Pines & Armstrong, Fostering Innovation

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Brad Armstrong and Denise Pines recently joined the foundation board of directors for the same reason: to make sure the hospital keeps getting stronger. “We got the facility open but the work’s not done yet,” says Armstrong, a senior partner at Top Tier Consulting who has been responsible for the design and implementation of Internet connectivity throughout the hospital. “I want to see us finish the work we started.”

“We have to be open to new ideas all of the time,” says Pines, the former president of The Smiley Group and long-time business partner of Los Angles entertainer, entrepreneur, and talk show host Tavis Smiley. “Healthcare is constantly changing; there will always be new ways of doing things. That’s why it’s called practicing medicine.”

“Coming into the ER is the most expensive and least desirable doctor’s visit possible. People need to understand that a healthy lifestyle and a regular visit to a primary care doctor are what make a healthy community. The hospital can’t be responsible for making that happen, but it has taken the lead, serving as an initiator of the changing care model. Technology can be a key part of the solution.” —Brad Armstrong

Becoming a Model Hospital

As a foundation board member, Armstrong hopes to steer MLKCH into becoming a national role model for quality healthcare in underserved communities.

“My goal is to see the hospital become an innovation center developing better tools for the primary caregivers, and more technology access for inner city residents,” Armstrong explains. “The area surrounding MLKCH is very low-tech, and the hospital’s mission includes raising the bar on connectivity for the whole community. This, in turn, allows the hospital to engage in more effective outreach.”

Pines speaks of the need for additional equipment. “It’s been thought that the hospital would share resources with the county facility that’s nearby, but there are things we need 24/7,” she says. “For example, we have one CT scanner and we need another. While one is being used for a procedure, the other can be in use for emergency diagnostics—more problems can be solved faster.”

“I’ve worked with lots of corporations, organizations, associations, and unions,” continues Pines, who now heads up denise+pines inc., a brand strategy, media development, and event production firm. “As a board member, I can bring resources to the foundation that will help make sure we become an even better state-of-the-art facility.”

“We have to be open to new ideas all of the time. Healthcare is constantly changing; there will always be new ways of doing things. That’s why it’s called practicing medicine.” —Denise Pines

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The Community Matters

Pines and Armstrong are both involved with efforts to raise health awareness in South LA. Pines is helping to establish partnerships between the hospital and companies such as Walmart and Walgreens. “Retailers are becoming healthcare settings providing vaccinations and dispensing prescription drugs,” she says. “The retail setting can be a natural environment for proactive healthcare, allowing the hospital to deal with more acute health issues.”

“Coming into the ER is the most expensive and least desirable doctor’s visit possible,” agrees Armstrong. “People need to understand that a healthy lifestyle and a regular visit to a primary care doctor are what make a healthy community. The hospital can’t be responsible for making that happen, but it has taken the lead, serving as an initiator of the changing care model. Technology can be a key part of the solution.”

Patients admitted to MLKCH often have complex, chronic conditions that require a special kind of attention to ensure that they return home with health and habits they can sustain. For these patients, the hospital has developed an innovative, team-based approach, one that begins upon admission and continues through discharge. The MLKCH care management team includes a range of medical professionals, from nurse manager and physician to pharmacist and care coordinator, all of whom participate in the patient’s recovery.

“We’re fortunate to start from zero,” Armstrong remarks about such practices. “This community hasn’t been well-served in the past, but it now has the opportunity to receive care delivered in a way that is progressive and effective.”

A Bond to South LA

Both Pines and Armstrong have a long-time connection with South LA. Pines cites her involvement in the launch of many community and health-related initiatives while working under the Smiley banner, including traveling health conferences and expos, and a monthly health conversation on radio and TV.

As for Armstrong, the time he spent creating and managing the first technology platform for the Watts Health Center in the 1980s grounded his commitment and understanding of the needs of the community. “I’ve spent decades trying to use technology to make peoples’ lives better,” he says. “South LA will always hold a special place in my heart.”

Pines has a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from San Francisco State University, and Master of Science degrees from John F. Kennedy University and Stanford in business and finance. She also sits on the Medical Board of California. Armstrong received his BS in math and computer science from UCLA, and went on to earn an MBA in finance from USC. Prior to founding Top Tier Consulting, Armstrong was a partner at Deloitte Consulting in its healthcare practice.