patient safety Wow!

Building a Culture of Quality: Tufts Medical Center

I take extreme pride in the accomplishments of my firm’s clients. For me, “clients” does not begin to express my level of engagement with and loyalty to their brands. I remember when my firm stopped working with UNC Health Care after a 14 year relationship. It was really difficult for me because I had invested so much of myself in building that brand – and I had grown a ton along the way.  We presented together at healthcare conferences, collaborated on book chapters, and wrote articles together. But most importantly, we built a brand that emerged from behind the shadow of Duke University Health System and found a voice that was relevant to the people of North Carolina. One of the things I find so rewarding about this business is that I always learn from my best clients and that was the case with UNC Health Care. Years later, they are still a part of my fabric: I still follow them on twitter and attend their functions, and always take pride in their successes.

This week, one of my current clients, Tufts Medical Center in Boston, received the prestigious honor of being ranked among the top 10 academic medical centers in the country (#6) when considering quality and safety measures, according to the University HealthSystem Consortium’s (UHC) 2010 Quality and Accountability Study. The study, which reviews quality and patient satisfaction data across a broad range of measures, compared scores from its 98 academic medical center members, representing nearly 90 percent of all AMCs in the United States. Tufts Medical Center, ranked 6th, was the only UHC member hospital in New England to rank in the top 10 in the study. This is a really big deal! Check out Tufts’ news release on the announcement at

It just happened that I was in Boston on business when the folks from Tufts made the announcement and held an internal celebration to recognize the contribution of each and every employee. When building a culture of quality, it take buy-in at every level of the organization. And that’s what Tufts Medical Center has done over the last few years. Under the leadership of Ellen Zane (CEO), Dr. David Fairchild (Chief Medical Offices) and Nancy Shendell-Falik (Senior Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer), Tufts Medical Center has made a firm commitment to quality patient care and patient safety. This is particularly significant to me given my firm, Jennings, worked with Tufts to develop a powerful patient safety program that successfully broke through the clutter and communicated individual accountability. That program was just a tiny initiative in the scheme of things, but I’d like to think it was an important step in communicating this new culture of quality and safety within the medical center. I was honored in 2009 to be a co-presenter with Dr. David Fairchild at the annual SHSMD conference where we shared details of Tufts Medical Center’s hand hygiene program. It is an amazing case study because it led to true changes in behavior within the medical center and significant reductions in hospital acquired infections.

Beyond patient safety, it says something important about Tufts Medical Center that in UHC’s 2010 Quality and Accountability Study it achieved the #1 ranking in the “equity” category, an indication that all patients, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status, receive equal treatment at the Medical Center. For me, this is another indication that they are creating something very special within this organization.

Below is a video of Ellen Zane, Tufts Medical Center’s CEO, making a few brief comments at the internal celebration: (Please forgive the video quality. I shot this with my Flip camera – hand held.)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the landscape in Boston, Tufts Medical Center lives in the land of healthcare giants. Boston is truly the “medical mecca.” And some have viewed Tufts as the underdog as it has worked to fulfill its mission while building a sustainable model of care. What people are beginning to discover is that the underdog is actually a powerhouse. Tufts Medical Center has found success in developing clinical affiliations with community hospitals in the region. They have embraced a distributed model of care that reinforces the organization’s strong belief that patients should receive the appropriate care in the appropriate location, and Tufts’ clinical affiliations are designed to enable more care to be delivered in the community where the patients reside. So patients stay in their community to receive high quality care close to home. This is far different from the model followed by many academic medical centers who set up suburban outposts and affiliations with the clear objective of pulling patients into the downtown medical center. (Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid and I’m on the payroll, so to speak.)

I take delight in seeing Tufts Medical Center receive accolades for its achievements in the areas of quality, patient safety and accountability. It is a patient-centric organization with which I am proud to be affiliated. The people of Boston are fortunate to have access to such a wonderful healthcare provider.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

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