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NEWS | Feb. 28, 2018

NHCC’s 2017 year in review

By U.S. Navy Capt. Dale Barrette, commanding officer Naval Health Clinic Charleston

In July 2017, I assumed command of Naval Health Clinic Charleston and I am especially proud to lead such an impressive group of outstanding men and women. Together, these individuals are a dedicated team of healthcare professionals leading this clinic on its journey to become a high reliability organization. Our progress on this journey is due to the dedicated professionalism of those who provide committed care each day to our family of beneficiaries.


We are charged by our mission to provide the safest and highest quality health care, ensuring the readiness and health of those entrusted to our care, while adapting to the rapidly changing challenges of today and tomorrow. 


We are driven by our vision, to sustain a compassionate, skilled and capable team of dedicated professionals who focus on exceeding expectations by delivering exceptional, patient-centered care at all times.


2017 was a year of challenge, opportunity and change for NHCC. One of our biggest accomplishments was the improvement in our performance, a reflection of robust and proactive leadership and teamwork. We have continuously advanced our quality measures and have seen incomparable compliance with our objective measures of care.


We implemented new initiatives while making quality improvements, always staying focused on safety and patient satisfaction. We provide support and emphasis for total health protection and comprehensive military readiness.


As an example, we improved our Medical Home Port primary care access by 20 percent by extending our primary care hours from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Additionally, we added early clinic hours for our student population. Our physicians, administrators and support staff work together to allow patients greater scheduling flexibility by offering later appointments and working to maintain provider continuity when possible. Our patients’ affirmation has been tremendous, with an initial 75 percent utilization rate.


NHCC’s pharmacy introduced a self-service kiosk system operated by DoD ID cards and a new prescription drop off service. By calling 843-794-6100, patients can activate their prescriptions and are given the option to pick up prescriptions in as little as three hours or return the next day. Most patients can go through the drive-thru – how’s that for convenience!


Normally, the pharmacy averages over 900 prescriptions per day but, this past January, the pharmacy dispensed an all-time-high of 1,900 prescriptions in one day. Even with over double the number prescriptions, the pharmacy retained its quality measures to ensure its high safety standards.


Our laboratory staff members celebrated great successes this past year after implementing a new labelling process eliminating all labelling mistakes for the last 14 months. Our lab’s labelling process has been deemed a best practice for Navy medicine and is considered a model for other military labs.


In October, our Radiology Department implemented a, “Mammo-in-a-Minute,” program allowing walk-in appointments for women near due or past due for their annual mammograms. As a result, 90 percent of NHCC’s patients in this population got their breast cancer screenings; an incredibly important effort to promote women’s health and wellness.


Our Preventive Medicine and Immunizations teams also successfully administered nearly 9,500 flu shots since October.

Thanks to our patients and increased follow up from our staff, no-shows rates have decreased, in some cases as much as 50 percent. Remember, we live in a resource-constrained era where the value of time and resources is precious. Each time a patient misses an appointment without calling to cancel in sufficient time, it costs NHCC the equivalent of $130. Patients who do call to cancel allow us to rebook their appointments for other patients. This practice saves thousands of taxpayer dollars.

Continuing to provide in demand services, in-house, this year, our dental clinic brought an oral surgeon onboard improving access to dental surgery by 57 percent. Doing surgeries at NHCC saves approximately $168,000 annually with the added advantage of sending fewer service members for dental surgery outside the military healthcare system.


We’ve strengthened our human resources staff by hiring a civilian personnel liaison, streamlining the internal and external hiring processes. As a result, there has been an 85 percent reduction in the hiring backlog over the last year.


As with any military treatment facility, we experience high turnover during the summer months when service members change duty stations. About 25 percent of the hospital's employees are new. We have extraordinary new talent blended with strong existing staff continuity. Our more seasoned staff members mentor our newer personnel, fostering a positive culture of learning and support.

NHCC’s reputation for medical excellence is due to our staff’s sincere commitment to the health and well-being of everyone we serve including the diverse commands located on Joint Base Charleston and the Naval Weapons Station. NHCC continues to search out ways to be a community asset. Our most notable collaboration is with the Lowcountry Federal Healthcare Alliance. LFHA consists of NHCC, 628th Medical Group, Naval Hospital Beaufort and the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. This council provides innovative strategic planning for sharing and enhancing services offered to our combined beneficiaries while ensuring efficient and effective operations. 


Despite all we’ve accomplished, we still face challenges. We are committed to overcoming those challenges and continually improving the experience of care. To meet this goal, we need your help. We are planning to hold town hall meetings to meet with you, our stakeholders, and answer your questions. Additionally, we want to hear your concerns position and find ways to address issues raised. The event is currently being planned and will be announced in an upcoming issue of the Patriot and on our Facebook page at


In the meantime, another opportunity to get involved is to join the Patient Advisory Committee. This is a formal group which meets regularly for collaboration between healthcare staff, patients and family members on policy and program decisions. If you’re interested in joining this committee, please email your contact information to our Customer Relations Officer, Ms. Stephanie Johnson at


Our job is to provide superior care and, with your help, we’ll continue to do it - every day.