One Amazing Woman!
Story and photography by Elizabeth Skenes Millen
Carrying on a conversation with Laurie Jaccard is a treat. She is whip smart and powerful, yet down-to-earth and bubbly. Our discussion naturally swings to and fro from her answering my questions to her asking me questions. She is as interested in me as I am in her. Her interest is genuine. There is no small talk. She is a woman first and then the CEO of a multi-million dollar, national health care company, which she created from a team of one—her.
The compassion it takes to be a nurse is still at the heart of who she is. However, Laurie took 15 years of intensive hospital nursing, where she made a difference in caring for individual patients, to new heights that literally changed the healthcare industry as a whole. The result: Increased quality of care for patients across the board.
How does a nurse, who is not even in an upper level management position, go about revolutionizing healthcare? It all started when she was working in the ER and asked to monitor, track and report quality for Joint Commission, a hospital regulatory agency. No one else wanted the extra duties. Her observant nature and keen sense for numbers made her perfect for the job. So perfect, it catapulted her to quality director for the hospital and then for the entire hospital system. She had parlayed going the extra mile into an executive position. She delved into learning everything she could about quality in healthcare. So much so, she was recognized for her expertise by being asked to be on the judge’s panel of the Malcom Baldrige National Quality Award.
Married, with two young children, Laurie’s husband Scott’s career was also racing up the corporate ladder. The family decided to move to St. Louis, forcing her to leave her career behind. They were not worried; nurses can land a job anywhere. But, Laurie wasn’t ready to jump back into being a floor nurse because the area of quality had piqued her natural curiosity and love for problem solving. Starting to see a pattern of too many variations in treatments, she wanted to continue her path. She knew it was where she belonged and that her work was not done.
Scott was the new general manager at a prestigious country club in St. Louis. Laurie asked him to use his membership base to figure out which hospital she should pursue and a contact name. Scott came home with the name of the CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital. Laurie called him and convinced him to give her 30 minutes of his time.
The meeting didn’t quite yield the results she expected. The CEO had never heard of what she was talking about and didn’t even have a department for what she wanted to accomplish. Imagine her surprise when he decided to not only create a position for her, but also a department. “He said he liked what I had to say and gave me three months. I got to choose my own title!” she said.
Her earlier observations revealed the lack of core protocols for common illnesses; every doctor treated various ailments in their own way. Laurie’s theory was to have a list of core treatments that must be done when a patient presented with certain illnesses. For example, if a patient presented with heart failure, seven things must be done and then the “art” of doctoring can come into play. Imagine being a nurse, in a new hospital, in a newly created position, and trying to convince doctors to buy into your idea: following hospital set protocols for patient care and transitioning to evidence based medicine.
“The medical chief of staff balked and called it cookie cutter medicine. However, I worked with him and all the doctors and we came up with protocols for 35 illnesses such as pneumonia, heart failure, heart attack, emphysema, etc. These illnesses were 80 percent of the volume of the hospital,” she said. Once everything was implemented the results were huge— increased quality, decreased complication rates and decreased death rates. One year after Laurie’s program launched, St. Luke’s was recognized as a Top 100 Hospital because of her efforts. “Imagine doing that around the country!” Laurie said.
“I didn’t want to work for only one hospital anymore. I wanted a lot of hospitals to experience similar results because the outcomes for patients were so positive.” Laurie decided to go on her own in 2001, starting a consulting firm, Clinical Intelligence. From her team of one—herself— her company has now grown to a team of 30 and has served more than 200 hospitals across the nation. In addition, her biggest breakthrough came when she developed software that can take any hospital’s current numbers and reveal where the problems are. Laurie developed the system for the use of her consulting firm, but was told she needed to “bottle it,” after it impressed numerous hospital executives and CFOs.
Thus, she and Scott, who is now full-time with the firm, launched ClinView, the software component, which has given their already successful company a tremendous leap forward.
Laurie says the key to success is surrounding your self with good, positive people. Her goal is to help others on their entrepreneurial path, especially women. “I want to empower women to take an idea and don’t stop there. Find people who can help. Don’t stop listening to your inner calling.”
Childhood Ambition: Helping others
Guilty Pleasure: A juicy burger
I feel the most beautiful when: I’m on a date with Scott and we are smiling with our eyes.
I wish I had more time to: Learn photography
The theme song to my life: “Believe” by Cher
One thing I know for sure: Life can pass us by so quickly so let’s make the most of every day!
What I’m most excited about right now: Seeing our children take on a different chapter of adulthood and their respective careers.