Warm weather, warm people, sweat-soaked shirt and déjà vu
Portland, Maine— Traveling for the first time since the pandemic, my wife and I booked a flight down to the Maryland-DC area.
Prior to departure, I went to the mall to pick up a new pair of slacks. Since I have put on a few pounds, I picked out a size larger than what I had previously worn. I also picked out a short-sleeved shirt as we anticipated warm weather in the DC area. The shirt I selected, which had multicolored prints, was reminiscent of the shirt I notoriously sweat through when escaping punishment in my encounter with Principal Pratt at Adelphian Academy in Holly, MI.
Our first stop was a tour of the Global Reimbursement Consultants office in Gaithersburg, MD. It was founded by Dominic Colangelo, who is also the CEO. Dominic is the minuteman who flew up to Maine in 2012 and collected enough money in three days to keep my new hospital, Parkview, from missing payroll and going under.
Global offers a specialized program for the collection of self-pay accounts for hospitals. They work directly with patients, sometimes on a payment plan. Global’s high-quality customer service and positive relationships with the hospital's customers typically result in an average of 40 percent to 60 percent increase in collections. (Parkview's results were even higher.
It was amazing to see how their texting platform works. Three minutes after sending texts to patients, their monitors were busy with little “ping, ping, ping” alerts as payments started rolling in. They allowed me to hear a few calls. The agents were warm and caring. There were so many “thank you” and “please” phrases that the patients commented on their appreciation.
Although Global doesn't advertise, it has grown 500 percent over the last several years. Its successful business model is built on treating clients with respect, using technology and hiring employees who provide excellent service to the hospital's customers.
While in the DC area, we also had the opportunity to connect with some friends and colleagues from past work journeys, such as Dr. Kate Schwarz, one of the great physicians who helped Parkview provide fabulous care to its patients when I was there. My wife and I were able to connect with Kate and her husband Chris in Baltimore.
Kate was recently recognized by her employer, The University of Maryland, as Teacher of the Year for her work as assistant professor of medicine. She works as a hospitalist with residents and medical students at the UMMC Midtown facility.
Their dog Charlie became best friends with my wife, Sharon, as we sipped fresh coffee around an outdoor fire under the stars at their beautiful Baltimore home.
We also had the opportunity to see Lorraine DiPietro (a past colleague and former resident of Holly, MI), administrator of the Woodlands Assisted Living Community in East of Baltimore. The Woodlands is making a real difference in Baltimore's senior living industry.
Of course, a visit to the DC area would not be complete without seeing a good friend and attorney extraordinaire, Jeff Pargament, who was the subject of "The Art of Extinguishing Bridge Fires" in my June 2019 column.
Writing a column that is read by people in many parts of the world builds a bridge between myself and people I've never met before. The day before departing for DC, I received an email from a Joel Garcia. He said that while googling the name of his father, Dr. Jorge Garcia, Joel came across my October 2019 column, titled "How a Manila Heart Surgeon Helped Save a Maine Hospital."
Joel mentioned that he went to work for Asian Hospital subsequent to my visit in 2012. Joel, who is currently working at a hospital in the Philippines, said he was traveling in the U.S. and wondered if we could connect by phone.
Serendipity! We both happened to be traveling to the DC area around the same time. So, we were able to get together and share many hospital stories and reminisces of mutual friends.
During most of the trip, the temperatures had been abnormally cool. On our last day, however, the temperature was predicted to be in the high 90s, so I put on my new shirt and slacks.
After checking our bag at the United counter and getting our boarding passes, we got in the line for security. Shoes off, belt off and pockets emptied before entering the scanner.
Then came my turn for the scanner. I was glad I had my new short-sleeved shirt on as it was rather warm in the security area. The temperature outside was 97.
"Put your feet on the yellow footprints and raise your hands,” a female TSA agent instructed me.
So I did as instructed. Without warning, my large-sized pants fell to my feet. I attempted to pull them up, but was quickly rebuked by the agent: "Put your hands back up; we have to repeat the scan.” The few drops of sweat in my armpits became a gushing waterfall of anxious embarrassment.
Stepping out of the scanner, I was greeted by a male agent who patted down my pants that had been pulled back up.
As we walked toward the gate, I had a déjà vu— it was as if I was back in Adelphian Academy, walking out of Principal Pratt's office back to band rehearsal, and everyone was staring at my totally drenched colored print shirt.
Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a health care consulting business based out of Portland, Maine. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.