A Publication of WTVP

An ever-increasing public debate about the quality of healthcare has been underway in this country since the late 1990s. News media have produced frequent articles exploring quality problems with doctors, hospitals and nursing homes, and yet, for all its spending, the United States still has quality issues in its healthcare institutions and practices.

Methodist Medical Center has taken an early lead in a vibrant movement now underway to improve services to their patients. This quest for quality is driven from the top. When Methodist President and CEO Michael Bryant first came to the organization, he began a system-wide program to elevate quality and excellence in every aspect of the hospital, whether it’s the mission of “Delivering Outstanding Healthcare. Period;” posting quality reports on the hospital website; or the organizational strategic plan, which includes three core competencies: Clinical Excellence, Service Excellence and Operational Excellence.

For the past three years, Methodist has used the criteria of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to improve performance throughout the organization. Organizations in all walks of life strive for the coveted Baldrige Award as a designation of quality and efficiency. Former Secretary of Commerce Malcolm Baldrige was a proponent of quality management as a key to this country’s prosperity and long-term strength, taking a personal interest in the quality improvement act that was eventually named after him. Congress established the Baldrige Award program in 1987 to recognize organizations for their achievements in quality and performance. The award is given by the President of the United States to businesses that apply and are judged to be outstanding in the areas of leadership; strategic planning; customer and market focus; measurement, analysis, and knowledgeable management; workforce focus; process management; and results.

As director of Quality and Safety for Methodist, Cindy Hale plays a key role in the monitoring and implementation of quality programs throughout the organization. “The Lincoln Foundation for Performance Excellence presents a three-tiered award process based on the criteria for performance excellence of the Baldrige National Quality Program,” said Hale. “Our quality improvement efforts resulted in Methodist receiving the Silver Award from the Lincoln Foundation in 2005, and the Gold Award in 2006.”

From the patient’s standpoint, Hale says that knowing that Methodist follows evidence-based medicine assures individuals that they will have better outcomes in terms of complications that affect mortality. She added that greater public awareness has resulted in a number of public websites that allow hospital comparisons for safety and quality, as well as patient satisfaction scores.

Dr. Jared Rogers is medical director for Methodist Hospital and Medical Affairs. He says that there is a lot more information available to the public on topics including quality outcomes, hospital complication rates and patient safety indicators. “Methodist does a great job of being transparent and reporting a lot more information than is actually required,” stated Dr. Rogers. He cites as an example the rate of infections after getting a total knee replacement. “Our infection rate is about 80 percent better than what is considered normal for this type of procedure. If you look at other hospitals that might be at or above what is expected as normal, it would make you think ‘maybe I should have my knee replaced at Methodist, where I have less chance of getting infection.’

“I think there is more awareness on the part of the public that quality is not always the same at every healthcare facility,” continued Rogers, “but at this point, I don’t think it’s made a major difference in where a patient goes. Most of the time, that is still determined by insurance or where their physician tells them to go. There is, however, a small subset of the population that does look at quality issues and will press their insurance company or physician to go where quality numbers are higher. It’s not a large segment yet, but I think it will grow.”

Methodist has been a participant in the Healthcare Quality Improvement Project since it started seven years ago. The project is conducted by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and measures quality in key areas of healthcare services. Cindy Hale said CMS offers financial incentives for participating hospitals that meet established quality criteria, and Methodist has received the CMS incentive each year since it was first offered.

She notes that Methodist continues to measure itself in patient satisfaction through Press Ganey, one of the nation’s largest comparative quality databases in the country. And while these are the major quality initiatives, Methodist also participates in a number of smaller projects.

Both Hale and Dr. Rogers agree that expectations of healthcare servers are ever-changing and that delivering care must meet the standards expected by consumers, as well as those of expert providers. Methodist is a nationally recognized leader in the implementation of programs and processes designed to provide top-quality healthcare.

“Quality healthcare continues to be the highest priority at Methodist,” says President and CEO Michael Bryant. “This is especially important and comforting for our patients and their families, who place their trust in us.” iBi