Aiming for the Top in Quality and Accountability

Donna Sollenberger, EVP & CEO, UTMB Health SystemSeveral weeks ago, I attended the annual University HealthSystem Consortium’s (UHC) Quality Forum. As I reviewed UTMB’s performance in the latest Quality and Accountability Study, I felt proud of how far we have come in terms of quality improvement. Yet, I also realized just how far we still must go to make sure our patients are always receiving the best possible care.

Reading the report, I thought of how the emphasis on quality in health care has increased in the last decade, and that it will continue to be emphasized as patients have more responsibility for the cost of their care—they will expect the best outcome at the best price, which equates to the best value.

My thoughts took me back to 2009, a time that is memorable to me for many reasons. Not only had I just arrived at UTMB Health that fall, but I had also received the UHC Quality and Accountability results for UTMB for the first time. The report typically includes approximately 110 academic medical centers that submit data on areas such as patient satisfaction, hospital acquired conditions (infections), mortality rates (deaths that are not expected), and cost. The centers are then ranked based on their performance using a five-star system, with five stars being the best. That year, we were only a two-star hospital, ranking in the bottom quartile of the list of reporting hospitals.

This year, I was pleased with the news that we are now solidly a three-star hospital and performing at the median of the reporting hospitals. We did very well in the measures of mortality (27 out of 112 reporting), equity of care (we ranked first of all the reporting hospitals), and patient-centeredness, which includes our performance on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) measures.

The more challenging news, however, is that our performance in several other areas needs improvement. In the category of effectiveness, which includes data for all-cause 30-day readmissions and core measures, we ranked 76 out of 112. For safety, which includes measures on postoperative hemorrhage and hematoma, we ranked 53 out of 112. In efficiency, we ranked only 94 out of 112. The latter means that we have a long way to go in managing our inpatient length of stay, as well as our cost of care for certain services.

While we have done an excellent job in many areas, my goal is that UTMB Health continues to improve its performance in this important study. During the conference, I sat next to a friend whose hospital has been in the Top 10 of the Quality and Accountability Study for four years in a row. I firmly believe UTMB can also achieve this if we continue working hard to improve. This means we must always place the best interest of our patients as our top priority. We can achieve this by focusing on patient satisfaction, patient safety, and the effectiveness and efficiency of patient care delivery.

Here are a few things to consider as each and every one of us work to improve our patients’ experiences while at UTMB Health:

  • Are we communicating with and meeting the needs of our patients?
  • Are we creating an environment where patients have the best opportunity to have the best possible outcome?
  • Do we have the correct and necessary supplies we need for patient care? Are any supplies expired?
  • Are patient rooms available in a timely manner? Are they thoroughly cleaned so that the patient’s risk of infection is minimized?
  • Are our physicians and residents working closely with care management to assure that the patient’s length of stay does not exceed what would be expected for that condition?
  • Are all health care employees effectively and efficiently using the resources required to deliver patient care in a manner that helps ensure the cost of care does not exceed what would be expected for a patient with a particular diagnosis?
  • Are our systems and processes streamlined to minimize cost and increase effectiveness?
  • Are we washing our hands or using gel each time we enter and leave a patient’s room?
  • Are our physicians sitting down at eye level to the patient each time they enter a patient or exam room?

I know we can continue to excel in this study by focusing on these measures—we have come so far already! Thank you for everything you do to make a difference in the quality and safety of patient care at UTMB Health. I look forward to working with each of you as we continue our journey to be the safest and highest quality hospital for our all of our patients.