Hospitals Join Program to Improve Efficiency and Patient Care

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(Host) Vermont’s hospitals say they’re joining a nationwide program in an effort to dramatically improve the quality of health care they deliver.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) If a factory can develop systems to speed production, reduce errors and minimize waste – why can’t hospitals use similar systems? That’s a question being asked by the Boston-based Institute for Health Care Improvement. Carol Beasley is with the institute.

(Beasley) “We’re doing some interesting work now on reliability. Most of the time, all over the country, most of us have about a fifty-fifty chance of getting all of the recommended care for a number of very common medical conditions. Fifty-fifty is not really an impressive result from where we sit. So we’re borrowing some thinking from other industries, like aviation, where the defect rate is parts per million rather than parts per ten.”

(Zind) Beasley says there’s room for dramatic improvement in the quality of care in the nation’s hospitals. Statistics show that 7,000 Americas die in hospitals annually solely from medication errors, that costs for health care are 40 percent higher in the U.S. than the next most expensive nation, and that there can be long delays in administering care to patients in hospitals.

Now the state’s 14 acute care hospitals have signed on with Beasley’s organization to help them improve the quality of care Vermonter’s are receiving. Jill Olson is with the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems which represents the state’s hospitals. She says the results will be more than a tweak or two in the way Vermont’s hospitals operate.

(Olson) “We’re really looking for breakthrough change that will allow the systems to be very reliable.”

(Zind) Olson says working with Institute for Health Care Improvement will enable Vermont’s hospitals to find solutions to problems they might not find on their own.

(Olson) “One of the things the institute has been very good at is helping hospitals see what’s possible. What the best is, and knowing that a problem that seems intractable and impossible – this hospital in this place, they did it and here’s how.”

(Zind) Joining the program will cost each hospital $80,000 to $100,000. The hospitals say in the long term the money will be made back in increased efficiency and fewer expensive medical complications.

The Institute for Heath Care Improvement is working with 140 hospitals nationwide. This is the first time hospitals statewide have signed on to work with the institute.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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