the tools they need, if you have them come to work, and they actually want to come to work, because you’re creating recognition systems, you’re saying thank you, you’re doing team-building in a way that people actually enjoy coming to work, they in turn are going to take better care of the patients. And so that is the culture we’re trying to drive.”

Ames said STHS has an acronym that it likes to use in all of its hospitals. It is called ACE IT. ACE IT stands for Attitude, Commitment, Enthusiasm, Innovation and Teamwork. “So we try to drive that every day,” Ames said.

Ames took questions from the audience. One question referred to the difference in quality a patient might expect to receive at a stand-alone ER as compared to a hospital.

“As far as people having great experiences at the freestanding ERs versus maybe going to the hospital and having a different experience, I think that is huge. We have over 3,500 employees. You know, it may have just not been a great fit for that person. I really think it’s probably just an individual situation,” Ames said.

He then received warm applause from the audience when he listed the findings of an employee engagement survey.

“We just had an employee engagement survey and… we’re a Fortune 500 company, we have a lot of hospitals across the country, in Washington, DC, Florida, California, South Carolina. And, actually, McAllen was No. 1, and right here at Edinburg, we were No. 2 for the most engaged employee workforces with the most positive experience. That is in the entire Fortune 500 company. So it’s pretty cool that we’ve got that going on right here.”

Ames then discussed the brand new ER at STHS Edinburg. 

“One thing that we’re excited about here is we have a brand new ER. We have a $100 million tower that we just opened in September of last year. And we said, how can we make the design of the ER better,” Ames explained.

“And so what we’ve done is we’ve looked at every step of the process from the time you walk in. We want to triage you immediately and get you well. The way we’ve designed it now is that behind registration are four triage rooms. So, we can be triaging people immediately. If you go into our waiting room, it’s usually empty because we’re getting people out again.”

Ames said the goal is to have patients seen by a provider physician within ten to 15 minutes. 

“And from there we can just keep moving with the treatment process. We get the labs ordered, we get the imaging ordered. We can get the process going. Our goal is 140 minutes, a little over two hours, from start to finish and we meet that goal about 85 percent of the time, which is amazing.”

Ames then took a question from the audience about how well STHS ranks in the US News & World Report rankings.

“I am so grateful you asked that question,” Ames responded. “So, there’s this thing called US News & World Report and they rank healthcare systems. I really don’t want to brag here but South Texas Health System Edinburg was ranked the No. 1 regional health system in this area for two years straight, this year and last year. It just came out.”

There was more applause from the audience.

“It is such a big deal and we don’t pay them (US News & World Report) for that (report) or anything. They just come to us and say, hey, we’ve looked at all the data, we’ve looked at mortality, we’ve looked at complications of care. And they do that whether it’s oncology or stroke or cardiac care. We’re No. 1 as a health system. Two years in a row in this area. There are no other health systems or no other hospitals in this area recognized. And, again, it’s because of the focus on quality every single day.”

Ames was then asked how STHS ranks nationally.

“We are not nationally ranked but we are in the Top 15 in Texas, which is an incredible achievement. There are several hundred hospitals in Texas. And so right here in the Rio Grande Valley, we are stepping it up. Thank you for asking that and letting me brag. Thank you.”

Editor’s Note: The asterisk added to the title was suggested by Rio Grande Valley healthcare consultant Jake Fuller. We thought it a good idea.

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