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Hospital Initiative Could Reduce Patient Mortality, Increase Reliability of Care, Company Says

By Stacey Skotzko, CQ Staff

DECEMBER 3, 2008 -- Premier Healthcare Alliance's QUEST hospital initiative could reduce patient mortality by 17 percent and could improve reliability of care by 13 percent if the nationwide project obtains its goals, according to an analysis the company released Wednesday.

The three-year initiative, which currently connects 166 hospitals in 31 states through benchmarks and technologies, was launched in 2007. This recent analysis, though not an official study of first-year outcomes of the program, does show the "impressive potential" of the collaboration, according to CEO and Premier President Richard A. Norling.

"Effectively, we're creating an improvement community of hospitals," he said at a Wednesday forum that featured panelists from Premier, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Alegent Health, the Joint Commission, Inova Health System and Vocera Communications, a wireless communication system for hospital staff.

Premier said QUEST, which stands for quality, efficiency and safety with transparency, maintains five main goals in improving medical care: saving lives, reducing the cost of care, delivering reliable and effective care, improving patient safety and increasing patient satisfaction.

The panelists stressed the potential of QUEST to change the nation's health care system, but also mentioned hurdles it would have to overcome.

"[QUEST could] move to change the whole game," said Donald Berwick, the president and CEO of IHI, which is in alliance with Premier on the QUEST system. " . . . What we don't understand is how to make quality go to scale."

Berwick said QUEST does address "system performance" in health care, but there is still a "long road ahead."

Jerod M. Loeb of the Joint Commission said the medical community has been living in "a culture of low expectations," due to the lack of a strong organization culture, ineffective ways to measure outcomes and the broad lack of knowledge in utilizing data.

"[QUEST] requires us to identify what works and diffuse those strategies," he said.

Premier also announced six health care suppliers that would be in QUEST's "first wave" of its Comparative Innovation Program, which would test specific medical technologies and validate them within the hospital network, said Susan DeVore, Premier's chief operating officer.

DeVore said these six suppliers, whose products range from a Bard Medical Division catheter to Vocera's communication system, were chosen from 85 applicants. DeVore said the goal of the Comparative Innovation Program is to merge the data and analyses the suppliers already have developed with the information from QUEST participating hospitals, with the goal of accelerating "patient access to technologies proven to be safe and effective."

DeVore said she anticipates two to three more rounds of suppliers to be chosen for the project and that given the supplier interest, there is the potential for more to be incorporated, depending upon the continuation of QUEST beyond its three-year goal.

Stephen Moore of Inova Health System said QUEST's main success is its transparency, in that other professionals can view other participants' successes and failures.

"This is by no means the solution to the entire health care system, but this is a major first step," he said.

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