The timing couldn't be better for Catholic Health Initiatives to win a national award for quality healthcare.
CHI has won top honors from the National Committee for Quality Health Care just one month after the Institute of Medicine issued a critical second report that said America's healthcare-delivery system was "plagued by a serious quality gap" (March 5, p. 4).
CHI, a Roman Catholic system with 68 hospitals, is working to close that gap.
"It authenticates what we have been trying to do," said Harold Ray, M.D., senior vice president and chief medical officer at the Denver-based system. They are efforts, Ray said, that started before the IOM reports riveted the nation's attention on healthcare quality issues.
The NCQHC will bestow the honor on CHI on April 11 during the group's annual meeting in Washington. The award is co-sponsored by Modern Healthcare.
This is the first time the award has been given to a large national healthcare system. The NCQHC established the award in 1994, and past honorees have included individual hospitals and regional healthcare systems, such as the Henry Ford Health System, Detroit; Intermountain Health Care, Salt Lake City; and BJC Health System, St. Louis.
CHI's winning the award is particularly noteworthy because the system was formed only five years ago.
"For them to have accomplished the kinds of programs and measurements so they really could demonstrate measured quality made them one of the outstanding applications," said Catherine McDermott, the NCQHC's president and chief executive officer.
The NCQHC is a not-for-profit national membership group that includes senior leaders from all healthcare sectors, including providers, suppliers and payers.
At CHI, the system employs a number of approaches and programs to advance its commitment to quality care.
Among them is a program begun two years ago that ties executive compensation throughout the system to four performance areas, one of which includes quality and clinical outcomes, focusing on reducing medication errors and adverse drug events.
Tying compensation to performance is a great motivator. "It focuses the attention of the management staff," said Patricia Cahill, CHI's president and CEO.
Last year, CHI launched a national pharmacy program with the goal of reducing medication errors and adverse drug events. To date, all CHI facilities have completed the Institute for Safe Medication Practices assessment, and they also report having implemented at least one pharmacy best practice, according to CHI's award application. Both of these are tied to executive compensation.
CHI also has purchased a simulation program that tests nurses' technical, interpersonal and critical-thinking skills. Fifteen CHI hospitals have implemented the program, called the Performance Based Development System, and the remaining 53 hospitals will do so in the next three years.
CHI also keeps tabs on how finances and quality are related.
Using Medicare cost data, CHI is able to calculate the cost of medical complications throughout the system, which is a good indicator of how many resources are used, said Margaret Gavigan, a registered nurse and vice president of clinical operations in CHI's Philadelphia-area office.
"We're able to show if a patient develops complications, it's not only bad for them, but it's bad for business because it costs us money," Gavigan said.