Q&A with Don Mueller, CEO of Children’s Hospital at Erlanger

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Q&A with Don Mueller, CEO of Children’s Hospital at Erlanger

Sean Ruck, Contributing Editor | December 05, 2017
From the November 2017 issue of HealthCare Business News magazine

Another big challenge is helping people understand that pediatric care is different. Kids aren’t just small adults. Their biology, treatment and emotional state is different. You need to explain to a child why you’re doing things in a way they can understand. Overall, the way you approach treatment is different. If a child comes in with appendicitis, we’ll see what we can do to avoid removing it, since they have a long life ahead where they’d benefit from having it to fight infections. If we’re operating, we work hard to minimize scars so that they don’t show when they go to the beach, because other kids can be mean. However, when non-pediatric facilities go into care, if they don’t have the infrastructure, if they don’t have the flow of pediatric patients, they’re just not going to get those nuances. I think the message is that kids belong in pediatric hospitals.

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HCB News: What are your advantages over other facilities of your size?
DM: Our advantage is that we’re part of a health system that recognizes and supports the pediatric differential. I define this not just by the kids that come through the door, but by every child that touches any one of our facilities or our competitors’ facilities. We spend time training our emergency personnel on the best way to treat children, and even expand that training to our competitors because they really need to be competent on the best way to treat kids in an emergency situation. We’ll do simulations, come in with a doll, and say, “here’s a 2-year-old that’s not breathing – how are you going to respond? No, that mask is too large, dose is too much,” etc. We have redefined what it means to be a children’s hospital in our region.

The way we look at it is we’re here to support children. Competition should never come into a dialogue about children. It’s a very different strategy than adult medicine. Children’s hospitals work together to ensure we have what we need. I’ve met with other CEOs and I’ve talked to them about it. Their own kids are in our community, their employees have kids in our region, and they realize the value.

HCB News: What are your predictions for how caring for children will change 10 years into the future?
DM: There will be less money to care for kids and adults than there is today. There won’t be enough nurses and doctors. We’re going to have to start practicing medicine in a way that maximizes the licensing for nurses and doctors. Nurses can’t be running to get formula. Dieticians or techs can. Everyone will need to work at the top of their licensure. There will be more shared space and smaller spaces. We’ll continue to come up with ways to do things for less and provide more value. We’ll continue to improve timeliness of care through better access, and through that, we’ll provide better care.

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