Heart Center focuses on improvement and collaboration in first-ever retreat

February 18, 2019

During Heart Month we celebrate our patients and the miracles our experts perform every day providing heart care that’s the best in the nation. This year, we’re also celebrating a unified commitment to making our Heart Center even better.

Heart Center leadership, faculty and staff recently convened for the inaugural Heart Center Retreat. The event afforded the full, multidisciplinary team of surgeons, clinicians, intensivists, nurses, advanced practice providers, anesthesiologists, administrators and more the opportunity to collectively reflect on past successes, discuss areas of possible improvement, identify transformative goals, and actively plan for the future.

“If you believe some of the external ratings sources, our congenital heart disease program is one of the best in the country. Personally, I do not like to give external ratings much credence” said Dr. Christopher Caldarone, Texas Children’s chief of Congenital Heart Surgery. “A great program will hear such accolades and disregard them while searching for ways to get better. And that was the purpose of the Heart Center Retreat – to help us rise above the day-to-day and intensely focus our attention on ways to improve in terms of patient care, access, teaching, research, innovation, and quality of life for members of the Heart Center team.”

Following an introduction from President and CEO Mark Wallace, attendees heard several talks from Heart Center leadership on a variety of topics. These included reflections on the program’s growth in recent years, how the move into Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower has affected processes and outcomes, and what it means to be the No. 1 heart program in the nation. Attention then turned to ways to make the Heart Center even better, with talks outlining opportunities for advancement in innovation and research, plans for improved education and training, challenges posed by competition and strategies for staying ahead, and the need to relentlessly improve patient care, access and experience.

“To be our best we must do our jobs better than anyone, work together and always keep the patient top of mind,” said Dr. Daniel Penny, Texas Children’s chief of Pediatric Cardiology. “We believe that what will separate Texas Children’s Heart Center going forward is a unique combination of exceptional technical abilities coupled with a highly developed collaborative culture that is completely centered on our patients and their families.”

Following the talks, attendees split up into preselected breakout groups. The teams chose their groups based on the topic and were tasked with developing real-world strategies based on key Heart Center objectives. These included:

  • Establishing a comprehensive center for patients and families living with Fontan physiology across the lifespan
  • Developing a unified data platform to increase efficiency and improve quality control and research productivity
  • Creating an innovation fund with a streamlined application process to generate new ideas
  • Design a process that solicits, evaluates and prioritizes innovative projects
  • Improving satisfaction and efficiency in the management of new patients
  • Providing access to professional development for nursing and ancillary services

The breakout groups facilitated lively discussion and engagement. Each team was highly motivated and have since reported back to the Heart Center executive committee with proposals that include target objectives, and tactics and budgetary considerations for meeting those objectives.

Feedback from retreat participants has been positive and there are plans to make it an annual event. It’s yet another way the Heart Center has rallied around its ongoing mission to, as the leadership teams says, “get so far ahead no one can catch us.”

“Even though we’re a large, elite program, we must consistently take a critical and objective look at all aspects of our performance”, said Caldarone. “Our goal is be a large, comprehensive, and collaborative team that is nimble in our ability to mobilize expertise to meet the needs of every patient.”