Quality and Patient Safety are Job #1

You may have seen the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades that were reported by some media outlets recently. In case you missed it, here is the link. Two of our hospital campuses saw an improvement in their grades (Marlborough and Leominster), while all others remained at their previous level. We are enormously proud of the great work being done at Marlborough Hospital and our HealthAlliance-Clinton locations, and we recognize we have more work to do at the University and Memorial campuses.

I am confident that we will make significant progress in quality and patient safety across the system in the coming years under the leadership of Eric Alper, MD, our system Chief Quality Officer and Chief Informatics Officer, who is working in lock step with each entity’s clinical leaders. I’ve asked Dr. Alper to be our guest blogger this week to share with you an overview of our quality and patient safety work across the system.

Guest Blogger: Eric Alper, MD, Chief Quality Officer and Chief Informatics Officer, UMass Memorial Health Care

Alper2Twenty years ago, the Institute of Medicine published a report that shook the health care industry to its core: “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System.” This landmark piece reported that more than 44,000 people die each year due to preventable medical errors. While there has been some disagreement about the true numbers of patients harmed, too many patients still experience harm in our health care system, and progress on making substantial improvement has been very slow.

One preventable death is too many. Our collective goal in all of health care should be zero harm. Those of us who work in quality and patient safety roles are haunted by stories of other organizations who experience “headline grabbing” patient safety events, such as what happened recently at Seattle Children’s Hospital with an outbreak of mold that caused the death of six patients and sickened 14 others.

Zero harm. How does our industry get there?

The good news for us at UMass Memorial is that we performed very well this past year as a system compared to other health care organizations in areas such as mortality rates, our rates of hospital acquired infections and our quality performance in our accountable care organization, which includes our ambulatory practices and other practices in our Managed Care Network. As Dr. Dickson notes above, we’ve seen incredible progress at HealthAlliance-Clinton Hospital and Marlborough Hospital as acknowledged by their Leapfrog Safety Grades this year. The Medical Center was named a top hospital by Healthgrades, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report. All of these achievements are only made possible because of your dedication and commitment to providing the best care possible, and for that, I thank you!

There is much more work to do, however. After all, zero harm is our goal. Zero harm also is in the name of the book that some of us have read: “Zero Harm: How to Achieve Patient and Workforce Safety in Healthcare.” We read this book as part of a retreat at the Medical Center under President Dr. Michael Gustafson’s leadership. I applaud him for spearheading a major quality and patient safety initiative to transform their quality outcomes and revitalize their culture of safety. Leaders for our other system entities also participated in this retreat and are planning similar initiatives.

As FY 2020 begins, we have an opportunity to start fresh, refocus and build upon our successes. Our plan for improving quality across the system includes many components.

  • We will strive for zero harm to our patients—for example, to prevent hospital acquired infections, pressure injuries and falls.
  • We will focus even harder on identifying patients who are declining at an earlier point so that we can make interventions earlier.
  • We will make sure that patients receive the best basic care possible—that they are shifted in bed, mobilized regularly, have lines removed as quickly as possible—all while receiving the best quality, evidence-based, standard care for their underlying problem.
  • We will be more patient- and family-centered and more responsive to the needs of our patients, while we treat all members of our teams with civility and respect.
  • With your help, we will continue to optimize Epic (our electronic health record system) so that it will be easier for you to do your work more efficiently.
  • We will make it easier for each unit to understand its performance on important quality and patient experience measures, so you can discuss as a team how you will make measurable improvements.
  • We will hold each other accountable to treating each other with respect, as we are all trying to accomplish the same goal of providing outstanding patient care.

Please see the graphic below that describes how we plan to improve quality and patient safety across the system this year.

Consistently delivering safe, high-quality, high-value patient care is our core mission, and is the foundation for all that we do to care for the people of Central Massachusetts.  It’s going to take Everyone, Everyday, with EVERY interaction, to assure that we deliver the care that we would want our own family members to receive.

Let’s make 2020 the year that we become a leader in quality and patient safety in Massachusetts and the nation. I know that we can do this together!



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