As health care reform continues to evolve, opinions differ on a variety of issues. But one thing that everyone agrees on is quality care for patients. Quality assurance and metrics are a top priority throughout the health care industry.
Likewise, quality has always been a primary focus at Premier Surgical Associates. That’s why I was honored to be selected to participate in the AHA-NPSF Comprehensive Patient Safety Leadership Fellowship, a program of the American Hospital Association and the National Patient Safety Foundation and one of the foremost patient safety leadership development program in the nation.
During this yearlong program, we met several times in various locations around the country for seminars and discussions. I had the opportunity to interact with some of the top thought leaders in quality metrics and quality assurance – leaders such as Dr. Lucian Leape, a physician and professor at Harvard School of Public Health and one of the authors of “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System.” This 1999 report is arguably the expose that led to the push for improving quality in health care.
Another faculty member in the program was Dr. Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health. A respected and influential researcher, he focuses on innovations to improve safety and performance in surgery, childbirth and care of the terminally ill.
These great thought leaders gave those of us in the program insight on the latest quality initiatives and inspired us to delve deep into discussions on topics such as “How do you measure quality?” and “How do we define quality?”
Of course, there are no black-and-white answers to these questions; we are defining the parameters as we go along. But this fellowship brought together people from all disciplines in the medical field, from physicians and nurses to hospital administrators. It gave us an opportunity to compare best practices to improve quality and challenged us to put these measures into practice.
As a part of the program, we formed teams and developed action learning projects. Along with my two teammates — Chris Clark, a vice president at Tennessee Hospital Association (THA) and Barbara Martin, RN/MBA and quality control officer in the department of surgery at Vanderbilt Medical Center – we put together a project to help patients in Tennessee.
Our team’s project aimed at reducing wound infections in colon surgery, a very common incident and a significant cause of morbidity and added cost after surgery. We established protocols and procedures to be used in 10 hospitals throughout the state that perform these surgeries. This ongoing project, which began in January, is now actively being followed in 21 Tennessee hospitals, reducing costs and saving lives across the state. We are currently compiling data to compare with previous years to measure the success of these safety measures.
At Premier, we are always trying to stay ahead of the curve in defining and measuring our own quality measures – a task that is not always easy. Through this fellowship, I have made valuable connections with colleagues throughout the country committed to the same goals – reducing costs and improving patient care. This is a great resource for sharing best practices and for finding out what is working in other facilities.
For the past year, I have spent much time reading about, discussing and exploring ways to improve the quality of health care. The results of this learning fellowship have been innovative processes and safety practices that lead to better outcomes, making a positive difference for our patients every day.
Dr. Gibson is a general surgeon with Premier Surgical Associate’s Parkwest Medical Center office in Knoxville, TN.
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