March 13, 2012

Despite Challenges, Gannett Receives Awards for Services

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After weathering public health crises and concerns of understaffing, Gannett Health Services received two official recognitions for its service as a health center this month.

Gannett was awarded the highest level of certification a patient-centered medical home  can receive from the National Committee for Quality Assurance, a University press release stated on March 7. It was also accredited for the fifth time with the highest marks given by the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care.

According to the NCQA’s website, a patient-centered medical home is a health care setting that encourages individual patients, their personal physicians, and, when appropriate, the patient’s family, to work together.

President David Skorton said that the two awards  highlight Gannett’s dedication to preventive care.

“The PCMH model, with its emphasis on preventive care, is a good fit with Gannett’s longtime approach and goals,” he said in a press release.

The period under review for AAAHC was three years from 2009 to 2011. During this period, Gannett dealt with a number of challenges, such as an H1N1 flu outbreak in 2009 and a cluster of student suicides in 2010.

Gannett has been accredited by the AAAHC since 2000, according to Sharon Dittman, associate director for community relations at Gannett. The application materials covered 22 different categories of Gannett’s services, health care records, pharmacy, laboratory and health promotion.

One of Gannett’s benchmark achievements was introducing electronic health records in the summer of 2009, according to Corson-Rykert.

Electronic health records allow students to schedule appointments online, receive secure messages from their health care providers and communicate with different departments of Gannett through one electronic system, according to Jennifer Austin, communications specialist at Gannett.

Susan Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, said that these achievements reflect how Gannett has evolved significantly over the years.

“Fifteen years ago, for example, students went to Gannett to seek help when they were desperately sick,” she said. “Now, this is not the case. People go in for counselling and other holistic health concerns.”

Gregory Eells, associate director of Gannett, said the recent challenges have, in some ways, aided the center’s development.

“The pandemic outbreak challenged how Gannett staff worked together across departments and how we supported each other,” he said. “The cluster of student suicides, again, challenged the system to work together and respond really well together.”

Despite this collaboration, Prof. Ron Ehrenberg, industrial and labor relations, who is also a former administrator, said that Gannett also struggles with staffing.

“I know how understaffed they are both in terms of facilities and bodies and I know how hard they work,” he said.

Murphy agreed, saying that while student enrollment at Cornell has increased, the number of staff members working at Gannett has remained relatively fixed –– a problem that caused officials to consider expansion.

“We’ve been talking about expanding Gannett’s space since 2007 and the building plan was put out,” she said.

However, after the financial crisis hit in 2008, the plan to expand Gannett was not carried out, according to Murphy.

Ehrenberg said that Gannett’s goals to reach higher standards, even in uncertain times, speaks to the quality of care that is provided at the center.

“The fact that they are constantly trying to benchmark themselves against what the profession fields define as important quality indicators suggests something about the well-being of the care that is being provided,” he said.

Dittman said that though Gannett regularly receives accreditations, the frequency of the awards does not reflect the priority placed on patient care at Gannett.

“We are not at all routine,” she said. “One of our core values is to change. Change to keep up with the needs of students, of our community.”

Original Author: Jinjoo Lee