2nd of 2 parts
By JIM STOMMEN
Medical Device Daily Contributing Writer
Steve Allen, MD, has been CEO of Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, since July 2006. Allen is credited to driving the hospital's national prominence resulting in recognition as one of the best children's hospitals by both U.S. News and World Report and Parent magazine. Prior to coming to Columbus, Steve was a physician, scientist, teacher and executive in the Texas Medical Center in Houston for 24 years. He is board-certified in anesthesiology and critical care medicine.
Allen, who also chairs the Ohio Children's Hospital Association, which formed the Ohio Children's Hospitals Solutions for Patient Safety (OCHSPS) initiative, talked with Medical Device Daily Contributing Writer Jim Stommen about that effort, which is now spreading its wings to become national in scope.
MDD: What can healthcare learn from other industries where hazards and operational complexities have had to be overcome on the road to achieving a high level of safety?
Allen: There are a couple of lessons there. One is that you have to engage every single employee, as well as the families of patients. So it's not just the frontline staff; we train everybody in these institutions. There are 30,000 employees in Ohio children's hospitals, and every one of them will receive patient safety training.
From some other industries such as aviation and aerospace, it has been shown to be important that you have to do that in order to create the culture of safety that's necessary to not only get some improvement, but to sustain it over time. So the participating hospitals' trustees and senior leaders have been challenged to transform their organizational cultures and set an expectation of personal accountability for safety by all levels of staff within their institutions.
I think that what people used to do is really just train the frontline staff, but to get the kind of attention that patients and families deserve, everybody has to be involved and everybody has to be looking out for patient safety.
MDD: Collaboration seems to be the key in all of this. How has OCHSPS broken through the competitive barriers that exist in healthcare?
Allen: One of the marvelous things about how this has worked in Ohio is that we've all said right from the start that we'll compete on a lot of things, but we're not going to compete when it comes to patient safety. We've just said that we're going to share our information on a transparent basis so we can all learn from each other, and in the end we need to do what we can for the patients and families who come in to our institutions. We start every day with a safety meeting and at every board meeting the first item on the agenda is a review of quality and safety, and that's true for every children's hospital in Ohio. By doing that, by saying that this is what's important, it gets the message out to everyone that this is what we're all about. Starting from the board and executive level, they have really helped set this as the No. 1 agenda for all of our institutions to pursue.
MDD: With all eight children's hospitals involved, have there been any "Aha" moments in terms of what you've learned collectively?
Allen: I don't know that it has been "Aha," but what has been gratifying has been to get everyone around the table to share what sometimes are very painful lessons with their colleagues. None of us really want to admit that we didn't do something perfectly, and certainly not to our outside colleagues, but that was important for us to be able to do in order to learn from each other and it certainly was very gratifying.
MDD: Improving care and safety obviously is a large part of all this, but can it also lead to cost-cutting, or at least controlling costs?
Allen: Absolutely. As I mentioned before, we have seen some cost savings already from this initiative, because you're preventing problems from arising that would just cost more money to mitigate. And those are costs that shouldn't be there to begin with.
MDD: What are the goals and the timing of the National Children's Network going forward?
Allen: It's a very ambitious one. We have some specific goals that by the end of 2013 we will reduce serious harm at participating institutions by 40%, will reduce readmissions by 20% and will reduce serious safety events by 25%. And we're going to add another 50 hospitals into the learning mode in 2013 as well. Overall, we're looking to reduce harm in 11 different hospital-acquired conditions.
MDD: Is there a question I haven't asked but you wish I had?
Allen: Not so much a question, but perhaps a comment. I'm a bit biased, but I think it is marvelous that this many institutions are willing to get together to learn from each other and go make a real difference. We've talked about improving safety for many years in this industry, and here is a tangible, wide-ranging, broad-based initiative that has gotten off to a great start and will show a difference.
Published October 18, 2012