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Health Center cited among best for hospital improvement

by Pat Keefe - May 15, 2006

The Health Center has been named one of the “100 Top Hospitals Performance Improvement Leaders” for 2005 by Solucient, a health care information and data analysis software company.

The award is the second in as many years for the Health Center, and it places the hospital in the top one percent of hospitals nationally in performance improvement.

The citation recognizes the U.S. hospitals that made the greatest progress in improving hospital-wide performance from 2000 to 2004. The list of winners was published in the May 1 edition of Modern Healthcare magazine.

The Health Center, judged in the Major Teaching Hospitals category, is the only hospital in Connecticut to be designated a Top 100 performance improvement leader.

“It is external validation of all the hard work a great team of people have been doing,” says hospital director Steven Strongwater, associate dean of clinical affairs and director of clinical operations.

“Winning this award is not an accident,” he says.

“People working together toward a common goal made it happen. There is a culture of performance excellence that has evolved here over a number of years, and it is reaching a state of maturity. I’m convinced we will continue to improve and continue to do better over time.”

This year’s award is particularly satisfying because the individual improvement metrics are very good, he adds.

Solucient looked at U.S. hospitals licensed to treat Medicare patients in five categories: major teaching hospitals, teaching hospitals, large community hospitals, medium community hospitals, and small community hospitals.

Nine performance measures were examined at each hospital: risk-adjusted mortality and complications, average length of stay, expenses, profitability, cash-to-debt ratio, growth in patient volume, tangible assets and risk-adjusted patient safety index.

The company used publicly available Medicare cost reports and other outpatient data from 2000 to 2004.

The Health Center scored in the 97th percentile for patient length of stay; in the 95th percentile for growth of patient volume; and in the 94th percentile for controlling expenses.

The Health Center’s many initiatives in performance improvement and safety paid off when Solucient named it a 100 Top Hospitals Performance Improvement Leader for the second year in a row.
The Health Center’s many initiatives in performance improvement and safety paid off when Solucient named it a 100 Top Hospitals Performance Improvement Leader for the second year in a row.
Photo by Al Ferreira

It was in the 86th percentile for patient safety.

Solucient’s chief scientist David Foster remarked that teaching hospitals have struggled the most to effect change.

“These hospitals have faced an increasingly severe caseload, in addition to the reimbursement constraints, rising costs, and staffing difficulties that all hospitals have endured since 2000,” Foster says.

The Health Center’s director of nursing Ellen Leone, associate vice president for operations, says, “The administration, nursing, and the staff are collaborating to do some things that are very meaningful not only to the health of the organization, but to the health of our patients and their families too.

The Collaborative Center for Clinical Care Improvement and various patient and staff safety initiatives come to mind. The evaluation and assessment process for this award perceives those efforts and factors them in.”

Strongwater says persistence was key to the Health Center’s improvement.

“It takes a long time for a culture of performance improvement to take hold in an organization,” he says.

“We’ve been doing it in a serious way since 1999. We’ve improved management and accountability and responsibility. We’ve dedicated personnel to training the workforce, and we’ve trained the workforce so that now we all speak a common language.

“Most people think improvement is cataclysmic,” Strongwater maintains.

“It’s not. It’s evolutionary. You take small steps to get to significant change. That’s what’s happening here. We’ve grown every way in positive directions.”

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