Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA

Thalken brings more than 30 years of experience in health-care leadership to our company. Prior to joining the company, she served as Enterprise Vice President for Care Logistics in Atlanta, Ga. She has held executive leadership positions at hospitals in Nebraska and Iowa, including the position of System Quality Executive for Alegent Health. Thalken has presented on the topics of improving quality, patient flow and throughput at various industry conferences and webinars. Thalken holds an MBA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives, American Organization of Nurse Executives and Heartland Healthcare Executives.
Find me on:

Recent Posts

Technology Lessons from ACMA

Posted by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on 5/5/17 3:53 PM

From my own experience, I know first-hand that tracking patients post-discharge is an incredible challenge given the sheer size and scope of the effort. Hospitals release hundreds of patients each day, and communicating with them can be challenging.  Many hospitals have begun to focus on those patients who are at greater risk for readmission, such as those with multiple co-morbidities, limited family support, or a history of non-compliance with treatment plans or medication.

Read More

Topics: Healthcare IT, Healthcare Technology Solutions

Elevating Communication During Care Transitions

Posted by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on 6/20/16 3:42 PM

I'd like to share an article by Dr. Mark Kestner at Community Regional Medical Center, an Ensocare hospital client.


June 20, 2016 - Health System Management

The Effects of Consistent, Reliable Care Transitions on Clinical Care and Financial Outcomes

Care transitions—especially those that involve moving a patient from the acute to the post-acute setting—are often fraught with poor communication and a lack of cross-continuum information-sharing, resulting in care lapses that can lead to medical errors, unnecessary hospital readmissions and other negative clinical and financial consequences. However, forward-thinking organizations are realizing the importance of improving these transitional periods in order to reduce risk, boost care quality and sustain positive patient outcomes and satisfaction, even after a patient leaves the hospital. 

Community Regional Medical Center (CRMC)—a locally owned, not-for-profit, public-benefit health system based in Fresno, Calif.—is one of these forward-thinking organizations that has committed to enhancing its care transitions. With four hospitals as well as several long-term and outpatient facilities, the organization is the region’s largest healthcare provider. It is home to the only Level 1 Trauma Center and comprehensive burn center between Los Angeles and Sacramento, and it is licensed for 900 beds, regularly seeing 95 to 100 percent occupancy. The center is constantly moving patients to other care settings, and because of its size and prominent role in the community, it recognizes how making care transitions more consistent and reliable could have far-reaching effects in terms of both clinical care and financial outcomes. 

Encouraging Standardization

One of the reasons why care transitions have been so risky is that communication during these times has historically been uneven and unpredictable. To address this issue, CRMC aimed to standardize its processes for discharge communication as much as possible.

Read More

Topics: Care Coordination, Care Transitions

IMPACT Act Brings Post-Acute Care Transitions to the Forefront

Posted by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on 5/30/16 8:30 AM

Through the use of standardized quality measures and standardized data, the intent of the IMPACT Act, among other obligations, is to enable interoperability and access to longitudinal information for such providers to facilitate coordinated care, improved outcomes, and overall quality comparisons.

Quality Measure Domains:

  • Skin integrity and changes in skin integrity
  • Functional status, cognitive function, and changes in function and cognitive function
  • Medication reconciliation
  • Incidence of major falls
  • Transfer of health information and care preferences when an individual transitions
Click here for Resource Use and Other Measure Domains.

By the end of 2014, 97 percent of all U.S. hospitals had met the foundational requirement of Meaningful Use 1 by having installed certified electronic medical records (EMR) technology. This achievement marks an important first step in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS’) wide-scale effort to construct the technology infrastructure needed to bring the first real change to healthcare in decades. This foundation is absolutely essential to support the relentless drive toward a fee-for-value system.

A system that once rewarded hospitals financially for doing more procedures, is now demanding that if these procedures be done, they are done well. This greater push toward value brings the challenge of how to standardize communication among disparate providers to ensure patients receive the continuity of care required to prove and achieve quality outcomes.

As a result, healthcare organizations today are scrambling to keep up with the many new government initiatives, measurement, reporting, subsequent penalties, and standardization required to compete in the changing environment. The foundational investment made in the EMR was just the beginning. The challenge now is to make that system, and the many disparate systems that are used throughout the care continuum, to somehow speak a mutually agreeable vocabulary.

Read More

Topics: Post-acute Care, Care Coordination, Healthcare IT

Empowering Patients to Engage and Follow Care Plans Post Discharge

Posted by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on 4/11/16 9:00 AM

As health care has evolved, the patient’s role in following his or her care plan after discharge has increased, and hospitals need to find ways to help patients help themselves. According to The Advisory Board Company’s Annual Health Care CEO Survey, 45 percent of hospital executives are interested in identifying patient engagement strategies. It’s no secret that engaging patients in their care is essential to care quality, increasing patient satisfaction and, ultimately, achieving positiveoutcomes. However, when the patient leaves the hospital it can be a challenge to sustain patient engagement, especially when it comes to maintaining communication and overseeing care continuity.

Though patient and family engagement can be tough once a patient is out of sight, there are ways to facilitate communication, continue oversight and ensure patients follow established care plans.

Read More

Topics: Care Transitions, Patient and Family Engagement, Patient Outcomes

Leveraging Technology to Reduce Hospitals’ Growing Financial Risk

Posted by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on 3/31/16 9:27 AM

The reality of reform is harsh. In 2015, 2,592 hospitals were penalized to the tune of $420 million dollars for patient readmissions.

To attack the readmission challenges that hospitals face, you must first understand and solve the discharge challenges. The point at which the patient transitions from the hospital to the next level of care is a mission critical point.

The recently proposed Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) discharge planning regulations present an opportunity for hospitals and other health-care providers to improve the discharge process. With the proposed regulations, hospitals are faced with the need to:

  • Provide better communication and coordination with disparate providers and facilities
  • Accurately determine the level of readmission risk of a patient as well as specific areas of concern
  • Move patients as quickly as clinically appropriate to a lower level of care
  • Provide both clinical and non-clinical services to keep the patient well
  • Maintain communication and patient status at the patient’s care facility, home or other service location
Read More

Topics: Care Transitions, Medicare Readmission Penalties, Healthcare Technology Solutions

Part II: Four Steps to Maintain Patient Engagement after Discharge

Posted by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on 5/5/14 12:37 PM

Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part blog series. Read the first blog here.

In my blog last week, I talked about the fact that engaging patients in their care is essential to care quality, increasing patient satisfaction and achieving positive patient outcomes.

Read More

Topics: Post-acute Care, Care Coordination, Care Transitions, Patient and Family Engagement, Patient Satisfaction

Part I: Four Steps to Maintain Patient Engagement after Discharge

Posted by Mary Kay Thalken, RN, MBA on 4/28/14 11:24 AM

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part blog series. Read the second blog here.

It's no secret that engaging patients in their care is essential to care quality, increasing patient satisfaction and, ultimately, achieving positive patient outcomes.

Read More

Topics: Post-acute Care, Care Coordination, Care Transitions, Patient and Family Engagement, Reducing Readmissions