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Dr. Pate’s Prescription for Change

St. Luke’s Health System’s Journey to Transform Health Care

St. Luke’s Dr. Bart Hill: Healthgrades Designations Reflect Steady Quality Gains

By Bart Hill, MD, News and Community
October 18, 2016

St. Luke’s Health System is on a journey – a journey of high reliability.

We have made great progress and we continue to get better each year. Ultimately, our goals are zero – zero harm, zero patient safety events, zero complications.

We benchmark our performance and progress toward our goals in part by using all the publicly reported quality and safety measurement methodologies – Healthgrades, Truven Health Analytics™, Leapfrog, etc. St. Luke’s is already a top performer and we see improvement year over year.

This is important for the reasons discussed here by my guest blogger, St. Luke’s Chief Quality Officer Dr. Bart Hill.

- David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.


America

Every October, Healthgrades announces its annual awards and designations for hospitals all across America and today, the organization is releasing that information for 2017. 

St. Luke’s hospitals again this year have been recognized for their outstanding care. We are continuing to show year-over-year improvements and we are positively impacting people in our communities.

Healthgrades measures all hospitals’ performance based upon the Medicare population for 32 conditions relative to mortality and complications. Approximately 70 percent of all hospitals will receive a three-star rating, or average performance, with approximately 15 percent of hospitals receiving either a one- or a five-star rating.

Comparison of similar patients across so many organizations is one aspect of what makes such reports valuable as a yardstick of performance, both internally and externally. 

St. Luke’s receives numerous external reports regarding its performance on various quality, safety and patient experience measures. Each of these reports is based upon a unique methodology, and the variations create both strengths and limitations when interpreting results. When we view them collectively, they begin to reflect our overall performance, and I definitely see our positive movement.

Our journey toward excellence in quality and safety is one we began more than a decade ago.  More than five years ago, we set a vision to be a national leader in quality, and external reports and recognitions from entities such as Healthgrades, Truven Health Analytics, The Leapfrog Group and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are evidence that we are performing as such a leader in quality and safety.

The fact that we are continuing to perform at high and improving levels over consecutive years is a reflection of our commitment to sustaining quality over time. We are spreading our learnings and practices to all of our locations so that we can provide the same high-quality care across all St. Luke’s communities. 

Key ingredients in this secret sauce are the high expectations that St. Luke’s leaders and staff set for themselves and the organization, our aim to be highly reliable, the belief that we can achieve zero harm, engaged staff and physicians and the understanding that early success promotes future achievements.

We have built from a foundation of early initial improvement efforts like Project Zero to reduce orthopedic infections (still going and still improving!) to standardizing approaches in colon surgery, perinatal care, stroke and sepsis care. Standardized approaches in additional areas are in the planning stages and our future challenges may be in fulfilling all of the requests.

While we use the Healthgrades information and the assessments of the other national quality organizations to identify additional areas of opportunity to improve, ratings also are increasingly being used by patients and their families to make decisions about where to receive their health care. It is important that our patients and their families are engaged in their health when we are providing care among populations of our community.

The value of these honors and awards is not in the recognition itself, but for what such an achievement means to the patients that we care for. We know that when we provide the highest level of quality care, we are avoiding unnecessary complications and preventing premature deaths.

By making a difference for individual patients, we give a gift of health back to our communities.

About The Author

Dr. Bart Hill is vice president and chief quality officer of St. Luke’s Health System, based in Boise, Idaho.