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07 Top Leadership Teams: Leverage Teamwork to Drive Quality

Molly Rowe, for HealthLeaders Magazine, December 13, 2007
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A Fundamental Commitment

Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida had four sentinel events the year before CEO Gwen MacKenzie joined the organization.

"We found ourselves in this never-ending cycle that went on for about eight months of survey and re-survey and action plan and re-action plan, and it just was not where we wanted to be," MacKenzie told attendees of the Top Leadership Teams conference. "We asked ourselves, 'Is this what we want to be--reacting to quality instead of taking a very broad approach to quality that fundamentally drives everything we do?'"

Just two years later, Sarasota's quality efforts are among the most successful in the country. Key to this, MacKenzie said, was making quality a priority for everyone--from board member to bedside nurse.

Twenty-five percent of every manager's merit increase is based on the quality scores of his or her department and the entire hospital. "That took this from being an initiative that may or may not go away to being the foundation of everything we do," MacKenzie said.

Accountability and transparency are common themes in hospitals dedicated to quality. North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital President and CEO Michael Dowling told TLT attendees that his New York system shares "all the data, all the time." Quality data, including bad outcomes and sentinel events, are shared monthly throughout the 15-hospital system. This creates healthy competition, says Dowling. "No hospital wants to be at the bottom of the list."

Alegent Health in Omaha, NE, posts its CMS quality scores and its prices on its Web site for public viewing. When Alegent launched the effort in 2005, it meant public acknowledgement that some core measures fell below regional averages. Posting the data and forcing accountability brought those scores way up, said CEO Wayne Sensor, but it took leadership support--from both the medical staff and the board--to make this happen.

"Quality is all about leadership, and that begins with the board," Sensor said. "The board and executive leadership need to set an agenda for quality that permeates everything going on in the organization."

Alegent Health, Omaha, NE:
Wayne Sensor, CEO
Fred Hosler, senior vice president and chief medical officer

North Shore-LIJ Health System, Great Neck, NY:
Michael Dowling, CEO
Joseph Conte, senior vice president of quality management

Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Sarasota, FL:
Gwen M. MacKenzie, RN, CEO
Judy Milne, executive director of quality and safety

-Molly Rowe

Read more about the 07 Top Leadership Teams in Healthcare Annual Conference and Awards

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