National Patient Safety Week: A Reason to Celebrate

National Patient Safety Awareness Week is next week (March 8 to 14), which gives health care organizations across the country a reason to celebrate the good work they do all year long to keep patients safe and provide top-quality care. For those of us who work in health care, we often get hyper-focused on what goes wrong when it comes to quality and patient safety and forget to pause a moment to recognize everything we do that is successful. While our dedication to quality and safety always needs to remain a top priority, I do want you to be proud of everything you do to ensure our patients get the best care. I’ve asked Eric Alper, MD, Chief Quality Officer and Chief Clinical Informatics Officer for UMass Memorial Health Care, to share some of the great work that is happening in this area around the system.

Alper2Eric Alper, MD, Chief Quality Officer and Chief Clinical Informatics Officer: Providing a safe, high-quality experience for our patients is of paramount importance to our mission at UMass Memorial Health Care. The current situation with our coronavirus preparations shines a spotlight on just how important our mission is and how dedicated all of our caregivers are to caring for our patients.

As system Chief Quality Officer, I have never been more gratified to see the level of engagement from all of our caregivers – leaders, front-line staff, clinical and non-clinical – around every aspect of patient experience, quality care and patient safety.

For example, there is great momentum at the Medical Center and Medical Group with the recently defined 2020 Patient Care Vision to provide an exceptional patient experience with world-class quality outcomes, zero harm and patient/family centeredness.

The Medical Center and Medical Group recently hired Chief Quality Officer Kimi Kobayashi, MD, who is bringing a new focus and rigor to this work. He has launched the new Center for Quality and Safety. The leadership team, directed by Medical Center President Michael Gustafson, MD, Medical Group President Steve Tosi, MD, Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Andrew Karson, MD, and Dr. Kobayashi (and many others) recently assembled 11 “SAFER” teams to work on some of the most important areas with greater opportunities, like “failure to rescue,” readmissions, C. Diff, pressure injuries and others. These leaders recently hosted a “SAFER Summit” that included about 100 leaders from the Medical Center, Medical Group and systemwide to highlight and prioritize the work being done by these teams and to address barriers. The community hospitals also held a similar summit on March 5 with about 40 leaders.

There were three important takeaways from both summits:

  • First, there is so much excitement and energy around making improvements in quality and safety.
  • Second, to make meaningful improvements, we need to continue to improve the Epic (our electronic health record) system to help people do their work in a way that will lead to the best outcomes.
  • Lastly, we still need data and reports from Epic to improve how we are performing – at the hospital, clinic and unit level.

However, Epic changes and data alone will not be sufficient to result in meaningful and sustained improvements. This will only come with the engagement of local teams – the leaders, managers, and front-line staff – to assure that we achieve this vision. We all need to shift our local culture to one that expects no less than the highest quality care and patient experience. And we need to continue to make improvements locally, using our idea boards and visual management systems. If everyone does their part, I have complete confidence that our outcomes in all of these areas will improve, and we will achieve our goals.

Ultimately, if we keep focused on what the patient needs and work as hard for each patient as we would for our own family members, it will be that much easier to achieve these goals. We must assure that each patient gets their care in a timely fashion, that they are treated with respect and dignity, and that they have the follow-up care that they need. By demonstrating empathy for patients and understanding their perspectives and needs, it helps us to be better caregivers.

Cleveland Clinic produced an outstanding video a few years back that helps to remind us of this important principle. At a time when it can sometimes be challenging to take care of patients, watching this video reminds me of why we all do what we do. It takes Everyone, Everyday to deliver the best care. Our patients are our neighbors, friends and families, and they deserve the very best care, provided close to home.

During National Patient Safety Awareness Week, let’s take a pause from this chaotic time we are in to celebrate our efforts to improve safety and quality, individually and collectively. Thank you for all of the outstanding work that you do to deliver the best possible care to our patients!

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