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February 9, 2015 Executive Profile

John Dempsey's Diamond has track record for innovation

PHOTO | Contributed Anne Diamond has resigned as CEO of Day Kimball after being named president of Bridgeport and Milford hospitals.

When Anne Diamond joined UConn's John Dempsey Hospital as associate vice president of ancillary services and operations in April 2010, she made waves by creating and supporting a climate of innovation.

She oversaw the formation of a new collaboration between doctors, nurses and staff that decreased the average patient hospital stay from five days to four days. She also helped establish a “Dream Team” of 40 to 50 stakeholders — including nursing homes, hospice facilities, pharmacies and others—with whom heart failure patients interact with after leaving the hospital to facilitate greater coordination of care, reducing the likelihood of costly and avoidable readmissions.

Then in Dec. 2014, under Diamond's leadership, John Dempsey was one of just three Connecticut hospitals recognized by the American Hospital Association for its efforts in successfully reducing patient harm.

Her leadership didn't go unnoticed. She was tapped as John Dempsey's interim CEO in Aug. 2013 and was named permanent CEO in December.

“She has been a breath of fresh air,” said Dr. David Steffens, professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at UConn Health, who praised Diamond's support for his department.

The only child of two hardworking parents, Diamond said an unrelenting work ethic and strategic approach to problem solving have been consistent throughout her career and personal life.

Her father, who “lived on popcorn and cans of green beans” to make it through college, was a chemical engineer at Bethlehem Steel in Allentown, Pa., where Diamond was born and raised. Her mother was a “practical, common sense type of woman” who did not complete high school, yet was “the smarter of the two,” Diamond said.

Diamond's parents died before she finished college, but their team work, she says, set the foundation for the leadership style she still uses today.

Five key principals, she said, drive her signature approach: commitment to success; transparency and knowledge; investment in other leaders; communication; and building a culture around service.

At John Dempsey, Diamond's peers say her push for effective communication, mentorship and a culture of service are prevalent.

New programs like “Coffee with the CEO,” a day every month when Diamond makes herself available to doctors, nurses, staff, patients and their families for an hour and a half to converse about their concerns and share ideas, are indicative of her commitment to such ends, she said.

“CEOs are intelligent but they don't all have people skills,” said Dr. Paul Skolnik, chairman of UConn Health's Department of Medicine, who works extensively with Diamond. “She builds consensus from the ground up and is never heavy handed or dictatorial.”

Steffens said Diamond's support for one of his department's latest ventures — opening a mood and anxiety disorders clinic in April 2014 — was critical. The clinic, said Steffens, is a unique endeavor for the state since it will accommodate patients who are both privately and publicly insured.

“I have worked with a lot of administrators who either didn't care much about psychiatry or didn't understand it but I was pleasantly surprised with Anne's knowledge of psychiatry as well as her eagerness to learn about our department's needs,” Steffens said.

Confronting obstacles

John Dempsey's unique position as an academic hospital comes with its challenges — much of which are financial, Diamond said. The expenses incurred by offering inpatient and outpatient services and not having the backing of a large hospital network means that John Dempsey often has to “be everything to everyone,” creating bottom-line pressures.

To deal with repeated million-dollar operating deficits in recent years, the hospital has implemented an institution-wide initiative to reduce the cost of purchased goods and services, while also negotiating better rates with insurers, Diamond said.

Meanwhile, constantly improving quality and reliability of care will continue to be her mission, Diamond said.

“We are highly reliable and that's an important phrase,” Diamond said. “That's how you distinguish between a good organization and a great one — that your practices are so fine-tuned that you never leave anything to chance.”

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