What is quality?
The dictionary defines it as "a high degree of excellence." At Virtua, we define it from a patient's point of view and see quality as delivering an outstanding patient experience with a high level of clinical care. That's why in 2000 we launched the STAR Initiative which ensures that patients are at the center of everything we do. And we apply business methods, such as Six Sigma, to health care to improve quality and reduce costs.
In recognition of our quality efforts, Virtua was honored two years in a row with the New Jersey Governor's Award for Performance Excellence. Most organizations have to apply several times before winning. Virtua, however, won the Bronze Award on its first application in 2005 and advanced to the Silver Award in 2006. This prestigious honor is given only to organizations that show outstanding excellence in quality as well as a systematic approach to overall management. Only two organizations have won this award two years in a row. And this is just one of many quality awards that Virtua has won.
Quality performance surveys
Patient quality and safety has always been a top priority at Virtua. One of the ways we monitor our efforts and identify areas for continued improvement is to participate in quality performance surveys, such as those conducted by the Joint Commission, New Jersey Department of Health and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
These organizations share this quality information with the public via the Internet. For example, the CMS web site is Hospital Compare. The purpose of these web sites is to help patients make informed decisions about the organizations they choose for medical care. While these sites are useful tools, they should not be considered the only measure of an organization's quality or a framework for selecting a hospital. Other equally important factors include past experience with the hospital and recommendations by physicians, family and friends.
Why might the data vary from web site to web site?
It's important to note the date range for the information. Plus, depending on the web site, the information may be reported for each individual hospital or for the entire health system. Please note that there is often a six month lag time from when the data is reported to posting.
How does Virtua improve quality?
Virtua was the among the first organizations to apply the Six Sigma process improvement method to health care. We use this business approach to problem-solving as a way to improve quality of care while reducing costs. Virtua hosted the first-ever international Lean Healthcare Seminar which produced dramatic results. These efforts have led us to be named one of the leaders in cardiac care in the state by the New Jersey Department of Health.
Virtua has been honored by Voluntary Hospitals of America, Inc. (VHA), a national healthcare alliance, for the application of quality and safety methods to improve patient outcomes following surgery. These methods are recommended as part of the "100,000 Lives Campaign," an 18-month program where hospitals nationwide, including Virtua, banded together to improve outcomes for surgical care.
Perhaps the best known of the campaign's methods was deploying Rapid Response Teams for the emergency care of critically ill patients. The main objective of a Rapid Response Team is to prevent patients from going into cardiac or respiratory arrest and being admitted to the intensive care unit. Rapid Response Teams are currently deployed at Virtua Berlin, Virtua Memorial in Mt. Holly, Virtua Voorhees and Virtua Marlton.
Driving quality on a national level
Virtua executives are involved in patient safety and quality issues both locally and nationally. Virtua's president and chief executive officer, Richard Miller, is on the Board of Trustees of the National Committee for Quality Health Care (NCQHC). This independent, non-profit organization addresses issues such as reducing medical errors, the ethical use of advanced technology, and documenting and encouraging the use of evidence-based best practices. Dr. James Dwyer, Virtua's executive vice president and chief medical officer, was appointed by NCQHC to co-chair a committee of physicians, which is developing quality performance measurements and tools.
Virtua is part of the New Jersey Collaborative to Improve Quality of Care in the ICU. Virtua is also participating with the national, non-profit Institute for Healthcare Improvement.