Special Reports

February 28, 2013

Safety must be first priority in health care

At Via Christi Health and most health care organizations in the country, we do a great job of caring for most patients most of the time and have various recognitions to show for it.

At Via Christi Health and most health care organizations in the country, we do a great job of caring for most patients most of the time and have various recognitions to show for it.

But our first job is to do no harm, which means safety must be the first priority for all of us in health care.

While our Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan earned an “A” for the safety of its patient care from Leapfrog, a national safety assessment organization, the rest of our hospitals received a “C.” No Wichita-area hospital received higher than a “C” grade.

We believe we in Wichita can — and must — do better.

The patients and families who come to us when they are vulnerable and trust us to heal them deserve better. A Franciscan sister I was blessed to have worked with uses a story from the life of St. Francis of Assisi to make the point that those we serve set a high standard for us: “A beggar once told St. Francis of Assisi, ‘Be sure thou art as good as the people believe thee to be, for they have great faith in thee.’ ”

To help us improve and uphold the great faith those we serve place in us, we’ve set ambitious goals and started on an urgent course to become a high-reliability organization — a place where each patient receives the best quality care, every single time. We’ve hired a staff of industrial engineers and quality black belts from Wichita’s aviation industry to teach and guide us in this important work. Commercial aviation is recognized as one of the leaders in high reliability.

We’ve established performance improvement teams that pair physicians, nurses, engineers and black belts, and patients to ensure we are learning from the experiences of those we serve. The initial teams are charged with dramatically reducing hospital-acquired infections and surgical process errors, and improving the processes of care for patients who’ve experienced heart attacks and are at high risk for pneumonia.

Randall Morgan, M.D., an ob-gyn specialist who leads our Quality Committee, is leading a communitywide effort to standardize the pre-surgical checklists and timeout processes at all Wichita hospitals. In doing so, we will reduce the opportunities for error and help make Wichita one of the safest places in the nation to be a surgical patient, regardless of where we receive our care.

I‘m pleased to report we already are having an impact. Carolyn Koehn, our leader of environmental services, reviewed a recent study that found that using bleach wipes when cleaning patient rooms led to an 85 percent reduction in infections resulting from Clostridium difficile bacteria. The new cleaning technique was implemented in less than one week.

We recently held a community leader forum in Wichita to share with the public the broad objectives of our Vision 2020 strategic plan and our commitment to improving outcomes, safety and service. We have set goals of zero serious safety events by 2020, of achieving an “A” in the Leapfrog ratings for all of Via Christi, and most importantly, of ensuring that each patient receives the very best care, every single time. We asked our community leaders to hold us accountable for these goals.

My 10,000 colleagues serving in our clinics, hospitals and senior care facilities and programs — physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, administrators, environmental services staff, food-service staff and others — are committed to achieving these safety goals. We are using “Be the Difference” to describe the role each person plays in creating a safe environment, one where the best care is delivered every time and our service shows how deeply we care for each person.

As a Catholic health care ministry, we are called to serve as a healing presence with special concern for those who are vulnerable.

We believe that means aiming to be among the nation’s best — and safest.

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