Phyllis Peoples: Healthcare in Eminence

Phyllis Peoples | CEO | Terrebonne General Health System
Phyllis Peoples | CEO | Terrebonne General Health System

The healthcare industry has undergone a lot of disruption not only due to the pandemic but also because technology has changed how the industry functions fundamentally. As the healthcare industry is experiencing a paradigm shift, healthcare leaders are in an exceptional position to be coherently responsible for an organization that touches and positively affects the lives of millions of people.

However, when it comes to directing a healthcare organization, the CEO is the person who ensures that the organization is working seamlessly while adhering to enhanced clinical quality, patient safety, its financial stability, altogether while ensuring staff satisfaction. Comprehending all these core fundamentals with exemplary expertise, Phyllis Peoples is an eminent leader who has spent years in the trenches of the healthcare industry.

Phyllis has been the CEO of Terrebonne General Health System – a healthcare provider with a tagline, ‘Where medical science meets the art of caring.’ Under her leadership, the organization has received the Women’s Choice Award for Outpatient Experience, Restorix Health’s Patient Satisfaction Award for Wound Care and Hyperbaric Patient Satisfaction, Birth Ready Designation Award by Women’s Health Center and Louisiana Trust Funds for Safety.

Let’s dive in and explore more about this journey of Cohesiveness—

—Symbolizing Excellence

Terrebonne General Health System is the largest healthcare resource provider in southeast Louisiana that has taken the lead in delivering medical excellence and innovation to the people of the region. The organization is driven by a ‘high tech’ and ‘high touch’ style of healing that offers an expansive range of services that provide hospital care and preventive care.

Phyllis shares, “Our highly skilled healthcare team consists of over 1,500 employees and over 450 medical providers that offer 42 various specialties. Our system has been honored with many prestigious awards and accolades for quality, safety, and patient experience on the state, national and international levels. We are comprised of two hospitals and many outpatient clinics, one of our hospitals being a crucial safety-net hospital.”

A Bequest of Novelties

Terrebonne General provides the community with the latest advances in medical technology, including:

  • Some of the most advanced cardiac care in the nation through their partnership with the Cardio- vascular Institute of the South (CIS) for over 37 years. Being at the forefront of diagnosing and treating coronary and peripheral artery disease. Offering comprehensive treatments such as balloon angioplasty, atherectomy, stent placement, and over 40 innovative clinical research trials.
  • Only one in the region to offer advanced electrophysiology to treat an irregular heartbeat and the first in the country to complete valve replacement procedures.
  • Its pharmacy is equipped with a new robot – Omnicell XR2, a revolutionary robotic medication inventory system that enhances patient care and safety.
  • Its Women’s Health Centre delivers over 1,600 babies annually and has the only Level 3 NICU in the region. It was the first facility in the region to be designated Baby Friendly in 2014.
  • Home to Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, delivering quality cancer care to patients in the region since 2008. The organization offers free clinical trials, various types of cancer screenings, an exercise program to help patients build strength and muscle mass, and an Elekta Infinity linear accelerator was recently added to the program as well.
  • Opened two Multi-Specialty Clinics offering more access and convenience to patients.
  • Implemented an intensivist program and hospital program to provide a very coordinated continuum of care for the patient.

Embracing the Emerging Technologies

According to Phyllis, modern technology has improved communication between providers regarding patient care. With the advancements in electronic medical records, the medical record is portable. Patients now have immediate access to their health information and, in many cases, can be accessed across institutions. “We are on Epic, a widely used EMR, therefore making patient information available across their continuum of care,” she shares.

Access to patient care has also been widely improved. Telemedicine is available for those patients who may not be physically able to get to a doctor’s office, allowing the patient to stay in their home and be observed by a provider. In addition, telemedicine is available between institutions when sub-specialties are not available in less populated areas.

Phyllis explains, “For instance, we utilize telemedicine to assist in managing our stroke patients. We access a specialist in New Orleans via telemedicine, who assists in the plan of care, and the majority of the time, the patient is able to stay in our health system versus being transferred out. As we all know, a great deal of patient satisfaction is experienced when the patient can receive their care close to home.”

Surmounting the Challenges

“Cybersecurity is a challenge for all industries, but certainly a very big challenge for the healthcare industry,” shares Phyllis. “The investment to implement multiple levels of protection for patient information is only growing as cyber threats become more sophisticated. It is important for us to provide the necessary protection and make annual investments in this infrastructure a priority,” she adds.

The increasing cost of labor and reduced workforce is top of mind in the industry as well. Workforce was already somewhat of an issue before COVID but currently, it has become very challenging.

“We are all competing for the same providers and staff and going to the same places to recruit. With colleges and technical schools’ admissions being reduced, as well as slots in medical schools being limited, the pool is tight across the country. Partnering with local education institutions is very important to recruit and retain healthcare workers in our area. Our employees are our greatest asset, so much work has been done to keep our employees satisfied and keep our organization growing as a great place to work,” expresses Phyllis.

Phyllis also shares an overview of the challenges that the healthcare industry is facing. For example, the cost of the supply chain, equipment and construction costs, regulations, price transparency, etc. All of these then lead to the challenge of having effective reimbursement models to fund this growing cost base. Reimbursement models do not respond fast or sufficiently enough to price increases or innovation, thereby making growth and access to patient care advancements slower.

“Here, we document process improvements and efficiencies for those factors that we can control to show our payers that we are doing our part. We perform well on our quality metrics required by all payers and participate in various shared savings programs. We are also part of a statewide network, Ochsner Health Network, which is built on high quality, high performance, and high efficiency healthcare. We are an independent health system, yet we are part of a statewide effort to bring great healthcare to the people in Louisiana,” says Phyllis.

Embarking Towards the Potential Endeavors

As a community partner, Phyllis expresses, “We have made a promise to the community to continue providing the highest quality of care to ensure the best outcomes and innovative healthcare solutions.”

Phyllis shares her future endeavors, stating, “Expanding our Cancer Center to ensure cancer patients in our area receive the most comprehensive and innovative care in all stages of their treatment and recovery. Expand pharmacy services through an onsite retail pharmacy. Continue offering convenient COVID tests and vaccines and expanding to other necessary immunizations via our Drive-Thru Center. Moving further into the wellness arena by expanding existing or new facilities.”

She also says, “We continue exploring new technologies that provide quality and efficient care, including navigational devices, wearable devices, telehealth, and expanded access to health information for patients and expand our healthcare capabilities to offsite services.”

Saying Yes to Healthcare!

We question Phyllis on what she thinks it takes to serve as a successful CEO. She says, “After over 20 years of serving in the role of CEO, various qualities come to mind as being necessary to be successful. Humility, honesty, empathy, extreme loyalty, timely responsiveness and follow through, and having a direct and open dialogue. I work hard on living and demonstrating these qualities, and I believe those that I serve would agree.”

Offering the jewels of wisdom for aspirants willing to venture into the healthcare sector, Phyllis shares, “Definitely say yes to healthcare! It has been an absolutely great and satisfying career choice for me. There are so many different facets to it, whether you have a clinical or non-clinical background. It is diverse, complicated, challenging, exciting, and rewarding all at the same time.”

“No day is the same. If you enjoy solving puzzles or problems, being creative, collaborating with peers and professionals, while knowing it is all centered around patient care, then this is the field for you,” she concludes.