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How Do I: Reduce My Hospital's Mortality Rate?

Analysis  |  By Amanda Norris  
   July 08, 2024

How can CMOs reduce hospital mortality rates at their organizations?

CMOs play a crucial role in helping hospitals reduce mortality rates by overseeing initiatives and strategies aimed at improving patient outcomes, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.

By analyzing mortality data across the healthcare system, CMOs like Andy Anderson, MD, MBA, executive vice president and chief medical and quality office, at RWJBarnabas Health can identify opportunities for improvement and implement tactics to drive change.

In fact, several initiatives at RWJBarnabas Health over the past two years have led to a significant reduction in the hospital mortality rate.

"We recognized a couple of years ago the opportunity to improve our mortality outcomes after doing an analysis of those outcomes across the health system's hospitals," he says. "We saw that we could improve."

One of the strategies RWJBarnabas launched is a mortality review process, which basically means reviewing and learning from a patient's death.

"Each of our hospitals has a team that reviews those cases and identifies whether there are any learning opportunities," Anderson says. "They go back and educate the team that took care of a deceased patient when learning opportunities arise."

The health system can then take those lessons from its 12 hospitals, put them in a single database, and identify common themes, Anderson says.

"For example, we may identify themes in cardiology or neurology cases, then we can go back to the service line and discuss how they can perform better or think differently in the future," he says. "Sometimes, there is nothing to learn from a death, but other times there is something to learn, and we must share that knowledge."

Another mortality reduction initiative has focused on ICU care, Anderson says.

"We are making sure that patients who are on ventilators are getting the right care," he says. "We are making sure that we have appropriate staffing in our ICUs. We are making sure we have enough ICU beds."

RWJBarnabas is heading in the right direction by focusing on the right things, Anderson says.

"We have reduced mortality by 20% across our health system hospitals over the past two years," he says.

The mortality reduction initiatives reflect how RWJBarnabas approaches patient safety and quality in three ways, Anderson says.

"No. 1, we are using data to drive improvement," he says. "We know more clearly how we are doing and the goals we need to achieve. We are monitoring mortality data over time. No. 2, we are working as a health system, sharing best practices, and identifying the best ways to do this work. No. 3, we are using our electronic health record as a driver of change. Examples of using the EHR to address mortality include the deterioration index and the sepsis alert. Epic is helping us standardize best practices."

This article is part of HealthLeaders’ How Do I? series. Read the entire article by Chris Cheney here.

Amanda Norris is the Director of Content for HealthLeaders.


CMOs are crucial in implementing initiatives to reduce hospital mortality rates by analyzing data and identifying areas for improvement.

Initiatives such as mortality review processes and focusing on ICU care have led to a significant reduction in mortality rates at RWJBarnabas Health, showing that these strategies are effective.

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