Commitment to quality is at the heart of Virtua's mission
Helene Loeb woke up in the middle of night from intense chest pain. While she didn't know exactly what was happening to her, she did know one thing - she needed to get to a Virtua hospital quickly.
As the Quality Management Director at Virtua Marlton Hospital, Loeb is responsible for coordinating procedures to help fulfill Virtua's mission of providing outstanding patient care. Now Loeb was on the other end of the spectrum and needed that same high level of care.
"As soon as I came to the hospital and complained of chest pain, I was immediately placed in a bed and hooked up to monitors to determine what was wrong," recalls Loeb. "The nurses and staff treated me wonderfully. Being on this side of the fence and seeing them in action makes me know that we are doing our jobs well."
After receiving a thorough physical examination, Loeb was later discharged. "I was fine, but it was a frightening experience," she says. "When you have chest pain like I had, getting to a hospital quickly is extremely important. It's nice to know that when you do have an emergency like this, there is a place in your community, like Virtua, you can depend upon for quality care."
Like Loeb, patients benefit from Virtua's commitment to quality, and it shows. In 2004, Virtua joined hospitals across the nation through the "100,000 Lives Campaign." This Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) initiative urged hospitals to implement six evidence-based practices that improve healthcare quality and save lives.
One of the practices included delivering reliable, evidence-based care to prevent a heart attack, also known as acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Virtua has taken a closer look at how it manages and treats heart attack cases at each of its facilities. The goal is to standardize treatment and achieve 100 percent compliance in following the AMI quality measures.
These AMI quality measures, which are reported to The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and The Joint Commission, include providing the following to each patient:
- Aspirin within 24 hours before or after hospital arrival
Aspirin reduces the occurrence of blood clots and dissolves those that have formed, potentially reducing the severity of a heart attack. The early use of aspirin in patients with a heart attack lowers the likelihood of complications.
- Beta-blocker on admission and at discharge
Beta blockers are medicines that lower blood pressure, treat chest pain (angina) and heart failure, and help prevent heart attacks. Beta blockers relieve the stress on the heart by slowing the heart rate and reducing the force with which the heart contracts to pump blood. They also help keep blood vessels throughout the entire body from constricting.
- ACE or ARB at discharge
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin receptor blockers are medicines that physicians prescribe to patients who need to reduce elevated blood pressure (hypertension). ACE and ARB medications are also prescribed to heart attack patients after they are discharged from the hospital. These medicines help reduce the risk of death after a heart attack. Continued use may help prevent heart failure. ACE and ARB medications modify the effects of hormones (angiotensin II) that regulate blood pressure and influence the healing process of the heart.
- PCI within 120 minutes
Percultaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) is a procedure to open the blocked blood vessels and re-establish the blood supply to the heart muscle. It involves inserting a catheter (a flexible tube), often, through the leg. Increasingly, cardiologists choose to do a PCI instead of prescribing clot-dissolving medication.
- Tobacco cessation information at discharge
Smoking is linked to heart attacks. Quitting may help prevent another one. For more information on Virtua's QuitCenter, call 1-888-Virtua-3 (1-888-847-8823).
"If a patient doesn't receive any of these quality measures, the physician must note the reason why in the patient's chart," says Loeb. "For instance, a patient who is allergic to aspirin would not receive aspirin at admission or discharge. It is important that all of these measures are accounted for. If not, it lowers our compliance scores."
What is the reason why Virtua's AMI scores have consistently improved? Loeb attributes the success to communication and a team approach by physicians, nurses and staff to achieve 100% compliance. In addition, Virtua used Six Sigma strategies to develop a plan that establishes Virtua as a nationally recognized system for providing the highest quality care. Six Sigma is a highly disciplined process, adapted by industry leaders across the nation, which focuses on developing and delivering near-perfect services.
"We constantly look at our scores to see how we're doing," says Loeb. "Offering quality services is achieved through a team effort at Virtua, and our AMI scores have improved because of this team approach. The level of care I received is the same level of care we provide to each patient who has chest pains or a heart attack."
As one of New Jersey’s largest health systems, Virtua helps people be well, get well and stay well through a comprehensive range of health care services. Services are delivered through three health and wellness centers, three fitness centers, four acute care hospitals, primary and specialty physician practices with more than 240 physicians, urgent care centers, seven ambulatory surgery centers, home health services, two long-term care and rehabilitation centers, 12 paramedic units and a wide range of outpatient services. A leader in maternal and child health services, Virtua delivers more than 8,000 babies a year. Virtua also provides employment and wellness services to 1,700 businesses and corporations. An innovator in clinical and information technology such as electronic medical records, Virtua is recognized for its ground-breaking partnerships with GE Healthcare
, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
and the Fox Chase Cancer Center
. Virtua employs more than 8,400 people and has been honored as the #1 Best Place to Work in the Delaware Valley every year since 2007. It is the recipient of the Consumer Choice Award from the National Research Corporation. For more information, visit www.virtua.org