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Reform Sharpens Focus on Quality Outcomes

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 16, 2011
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There is nothing in a hospital or healthcare system that is so significant for the patients they serve—and, increasingly, for the facilities themselves—as quality.

With the advent of healthcare reform, the quest for quality has become relentless. Quality initiatives have become more prominent along with government initiatives that set specific benchmarks to improve patient care.

Hospital systems achieving high levels of quality are making large-scale improvements in lowering readmission rates, eliminating bloodstream infections, reducing medical errors, lowering mortality rates, and improving patient satisfaction.

Jeffrey A. Rivest, president and CEO of the 757-licensed-bed University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, MD, says attaining quality is paramount. The winner for any organization is understanding quality, says Rivest. “Everything we do points [to] how we measure quality.”

“It’s all about our culture, pursuing a strategy and implementing,” says Rivest, referring to the demands within his own healthcare system. “We have put quality front and center, and challenge ourselves to be national leaders in respect to quality,” he says, reflecting of aims of The Joint Commission, whose 2010 report on quality and safety for improving America’s hospitals emphasizes accountability measures within hospital systems.

Indeed, healthcare is awash with programs, projects, and committees that seek to improve healthcare. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, through pilot programs and other projects, plans are under way to improve quality and reduce costs against the backdrop of more insured patients coming into the system, additional regulatory challenges, and limited numbers of physicians and nurses. Innovations being tested include accountable care organizations, increasingly robust electronic medical records, and models such as the medical home. While many healthcare organizations are striving in that direction, the trail toward success is sometimes made more difficult due to lack of planning, resources, or confidence.

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