Competing hospitals work together to share data, improve patient safety

It's not often we read stories about competing healthcare organizations collaborating to achieve a vision for the greater good.

That's about to change.

The Children's Hospitals' Solutions for Patient Safety National Children's Network--a coalition of more than 80 hospitals across the country--recently released data that its three-year initiative to eliminate safety issues such as falls, surgical site infections (SSIs) and adverse drug events (ADEs) saved 2,500 children from harm and led to savings of more than $60 million.

The collaboration actually began in 2009 with eight Ohio Children's hospitals. Their initial success and ongoing funding from the Cardinal Health Foundation led to an expansion of the program in 2012 to 80 hospitals in more than 30 states and the District of Columbia.

This year it intends to reduce readmissions by 10 percent, cut serious safety events by 25 percent and reduce by 40 percent the following hospital-acquired conditions: ADEs, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, central line-associated blood stream infections, injuries form falls and immobility, pressure ulcers, SSIs, ventilator-associated pneumonia, obstetrical adverse events, venous thromboembolism, and peripheral intravenous infiltration and extravasations.

To learn more about the evolution of the initiative, I spoke this week with Nick Lashutka, president of the Ohio Children's Hospital Association, and Dianne Radigan, vice president of community relations at Cardinal Health.

The journey began during an Ohio Business Roundtable meeting of CEOs who discussed actions the state of Ohio could take on pre-federal healthcare reform, according to Lashutka, pictured right. Those opportunities included quality, transparency and patient safety. They were led by Kerry Clark, who was the CEO of the Dublin-Ohio based Cardinal Health at the time.

"Kerry had been a discipline of the Triple Aim and he was very aggressive of setting goals and where we wanted healthcare delivery to go," said Lashutka. Meanwhile, children's hospitals in Ohio were working together on a limited basis to share information about incidents and occurrences at member hospitals. "The goal was, if we pooled our data and resources, ultimately we'd all benefit by figuring out best practices and making care safer, cost effective and with better outcomes."

The state-wide initiative initially focused on reducing SSIs and ADEs, During the three-year period, the hospitals reduced SSIs in designated cardiac, neurosurgery and orthopedic procedures by 40 percent and adverse drug events by 42 percent. In 2012, they broadened the scope of work and began to focus on eliminating serious safety events and reduced occurrences by more than 70 percent.

"That initial work expanded with a quest to eliminate all harm," said Lashutka during the exclusive interview.

It also attracted the attention of children's hospitals across the country--especially among leaders who were interested in bringing the initiative to a national level. The collaborative initially was funded in part with the federal Partnership for Patients program. When the three-year contract ended last year, the group decided to continue its work with funding provided by Cardinal Health and a number of public and private supporters.

"We aren't out to compete in patient safety," he said. "We aim to learn from one another. Everyone is a teacher, everyone is a student.  And we've had unwavering leadership from our CEOs. This work is hard, challenging and it doesn't happen overnight. It take significant resources, requires trust with colleagues, and it really forces people to do things differently in healthcare than they were willing to do last in the last 10 to 15 years."

Radigan, pictured left, said that Cardinal Health decided to lend its support to the program because it was so impressed with the early work the collaborative did with patient safety. "They definitely compete with one another in the area of healthcare, but they aren't competing in the quality of care for kids," she said. "For us, it was the best possible investment we could make. We just felt honored to move them forward."

She said it's been especially heartening to see competing institutions work toward a common goal of doing what's best for patients. "When you learn from others, you can move so much faster and we have no time to waste," Radigan said. "Patients' lives are at stake."

For Lashutka, that's what is most inspiring. "We begin each meeting as a group talking about the number of kids that are impacted by our work," he said. "It's a reminder why it's a journey. Even if one kid is harmed, we talk about how we could have prevented it. We have to be vigilant on what we are doing every day to make it a safe day."--Ilene (@FierceHealth)