Feature Story

Health Center Today, November 13, 2009

Health Center Recognized for Quality Improvements in Several Areas

By Carolyn Pennington

The Health Center continues to show improvement in several quality control areas and is being recognized for its efforts by outside agencies.

The Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center recently received the Get With The GuidelinesSM–Heart Failure Bronze Performance Achievement Award from the American Heart Association. The recognition signifies that the Health Center has reached an aggressive goal of treating heart failure patients for at least 90 days with 85 percent compliance to core standard levels of care outlined by the American Heart Association/American College of Cardiology. Get With The Guidelines is a quality improvement initiative that provides hospital staff with tools that follow proven evidence-based guidelines and procedures in caring for heart failure patients to prevent future hospitalizations.

Another recent study by a national alliance representing the majority of university hospitals in the U.S. ranked the Health Center in the top 10 for several key measurements of quality care in intensive care units (ICUs).The University Health System Consortium looked at specific metrics related to care in hospital ICUs such as length of stay, cost, and mortality for patients needing specialized services, including ventilators. The Health Center was ranked among the top 10 nationally in four out of six specific measurements and was among only three academic hospitals which ranked in the top 10 for four or more measures.

"This report validates the work of our highly trained staff in helping patients with critical illness due to life-threatening lung and heart conditions, and more. While it is very gratifying to be among the top performers in the country, our main goal is to deliver the best care possible every day for our patients," said Dr. Joseph Palmisano, interim chairman of the Department of Medicine and a board-certified specialist in critical care medicine.

Other accomplishments this fall include the reconfiguration of the third floor to better accommodate medical admissions while maintaining capacity for psychiatry. This has resulted in additional capacity for 11 medical-surgical admissions, relieving pressure on telemetry monitoring, step-down, and ICU beds.

The Department of Quality Programs has been instrumental in forming several working committees that target areas of care where errors are more likely to occur. The program’s medical director, Dr. Scott Allen, says medication errors, patient falls, hospital acquired infections, and pain management are areas that are particularly vulnerable to errors. "We are continually exploring ways to minimize risk, improve environment and encourage communication to ensure our patients with the safest environment possible," explains Allen. "We are monitoring top performing hospitals and comparing our progress."

Another effort to improve quality and patient safety is the daily "All Hands on Deck" meetings. Hospital staff from various departments has been meeting every morning since the end of March. The focus of the meetings is to address specific elements of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Consultants’ Performance Excellence assessment/findings. The MGH team will be at the Health Center November 16 to 19 to assess our progress. "There are approximately 30 action teams who are addressing specific elements of the MGH recommendations and findings by the Department of Public Health," says Ann Marie Capo, associate vice president of quality programs and leader of the meetings. "Each day the group focuses on one of those elements and what the action team is doing as well as issues or events encountered in the hospital the day before like patient safety, patient experience and infection control."

Another Health Center goal is to increase staff involvement in patient safety awareness. For instance, the Good Catch Award recognizes individuals who report "near-miss" situations. The Patient Safety Committee reviews the "good catches" to look for ways to prevent the near-misses from reoccurring.

"I think the most striking culture change that we have accomplished has been the ability to break down our silos," adds Ellen Leone, director of nursing. "We’ve begun working as a true multi-disciplinary and multi-departmental team, accomplishing positive outcomes in our journey to provide safe and optimal care to our patients and their families."