Quality isn't Just a Metric...

by Paul E. Macek
Proctor Health Care

More than just a metric, quality is about the totality of the patient experience.

There are innumerable definitions of quality, all of which matter within the context of the patient experience.

Don and Carol, from Peru, Illinois, drove 43 consecutive business days—a daily three-hour round trip—for hyperbaric oxygen treatment for Don at the Advanced Wound Center at Proctor Hospital. “They treat you so well here and the service is outstanding,” Don said. “I’ve always felt like this is one big family, all of us working together,” Carol added.

Orthopedic patient Connie, of Peoria, said, “My knee replacement experience was truly remarkable. Through your efforts and leadership, the quality of care offered at Proctor is superior. Your caring staff’s service has certainly earned my loyalty.”

When it comes to defining quality, these comments are important because they point to three significant influencers of quality: teamwork, service and the patient experience. Carol mentions that perhaps the most important influencer of all is teamwork. Without it, service and the patient experience suffers. The American Hospital Association defines quality this way: “When everyone is working together to deliver the right care at the right time in the right setting.”

Healthcare providers are held to rigorous standards. Measuring quality and publicly reporting the information helps drive improvement and holds us accountable. Throughout Proctor Health Care, employees gather and analyze measurements to improve performance and efficiency and to ensure the use of best practices. Quality, safety, and Lean/Six Sigma teams meet regularly, and nursing teams work diligently to find ways to provide more efficient, personalized care. We host annual healthcare quality awards to recognize individuals and teams that have embraced quality improvement and helped make significant and dynamic changes in our culture of safety. Recognizing these individuals gives us an opportunity to say “thank you” and demonstrates an unyielding support of quality to provide unmatched healthcare experiences.

As an organization, we are keenly focused on Hospital Care Quality Information from the Consumer Perspective (HCAHPS), and continue to improve and develop a heightened culture of quality and safety. We provide quality data to—and continually measure ourselves against quality data from—The Joint Commission, Centers for Disease Control, Hospital Compare, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, American Hospital Association, Illinois Hospital Association and the Illinois Department of Public Health, to name a few.

Information technology (IT) supports quality measurement and improvement and care coordination, as well as providing clinicians and patients the information necessary to enhance care. The electronic medical record (EMR) assists in data collection, makes important clinical data readily available to physicians, and provides necessary clinical detail. IT also stores and provides information in a myriad of ways, helping to streamline processes, management and storage. Use of the EMR and other health IT applications reduces the weight of data collection and provides a platform for “the right care to the right patient at the right time.”

All of the reported data is available to consumers to help them make informed choices regarding their care. Even armed with all of this information, patients continue to listen to their families, friends, co-workers and neighbors. Shared word-of-mouth patient experiences may, in fact, trump all of your collected data.

Carol’s assessment of her and Don’s patient experience—“all of us working together”—is a testament to our employees’ commitment to teamwork. That’s exactly what maintaining a successful culture of quality and safety takes, as well as optimal patient engagement and communication. While data retrieval and analysis may sound cold to many patients, it provides the necessary groundwork for caregivers to continue to provide high quality and safe care, as well as ways to improve that care.

At Proctor Health Care, “providing unmatched healthcare experiences… every day” is our mission. We understand the patient experience often begins before patients enter the lobby. Their perception of us, not only as healthcare providers, but as people, is a measure of quality. Was the environment warm, friendly, safe and quiet? That will be a patient’s measure of quality. Quality is how well we have communicated with patients, how well we have prepared and involved them and their families in their care. It’s also about the clinical care. Did we provide the level of care needed, keeping the patient as pain-free as possible on the road to recovery? Quality isn’t just a metric measured, it’s the totality of the patient experience. iBi

Paul Macek is president and CEO of Proctor Health Care.

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