CEO Check-In Series: Kathleen P. DeLawrence

Where are they now?
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Where are they now?FINDING NEW WAYS TO CONTRIBUTE TO EMPLOYEE AND PATIENT SUCCESS

Three years ago, when we last talked with Kathleen DeLawrence, she had transitioned from a series of positions in the pharmaceutical industry to join a prosthetics and orthotics company. As COO of Ability Prosthetics & Orthotics, Inc., Ms. DeLawrence was reveling in opportunities to learn about patient needs by talking to the patients themselves.

But, as Ability continues to thrive, has the job become business as usual? Ms. DeLawrence explains how she’s contributed to patient success and ensured that the company keeps moving forward.

What’s been happening at Ability since 2016?

We’ve had a great couple of years. The company has gone through a really healthy transformation. We’ve done an internal review of our business processes and reengineered how we do a lot of things to become even more efficient than before. We looked at all of our patient-facing processes as well as our internal compliance processes—pretty much our entire clinical administration workflow. We really went through the entire guts of the business. Then we created employee focus groups around the business processes to get their input. The staff also recommended unique ways to use our technology platform to support our new processes.

We established a patient advisory council, a group of both amputees and life-long brace wearers, and/or their caregivers. It’s a mix so we can have a cross-section of our patient population. At first, we just wanted their opinion about their experience with Ability and how we could improve. We included the council’s input when we rebranded the company in 2017, on the copy and look of the website, to get the messaging right for patients. Since then, we’ve engaged the council to review our clinical processes and how they affect patients, allowing us to develop clinical best practices. This effort has also culminated in a patient-facing clinical process map that will allow for improved, transparent communication and accountability to the patient.

What do you currently consider your biggest challenge as COO?

I think our biggest challenge is changing behavior across the company to keep up with the never-ending changes in health care. The amount of process changes we implemented last year was daunting to many, but the organization has burst through those changes stronger than ever. The beauty of our people is that we have folks who have been with the company for years with deep clinical and process perspective, who are open to being challenged by the newer staff who have been trained to work in the new process model. This collaboration strengthens our business each day and makes our clinical skills stronger and our processes more efficient. We will continue to evolve with the changes in health care, remain transparent with staff and always look to them for guidance on how to respond to new challenges.

As a big fan of communication, are you doing anything specific that’s contributed to Ability’s success?

For our employees, we do our best to be visible, share successes and gather virtually and in person. For our patients, we’ve created a social media community of patients, caregivers, and providers to communicate with each other and, last year, we kicked off an Ability Active group for patients and families to stay in touch and help stay active. Communication is paramount to success.

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