Celebrating quality

A heightened focus on the science of safety and a meticulous effort to continuously improve patient care resulted in an elite award for VCU Medical Center in 2014. The medical center won the American Hospital Association (AHA)-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize, which honors leadership and innovation in safety and quality improvement and comes with a $75,000 prize.

Tagged “Safety First, Every Day,” the medical center’s effort began in 2008 and signaled a turn toward zero events of preventable harm to patients, team members and visitors, and a cultural shift toward high reliability and constant improvement in every area of operations.

“We knew this work was going to have an impact on patient lives and change the culture of our organization,” said L. Dale Harvey, director of the Department of Performance Improvement, who spearheaded the team effort. “After six years on our journey toward high reliability, we wanted external experts to assess and validate whether we are as thought-leading as we aspire to be.”

To answer that question, a group from AHA’s multidisciplinary committee of health care quality and safety experts arrived at VCU Medical Center in March 2014 and examined how effectively it was achieving the Institute of Medicine’s six quality aims — safe, timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centered health care. The group found that VCU Medical Center team members demonstrated a laser-sharp focus on high reliability practices and a relentless dedication to ensuring the safety of patients, team members and visitors.

“We are humbled and honored by this recognition because it affirms that we are among the best of the very best in the nation,” said John F. Duval, VCU’s vice president for clinical services and CEO of VCU Hospitals.

In addition to placing VCU Medical Center among an elite group of hospitals nationwide, the $75,000 prize furthers its efforts to engage local patients and families through an advisory committee formed in 2014 along with other projects.

“One area we see the potential for additional growth in is patient centeredness,” Harvey said. “Further involving patients and families in our quality and safety efforts helps us determine not only what needs to be improved, but also how we should go about improving our services to best meet the needs of the region.”

The award drew attention among hospitals nationwide, leading to increased requests for consultation and speakers from VCU Medical Center as they seek to emulate results of its “Safety First” effort.

“This affords us opportunities to share our success, as well as to go out and learn from others which makes our organization even better,” Harvey said. “We know we still have a lot of work to do. This is meant to be an ongoing journey.”

Since beginning its quest to become America’s safest health system, VCU Medical Center:

  • Trained more than 13,000 team members in the science of safety
  • Posted a 50 percent reduction in serious safety hospital events
  • Deployed an electronic early warning system that empowers the medical center’s Rapid Response Team to effectively triage and visit the most critically ill patients before their conditions deteriorate

AHA also noted the results of VCU’s Complex Care Clinic and Virginia Coordinated Care program, including:

  • 44 percent: decline in inpatient admissions
  • 38 percent: decrease in emergency care utilization
  • 49 percent: reduction in hospital costs (totaling $4 million)