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Q&A With UM BWMC President and CEO Karen Olscamp

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By Mark R. Smith, Editor-in-Chief

As president and CEO of University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center (UM BWMC), Karen Olscamp has had a significant impact on the health of residents in Anne Arundel County. Born in Niagara Falls, N.Y., Olscamp received a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Rochester and completed her Master of Health Services Administration at The George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
Olscamp began her career at UM BWMC in 1987, and first served as an administrative resident. She advanced to vice president of operations, then served as senior vice president and CEO for 10 years; in August of 2008, she was appointed president and CEO. During this period, the hospital saw significant growth and development. In 2009, UM BWMC completed a $117 million expansion project during which Olscamp oversaw the opening of a new, eight-story patient tower and obstetrical services unit at the medical center; it also expanded the number of operating rooms from 14 to 17, allowing for the ability to add to the complexity of surgical cases performed in neurosurgery, vascular and robotics.
UM BWMC also has received numerous quality awards under Olscamp’s leadership. In 2017, it was honored with three awards by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology for high quality cardiac and stroke care. UM BWMC was recognized by Healthgrades with the 2015 Patient Safety Excellence Award; this award was given to the top 10% of hospitals that were top performers for their scores related to patient safety.
In addition, UM BWMC’s Tate Cancer Center received a three-year accreditation in 2015 by the Commission on Cancer and the American College of Surgeons as an Academic Comprehensive Cancer Program (ACAD). Only 13% of all cancer programs in the nation have achieved this status; and UM BWMC’s Aiello Breast Center was accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.
Olscamp has held numerous roles with civic, community and professional organizations, as she currently serves on the boards of the BWI Business Partnership and the Anne Arundel County Community Partnership. She is also on the Executive Committee of the Maryland Hospital Association and is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives; and she also has been involved with Leadership Anne Arundel and the Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce.

What are the featured services at UM BWMC?
We are a comprehensive, high-quality medical center with a broad range of services and advanced capabilities. We also offer specialized centers of excellence, such at the Tate Cancer Center, and perform advanced surgical care, including vascular and aortic surgeries, neurosurgeries and robotic surgery.

What’s new at the hospital?
In January, we opened three new state-of-the-art operating rooms, which will handle the most complex surgical cases. In response to the increased needs in our community, we also have begun expansion of our inpatient psychiatric unit from 14 to 24 beds. UM BWMC provides the only inpatient psychiatric beds in Anne Arundel County, which has a population of more than 500,000 people. Construction is underway, and we anticipate that the additional beds will be operational in 2018.

How did the 2000 merger with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) strengthen UM BWMC’s place in the market?
The primary goal of joining the UMMS was to bring more comprehensive, sophisticated and high quality services directly to our community. Being part of an academic health system brings a breadth and depth of resources that are simply not achievable to the majority of independent hospitals. The UMMS provides tremendous value as a differentiator in this market.

How has the 2005 name change from North Arundel Hospital to UM BWMC benefitted the hospital?
The name change more accurately portrayed the organization that we had evolved into and our vision for the future. We wanted to embrace the larger communities we serve and emphasize our role within the UMMS. Baltimore Washington describes a broader geographic focus for the hospital and the communities where our patients live and work.

Where do most of your patients come from?
As you might expect, many of our patients come from Anne Arundel County, particularly as we are located within its most densely populated areas. For specific specialized services, however, we draw from a considerably larger geography. For example, in neurosurgery, a third of our patients come from across the state of Maryland and beyond.

What is the financial status of UM BWMC?
We just finished our fiscal year on June 30, and at this time we are projecting about a 2% operating margin, on an annual operating budget of approximately $400 million. Operating margins for the hospital industry in Maryland are relatively modest compared to other industries, largely driven by our system of reimbursement. We have a consistent track record of meeting our financial targets so that we can continue to produce sufficient working capital for the hospital to reinvest in our organization and provide high quality care.

You recently installed the co-generation energy plant. What has the effect been?
We recently installed a new cogeneration power plant that will significantly reduce emissions and cut energy costs. The new system allows us to be cleaner, greener and more efficient, while saving approximately $750,000 per year in operating costs. This helps to drive a stronger operating income, which is then used to support our mission.

How much money is in your capital fund?
A complex medical center like UM BWMC is a capital intensive organization. Providing high quality care requires sophisticated technology and up-to-date facilities, and that is not inexpensive. This year we will spend approximately $30 million on capital projects. About a third of that amount will be used for information technology; and another third will be used on construction projects to expand our inpatient psychiatric unit and renovate one of our inpatient units.

The maternity center is one of your more recent offerings. How has it benefitted the community?
The opening of the Pascal Women’s Center several years ago was a prime example of providing easier access to services to the community, and last year approximately 1,000 babies were delivered at UM BWMC. We also have, on-site, the University of Maryland Center for Advanced Fetal Care office and a Neonatal Special Care Unit.
But the service that we provide extends well beyond the care provided within the walls of the hospital. In partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, physicians and midwives practice at three office locations in our service area. We also added a program called Stork’s Nest. The aim of this program is to increase the number of women receiving early and regular prenatal care in order to prevent low birth weight, premature births and infant deaths.

How have electronic health records (or EHRs) been integrated into the treatment process at UM BWMC?
That began here several years ago. The value of an EHR is that it enhances the safety and quality of care and allows for better coordination of care across multiple settings. Most recently, in May we upgraded our system to also include revenue cycle management.

How is UM BWMC addressing the opioid crisis?
We have initiated several important initiatives to meet the needs of our community, but let me just highlight a few. We have been proactive in distribution of naloxone kits. In fact, last year we distributed more than 250 kits to patients treated in our Emergency Department (ED). Beginning in August, we will be holding community educational sessions on opioid overdose awareness.
Last year, we also implemented an Opioid Overdose Survivor Outreach Services program. This program uses peer support specialists to support and facilitate access to treatment. Of the 550 patients referred, only 10% have had a return visit to our ED. Because many patients with substance abuse also are dually diagnosed with mental health disorders, we are also expanding our inpatient psychiatric unit.  In fiscal 2106, we saw more mental health patients in our ED than any other hospital ED in Maryland.
Last, but not least, to address this issue involves working collaboratively with other organizations, and we are doing just that with Anne Arundel County and other health care providers.

Might UM BWMC add more satellite offices, perhaps a location by Fort Meade?
As part of our strategic plan, we continue to add ambulatory services across our service area. We currently have about 10 off-campus locations, including a new urgent care center in Severna Park (near Robinson Road) which we opened in March. As part of the UMMS, we have 150 locations statewide, and we’ll continue to open new facilities as needs dictate.

Where do you want UM BWMC to be in five years?
To be the preferred regional medical center. Whether for a primary care physician or for the most complex medical needs, I want our community to think of BWMC and the UMMS for all of their health care needs. Our mission compels us to be integral and indispensable to the community we serve.

What’s the hardest part of your job?
There are many challenges with, and significant uncertainty in, health care today. What will happen with the Affordable Care Act? Will we see an increase in people who do not have health insurance? How will the unique Maryland hospital payment system be revised? How do we improve the health of our population?
Our response to that uncertainty is to stay focused on the fundamentals. Providng high quality care at an affordable cost is always the right strategy.

What do you consider your greatest triumph at UM BWMC?
I’m most proud of how far the organization has come, the elevation of the quality of care and the extraordinary people who work here. It is an honor and privilege to work with them.