Campus News

February 28, 2011

Report From: Emory Healthcare

Demonstrating a commitment to patient safety

John T. Fox is president and CEO, Emory Healthcare   

Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time (i.e. five minutes or more) around those of us inhabiting the health care side of the Emory universe has heard or read about our ongoing commitment to "quality."

In fact, quality encompasses all that shapes and drives our mission as health care providers, and is the ultimate performance measuring stick. It is our moral obligation to our patients and their families to provide impeccable outcomes delivered safely with excellent service.

We generally measure four segments of quality—processes, patient satisfaction, safety and outcomes. Patients and their families care the most about outcomes and service. Processes are key to achieving the outcome and satisfaction goals. Patient safety, avoidance of harm in the process of care, is obviously also a key outcome. 

In many ways, mortality is the ultimate outcome. The Institute of Medicine pointed out in 1999 in its seminal publication "To Err is Human" that 44,000 to 98,000 people die annually in the U.S. as a result of hospital errors.

Saving lives

Our goal is to prevent death when possible – but when death occurs, it should happen with dignity and if possible in the setting desired by the patient and family, often at home or in hospice. 

We have worked hard on this over the past 10 years by strengthening all key clinical processes. And Emory hospitals, I am proud to note, have recently recorded risk adjusted mortality ratios among the top 10 academic medical centers. This is a particularly outstanding achievement given that our patients are among the most complex seen at any academic medical center. This means real lives saved.

In just the last six weeks, Emory Healthcare has been presented with a bevy of honors highlighting our commitment to quality, including the prestigious Circle of Excellence Award.

This honor is given to hospitals and health systems that have demonstrated a sustained commitment to quality and patient safety as evidenced by not only winning a patient safety award in 2010, but also by earning three or more Partnership for Health and Accountability = Patient Safety Awards within the previous five years.

Additionally, we have been recognized with top Quality and Patient Safety Awards for a project that improved influenza and pneumonia vaccination rates among our patients, as well as a project that dramatically reduced the occurrence of pressure ulcers in the intensive care unit – a real problem that is ever-present in ICUs across the country.  

These projects are created, not by policy, but rather innovative teamwork and collaboration from professionals who are passionate about seeing real change implemented in the care setting.

This is the most exciting part of this award program – it recognizes those who work together to find new and better ways of caring for our patients, while setting a standard that others across the country might also follow.

Further, both Emory University Hospital and Emory University Hospital Midtown have been honored as Quality Honor Roll hospitals recently by the Georgia Hospital Association – placing Emory hospitals among a handful of elite health care facilities across the entire state in terms of quality improvement.

'Right care at the right time'

The honor roll is based on clinical data provided by the federal Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, which administers the nation's Medicare and Medicaid programs, detailing how well a hospital's caregivers adhere to a list of eight Appropriate Care Measures, a composite measure that determines whether or not a patient received the "right care at the right time."  

Other recent accolades and highlights include a 13th straight annual Consumer's Choice Award and inclusion in U.S. News & World Report's guide to America's Best Hospitals.

Additionally, since its opening in fall 2008, Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital has consistently been rated in the 90th percentile (93rd recently) in the nation for patient satisfaction -- out of more than 1,000 hospitals, according to Press Ganey. And patient satisfaction scores at our other facilities are also among the nation's best – or pushing the envelope near the top – an incredible feat. 

Again, the mission of Emory Healthcare (the reason we exist) is within the context of an academic medical center to provide the highest quality clinical outcomes, delivered safely with outstanding service to the patients and families who entrust us with their care each day. All 12,000 physicians and employees of Emory Healthcare remain committed to that goal as our true north.

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  • About this column

    "Report From:" is a rotating regular column submitted by departments, divisions and units at Emory. Contact Editor Kim Urquhart to find out more.