2014 Leaders in Health Care Awards: Outstanding Health Care Executive


Winners (TIE)

Johnese Spisso
Chief Health System Officer, UW Medicine; Vice President Medical Affairs, University of Washington

Making big changes in how an organization runs is never easy, and doing so at sprawling UW Medicine would daunt anyone. There, 25,000 employees care for patients across eight entities that include the University of Washington Medical Center, Northwest Hospital & Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center.

Johnese Spisso, the system’s chief health officer, seems unfazed, displaying the patience of the nurse she once was. During the past six years, she has led the transformation of UW Medicine into an Accountable Care Organization, where care is integrated across the entire system to control costs and improve patient outcomes. 

The transition complies with national health care reform, but Spisso also embraces it as a way to benefit patients, physicians and the public. 

The challenge was to get everyone on board, so Spisso phased in new performance-based systems that measure results, putting patients and their satisfaction at the center. Leadership teams developed goals clearly articulated at every level, with progress and feedback shared across all stakeholders. “It was a huge change,” Spisso says, “and we overcame resistance by showing we could make all boats rise for our system.”


Joyce Jackson

President and CEO, Northwest Kidney Centers

in her time at the helm of Northwest Kidney Centers, Joyce Jackson has watched the need for kidney dialysis become greater. Due to a rise in precursor conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, one in seven adults in the United States now suffers from kidney disease, up 30 percent in the past decade.

That’s certainly not good news, but Jackson’s steady leadership helped strengthen the nonprofit center to take on the challenge. It now provides dialysis at 15 centers, more than double the number since the start of her 15-year tenure, with more than one-sixth of patients receiving dialysis at home. Survival outcomes, as well as transplant referrals, outperform national averages.

Jackson also drove the creation of the Kidney Research Institute, a collaboration with UW Medicine in which $35 million in federal grants now helps support 46 groundbreaking studies.

In the meantime, education to prevent kidney disease remains a core objective. Free classes to the public on nutrition and lifestyle habits may help reverse a disturbing trend.


Silver Award

Claire Trescott, M.D.
Director of Primary Care, Group Health Cooperative

Dr. Claire Trescott has led Group Health to groundbreaking health care reforms not just once, but twice. As a vigorous advocate of the “medical home” model of integrated care teams, she launched a pilot program that soon spread the patient-centered approach to all of Group Health’s 26 clinics. Trescott also helmed efforts to administer opioids such as oxycodone and hydrocodone more safely. Increased reliance on these drugs for chronic pain management had tripled rates of addiction and overdose. The new care plan would later contribute to a federal action plan to curb opioid abuse. 


How Vacuum Systems Will Change the Landscape for Health Care Facilities

How Vacuum Systems Will Change the Landscape for Health Care Facilities


Sponsored by MacDonald-Miller

The Polyclinic Northgate wanted to do something that had never been done before — create a medical clinic that could be rearranged in a weekend, located in virtually any building, and most importantly, a place that would not cost a lot to change in the future. How could there be a flexible system with the constraints that sewer lines currently impose on existing facilities? The Polyclinic turned to its mechanical contractor, MacDonald-Miller, to come up with a solution.

We interviewed Steve Amann, project executive, to find out how vacuum plumbing systems will revolutionize the healthcare industry.  

What is the vacuum system solution?

Vacuum plumbing is a modular drainage system, which allows for immediate and future room reconfigurations. Rather than the standard protocol of requiring slab penetrations to accommodate gravity drainage, vacuum piping serving waste fixtures is installed in overhead spaces, delivering wastewater to a central vacuum center that exits the building at a single, convenient location. 

How will this flexible system change the healthcare industry?

The vacuum system is the first ever application of its kind in a medical clinic utilizing demountable, movable interior walls. Now medical clinic spaces can be remodeled at a fraction of the time and cost formerly required given standard plumbing and fixed walls. This efficiency provides new opportunities for business while maximizing revenue. Now, health care teams can drive project decisions, rather than decisions being made by the constraints of an existing space layout, or lack of plumbing infrastructure.

How will it change the landscape for healthcare facilities?

Medical clinics can now be located in nontraditional locations, such as standard office buildings with lower lease rates than designated-use medical office buildings.

What is the environment and financial impact?

The environmental impact of vacuum toilets is substantially less compared to standard low-flush toilets. With only half a gallon per flush, tenants realize big savings on their water and sewer costs. The system also prevents waste pipe leaks, which occur in gravity-driven systems and contribute to a deterioration of a building’s health over time.

With the ever-changing nature of the health care industry and mounting price pressure, the combination of demountable walls and vacuum plumbing creates flexibility and provides long-term economic benefits — two elements which are in high demand within this emerging industry. 

MacDonald-Miller Facility Solutions is a full-service, design-build, mechanical contractor in the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about MacDonald-Miller’s recent projects.