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Aurora Health Care receives national recognition for patient safety iniatives

Monday, December 16, 2002

MILWAUKEE, Aurora Health Care has received a 2002 Premier Quality Performance Award in recognition of patient safety initiatives that are being implemented throughout the Aurora system.

Aurora is receiving a Quality Performance award for clinical outcome excellence in patient safety. The award recognizes an organization that has made substantial achievements in delivering high-quality health care.

An independent panel of judges recruited by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement evaluated all of the award applications. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement is the leading national organization driving the improvement of health by advancing the quality and value of health care. The institute also worked in partnership with Premier Inc. to develop the award criteria. The criteria for evaluating applications for the award program included patient safety, the improvement of clinical outcomes, the impact on the patient population, how the work addresses the needs of underserved communities, and the extent to which the project can be replicated. Judges recognized three areas of focus at Aurora: the establishment of a Medication Error Reduction Team, enhancements to the organization’s safety culture, and the use of technology to reduce medication errors. The judges praised Aurora for establishing a Blue Ribbon Patient Safety Task Force, with community representatives accounting for a majority of the membership. The task force evaluated the status of patient safety throughout Aurora and recommended two key areas of focus: a medication error reporting system and the use of technology to reduce adverse medication reactions. “This award reflects our ongoing response to the 2000 Institute of Medicine report regarding medical errors and patient safety,” said Susan Ela, R.N., senior clinical vice president for care management, quality, access and integration at Aurora. “Patient safety has been a priority for a number of years, and this award reinforces that our initiatives are having an impact. “We continually challenge ourselves to look for better ways to provide care, and this national recognition of our safety efforts reflects well on every individual who is involved in the care of our patients,” Ela said.

Aurora has implemented the use of hand-held and desktop computers for writing prescriptions and electronically printing or faxing them to a pharmacist. The technology reduces errors related to handwriting illegibility. During the first months of the program, it is estimated that nearly 42,000 adverse drug reactions were prevented.

As part of the initiative, the Aurora Medication Error Reduction Team created a standardized system to report adverse drug events, and also helped develop educational materials and programs for staff and patients to help reduce medication errors. The educational component targets physicians, nurses, pharmacists, administrators and others.

“We want to ensure that our patients have the safest and highest quality care that is possible,” said Nick Turkal, M.D., Aurora’s senior clinical vice president for academic and medical affairs. “The award helps to validate that our efforts and commitment are making a difference. It is particularly gratifying to see that our leadership commitment to patient safety is creating a ‘safety culture’ that is embraced by all Aurora physicians and staff. We have made good progress, but we are not finished.”

Jack Cox, M.D., senior vice president of medical affairs for Premier, said: “The intense scrutiny our health care system is under for delivering quality ought to be offset by recognizing the accomplishments of hospitals that are making a difference. Their efforts illustrate the variety of systems that are doing an excellent job in patient care. It’s not enough to simply congratulate Aurora. We intend to share its learnings with the rest of the health care community.”

Aurora will be honored at Premier’s “Partnering for Performance Improvement” conference in Nevada on May 15, 2003. Premier is a health care alliance of 1,600 not-for-profit hospitals and health care systems. Premier provides an array of resources supporting health services delivery.

Aurora Health Care is a community-owned Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora has care sites in more than 75 communities throughout eastern Wisconsin.

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