From tragedy to success: How a rural hospital recovered after a fatal mistake

A tragic mistake that resulted in the death of a 13-year-old boy could have signaled the end for a community non-tax support hospital in Texas. But, as PBS Newshour reports, a leadership decision to partner with the teen's family helped transform the hospital into a model of success.

Hill Country Memorial, an 86-licensed bed hospital in Fredericksburg, Texas, was already struggling financially in 2009 when a series of errors in the emergency room led to the death of Quinn Kott due to massive stroke. It also had low patient and employee satisfaction scores. But the medical error served as a turning point for the rural hospital, Michael Williams, M.D., who served as CEO of the hospital at the time, told the news program.

 "We had a clear opportunity to either do what most hospitals do and what we had done previously, which was get our attorneys involved, be prepared for a lawsuit," he said. "Or we could take a different approach and work directly, reach out to the family and ask them to partner with us in really transforming the hospital."

His first step was to learn lean manufacturing principles from a former Toyota employee. As a result, the hospital identified waste, or anything that doesn't add value to the customer, and removed it from its processes, according to the article. He also aimed to change the hospital culture to focus on superior customer service and hired a former Ritz Carlton employee to lead the effort.

The initiatives paid off. Truven Health Analytics has ranked the hospital among the top 100 hospitals in the United States and the organization was the 2014 recipient of the Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award, the county's highest presidential honor for remarkable performance through innovation, best practices and insightful leadership.

Jayne Pope, who serves as the current CEO at the hospital, told the news program that she attributes the hospital's continued success to its focus on improving patient care.

 "We know as a rural center, we can't do everything," she said. "But what we do, we determine what those core competencies are, and invest in those skills so that our patients have the best of care."

While the changes came too late for the Kott family, Quinn's father said he is pleased that the hospital took the tragedy and worked to correct the problems to prevent a similar mistake. 

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