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Susan Kang Sunderland

The Wonders of Pali Momi

Pali Momi Medical Center COO Jen Chahanovich has transformed the West Oahu hospital into one of the country’s state-of-the-art medical models – and she’s proud to show it off

Under the leadership of COO Jen Chahanovich, pictured here in the hospital’s new pavilion, Pali Momi Medical Center has grown into a well-respected regional facility providing essential top-notch health care in West Oahu

If you want a glimpse of trendsetting health care, take a look at Pali Momi Medical Center on Moanalua Road in Aiea. This unassuming campus across from Toys R Us at Pearlridge is one of the country’s state-of-the-art medical models.

This is not some wishful vision somewhere over the rainbow. It’s right in our own backyard.

“I love to give tours,” says Jen H. Chahanovich, Pali Momi Medical Center’s ebullient chief operating officer. As she describes distinguishing features of the West Oahu medical facility, one marvels at the wonders of the 3-acre site that serves 650 patients a day.

It’s like walking the yellow brick road with the Wizard of Aahhs.

Chahanovich clicks the heels of her bright red shoes, to which is attached a digital pedometer, and we are off to survey the health care domain where she reigns.

“We were built in the community,” Chahanovich says. “In 1989, our founder, Dr. Joseph Nishimoto, got 13,000 residents to sign a petition to establish Pearl City Medical. The community has grown around it.

“We want the community to see what we have here,” she says. “You don’t have to be sick to pay a visit.”

MidWeek photographer Nathalie Walker and I agree that the best time to examine a medical facility is when you don’t need its services. I, for one, had never been inside Pali Momi. What I was about to see opened my eyes to a whole new world of quality health care and modern patient services.

We’re off to see the wizard …

Among the wonders one encounters at Pali Momi are:

* The fastest and most advanced X-ray imaging 320 CT scanner in Hawaii

* Tomosynthesis 3-D breast imaging, first of its kind in Hawaii

* West Oahu’s only interventional cardiac catheterization unit for the detection and treatment of heart disease

* First retina eye care center in Hawaii

* Revolutionary da Vinci robotic surgical procedures

* Comprehensive women’s health center

Who would have guessed that all of these advancements, and a few others, are housed in West Oahu and not in the population epicenter of downtown Honolulu?

Well, when you think about the vast geographic area that Pali Momi serves, it makes sense that emergency, acute care, imaging and health screening essentials are readily available. Otherwise, there are delays and logistical barriers to serving patient needs.

As one patient put it, “Shouldn’t there be quality care wherever you live?”

This standard of care is not without its challenges in an industry that is highly regulated and often finds itself a political football in election campaigns. (Medicare, Obamacare, privatization, vouchers, etc.)

Hawaii is fortunate in having pioneered prepaid health insurance through employers. Yet there still are issues that challenge the system with regard to reimbursements and government-mandated programs. That’s a whole other story.

Health care providers are keenly aware of the issues and tend to be philosophical in their approach, lest they upset the apple cart before an ideal collaborative solution is sought.

“No matter how the elections go,” Chahanovich says, “the horse is out of the barn. Everyone understands that we can’t sustain quality on a volume-based health care system. We are moving toward a value-based system.

“Transparency is refreshing,” she adds. “If the standard is quality care, we will meet the measurements set for us.”

This comes from a confident COO who has guided Pali Momi to the top 5 percent in the nation for Outstanding Patient Experience, as measured by HealthGrades Report. Pali Momi and Straub, both affiliates of Hawaii Pacific Health, are the only Hawaii facilities to receive the 2011 award.

For six consecutive years, the American Heart Association has recognized the hospital with its Gold Award for excellence in the treatment of coronary artery disease. In 2010, it was one of only 136 facilities in the country to meet this high standard. Additionally, AHA gave Pali Momi its Gold Plus Award for Heart Failure, one of only seven in the nation.

While the path to quality care has been paved with gold, the true test of a medical service is how it responds each day to folks who walk through its doors. Often that moment of truth is based on the emergency room experience.

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