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Real Estate Bisnow
July 25, 2008



We're suckers for a happy ending, thus we Metro'd east of the Anacostia to United Medical Center (UMC) and Interim CEO Gary Rowe. Eight months ago, when it was still called Greater Southeast Community Hospital, heart-warming tales were rare and likely caused by faulty EKG's (kidding, sort of). The hospital was hemorrhaging money, losing staff, violating safety codes, and finally lost its accreditation in late 2007. Of course, we promised you a happy ending, so. . .


In November '07, New Hampshire-based Specialty Hospitals of America (also owners of Specialty Hospital of Washington and SHW-Hadley) purchased 185-bed Greater Southwest from Envision Hospital Corp. The city immediately kicked in $30 million to create a public/private partnership, and hospital manager Quorum Health Resources hired Gary to lead the turnaround. Before he could address financial losses (about $1.5 million per month), he took on issues of basic functionality such as no hot water, broken HVAC, and faulty elevators. Gary says the plan of action, already in progress, is to bring equipment and safety up to code, restore confidence with the community, and then worry more about financial stability. They've replaced the roof, purchased back-up generators, and he strongly believes the hospital will break even by mid '09. They also plan to reapply for accreditation in January '09.


Gary showed us the exterior facelift to replace leaky windows. His prediction of profit in '09 takes courage considering UMC is a safety net hospital and only about 4% of income comes from commercial insurance. (Most other area hospitals are closer to 30%.) But there are signs of rapid improvement. The hospital has hired 75 new physicians since November, including some who left or were laid off; new radiology equipment should arrive by Sept 1; and, average ER waits have been halved: Door-to-triage from 30 minutes to 9; overall stays from 7 hours to 3.5.


Gary will stay at UMC until December before stepping aside for a permanent CEO. It's a typical routine for him as a hospital salvage specialist. He's led eight hospitals in 31 years, including short-term turnarounds in Kansas and Southwest General in Cleveland. His most recent stint was at St. John's Regional in Joplin, MO, although that lasted 8.5 years. He has local ties, getting his master's at GW, but makes his home in Orlando, and returns there almost every other weekend with the occasional stop along the way to visit his 5 grandchildren. Despite his hometown and achievement at United Medical, the words "I'm Going to Disney World" did not make it into the interview.

King of All Media


Inova Fairfax General Pediatrics chief Russell Libby is advancing the cause of medicine without regard to medium. He has two monthly television shows on Fairfax Public Access channel 10 including the audience participation vehicle Dr. Libby's World of Medicine. (With a title like that, we can only imagine the audition: "Are you Dr. Libby?" "Yes." "Great, you're hired"). Next month's episode addresses trauma with special guest Inova trauma services chief Samir Fakhry. Russell has also hosted a radio show on WMAL and is editing the American Academy of Pediatrics forthcoming "Guidelines on Pediatric Home Healthcare."


Even though he also edits the Medical Society of Northern Virginia newsletter, Russell wouldn't reveal the plot for the next issue. However, he did say he was intrigued by experimental primary care reimbursement programs recently profiled in the NY Times. To summarize, insurers pay more up front for doctors to embrace electronic medical records and consistently interact with patients via e-mail and phone. In April, Russell unveiled a different communication tool, the baton. He guest-conducted the George Mason Symphony Orchestra during a benefit concert, although he confessed it was a John Philip Sousa march. For non-musicians, that means plenty of style points but a low degree of difficulty.



Update on Ozmosis co-founders Dr. Jason Bhan and Joel Selzer, who we dropped into see this week: Their company was just named the top Web 2.0 health site to watch by medical media commentator MDNG. But they're not resting on their laurels. The two just returned from the U of Virginia where they took part in an experiment with the Doctor's Channel to examine how doctors can best use social media. Part of the event was to tape two-minute videos of physician's explaining clinical topics like gait mechanics or ways to treat tobacco use that have been posted on their site complete with message boards for doctors to discuss the material.


Okay, now the jackets are off to talk real business. Ozmosis connects registered physicians to share ideas about ongoing trends in the medical world. "It recreates the camaraderie of medical school where you work together to find the best answers for patients," says Jason, a practicing family physician in Manassas who helped Joel launch the angel-funded company in 2006. Thus a doctor searching for tips on how to treat a patient with heart disease can solicit views from other doctors. The site does background checks on all physicians before granting them access. This weekend, Joel hopes to make it out to see "The Dark Knight" for a second time, but only on an IMAX screen; Jason just gets to be on call.

John Philip Sousa made it into Medical Bisnow before you did. You can avoid such embarrassment by sending story ideas, big band-related or not, to Curtis Raye, Curtis@Bisnow.com

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