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October 17, 2006 > When Quality Counts the Most

When Quality Counts the Most

Health Care Quality is All about the Patient

by Washington Hospital

Think about all the things “quality” is attributed to on a daily basis – produce, cars, furniture…and health care. The truth is that in recent years patients have become savvy health care consumers, and they want to know that they are receiving the highest quality health care possible.

National Healthcare Quality Week, recognized October 15 to 21, 2006 by the National Association for Healthcare Quality (NAHQ), is dedicated to the importance of quality in health care and also celebrates the work of quality professionals in health care and highlights their influence in achieving improved outcomes of patient care and healthcare delivery systems to administrators, allied health professionals, and the public.

High quality care is nothing new at your local community hospital. Washington Hospital has an entire department dedicated to quality, aptly named the Quality Department, which works behinds the scenes helping nurses, physicians and other support staff achieve the highest quality care possible.

“Quality is an important element of health care at the hospital because it’s the process by which we measure and strive to improve the care we deliver to our patients and the community,” according to Senior Director of Quality Stephanie Williams.

Their job is quality health care

Williams and her department are responsible for overseeing the organization’s performance activities, working with staff and physicians to assure the quality of care delivered to patients meets or exceeds regulatory and best practices, she says.

Quality improvement measures at the hospital are anything but vague, and the staff is always looking for ways to improve every aspect of care, as dictated by the hospital’s “patient-first ethic,” which drives the entire organization.

According to Williams, just a few examples of “Patient Safety Quality Improvement” processes at the hospital include:

  • Implementation of a Rapid Response Team (RRT) that consists of a Respiratory Therapist and an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse. The team makes rounds or can be called by the hospital’s staff to assist in the care of a patient who is acutely ill, before the patient has a cardiac arrest or adverse event. The RRT consults with the patient’s physician(s) and appropriate care is rendered. This team has been very well received by staff and physicians, and its presence has show a reduction of cardiac arrests and adverse events.

  • Implementation of a process for comparing the medications the patient takes at home, including over-the-counter and herbal, with those that are ordered in the hospital to eliminate potential medication errors. Eventually, upon discharge, the patient will receive a list of all his or her medications (including medications taken at home) that can be easily updated.

More nurses, better care

The hospital also has a high registered nurse-to-patient ratio, which studies have shown results in better patient outcomes.

“Washington Hospital Healthcare System always had a high registered nurse-to-patient ratio because of our patient-first ethic in providing the best care to our patients,” Williams says. “The new staffing ratio laws had little impact on us because of our already high standards.” Washington Hospital was also an active participant in the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) 100,000 Lives Campaign, a national initiative to save 100,000 lives by June 2006, using proven clinical practices and methods developed from evidence–based medicine.

“We had many of the 100K Lives Campaign initiatives in place (before the campaign),” Williams says. “The campaign allowed us to use evidence-based medicine to challenge our processes and put safeguards in place to promote patient safety and deliver the optimum care to our patients.”

She also notes that the hospital currently serves as a mentor hospital for the 100,000 Lives Campaign’s Ventilator Associated Pneumonia (VAP) program, which works to prevent the type of pneumonia which occurs in people who have required mechanical ventilation through an endotracheal or tracheostomy tube for at least 48 hours.

Seamless quality, better patient outcomes

So when do patients see quality happening in the hospital? Many times, they won’t. Patients may never see the hospital’s Pharmacy Department verifying their medications before they receive them or may not realize that when the doctor and nurses double and triple check their name, type of procedure they are having or a medication dosage that they are seeing finely tuned quality procedures at work.

“The quality measures undertaken by the Hospital staff are seamless to the patients,” Williams says. “We are constantly looking at ways to provide a safer environment for our patients. They can rest assured that the staff and physicians are competent to provide the care each patient receives.”

Despite the best practices, there is always room for improvement. At Washington Hospital, the overriding belief is that if the organization and its staff are not constantly improving themselves, then something is not working right.

The most important part of your health care team

Washington Hospital believes that the patient has a huge role in his or her health care. In being active members of their health care team by asking questions and being informed, patients help improve their own outcomes.

“Quality at Washington Hospital Healthcare System is an ongoing process,” Williams says. “The patient and family need to be involved in the care process. We appreciate feedback from our patients and community; this is how we continue to improve our care delivery processes.” To find out more about Washington Hospital Healthcare System and initiatives like the 100,000 Lives Campaign, visit and click on “About Us.”

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