Washing hands is a big deal at Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital.

Everybody – clinical people, maintenance people, volunteers – washes their hands on the way into a patient room and then wash their hands again on the way out.

It’s part of the Memorial Hermann culture and even with two major construction projects underway, that emphasis on quality care and patient safety is not about to change.

The two major construction projects currently underway are a 123,000-square foot, five-story, 90-bed patient tower on the Humble campus and a 45,000-square foot Convenient Care Center currently being built in the Main Street Kingwood Shopping Center at Kingwood Drive and West Lake Houston Parkway.

You’d think the focus would be on the growth and opportunities that lie ahead for Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital.

You’d be wrong.

Quality, patient safety part of the Memorial Hermann culture

“We’re excited about the state-of-the-art patient tower that will be opening next year, and we’re also happy about bringing our expertise to Kingwood,” said Kelly Ryan, “but we’re also focused on quality care and patient safety.

“When a patient walks into Memorial Hermann Northeast, they can expect that our staff is ready and able to provide highly reliable care with consistent quality results and zero harm,” she said.

“That’s one reason we ‘wash in and wash out’ when we’re around patients,” Ryan said. “Hand hygiene is simple, yet it’s one of the most effective ways to prevent infections and prevent the spread of germs.”

The attention the Memorial Hermann Northeast staff gives to quality and patient safety, and to simple tasks like hand hygiene, is paying off.

U.S. News & World Report, in their annual rating of best hospitals by state, ranked Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital 10th best hospital in greater Houston and 39th best hospital in Texas.

In addition to their high ranking with U.S. News & World Report, Memorial Hermann Northeast has garnered a host of citations and certifications: ACS NS QIP recognition for achieving meritorious outcomes for surgical patients care; Get with the Guidelines-Stroke Gold Plus; AHA/ASA Mission Lifeline Bronze Plus for STEMI; AHA/ASA Primary Stroke Center Reaccreditation; ANCC Pathways to Excellence in Nursing; Texas Ten Step Facility; International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and International Lactation Consultant Association Care Award.

“Every employee, from the nurses to the volunteers to housekeepers and food service employees, everyone is responsible for quality and patient safety at Northeast,” said Ryan, “and for helping us attain these awards.”

Ryan has a master’s degree in nursing. She’s been a nurse for 23 years, specializing in health care quality for almost 11 years and is a certified professional in healthcare quality.

As director of quality for Memorial Hermann Northeast, Ryan oversees a staff of nine quality experts who monitor all the campuses’ services and specialties for quality and patient safety, but she’s very clear that it’s not just her staff that bears responsibility but everyone who works or volunteers at the Northeast campus.

“Every day, we celebrate success stories of employees who identify opportunities and help us to improve a process or procedure, protect a patient or visitor from harm and improve our patients’ experiences,” said Ryan who repeats, “Every employee is responsible for maintaining quality and patient safety.”

Ryan also praises the Memorial Hermann culture which, she believes, plays an integral part in keeping quality care high and patients safe.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve the quality and safety of the care we provide our patients,” she said, “that’s why we’ve developed a transparent culture where any employee can report a process or treatment that they believe could be improved.”

Ryan emphasizes that all employees, not just clinical staff, are encouraged to speak up when they see a process that is not working well, is cumbersome or may impact patient or employee safety.

“An employee identified a process that required the completion of two different procedures to meet a standard, one paper-based and one computer-based,” Ryan recalls. “Neither process contained all the elements needed but both were required for patient safety.”

The Quality team worked with the frontline staff to map out the current process, identify extra steps that were unnecessary, identify the required steps, and then make recommendations to leadership.

“Thanks to the foresight of that employee, we changed the process in the computer system to eliminate duplication and that improved our efficiency and patient safety,” Ryan says.

Memorial Hermann clinical employees undergo extensive training in methods and behaviors that are known to improve safety and prevent harm and are encouraged to catch and prevent medical errors before they can harm a patient.

“We’re required by regulatory agencies to provide mandatory annual training in quality and safety for every employee,” said Ryan. “and every new employee also receives specific patient safety training.”

Equally important to the required training is hospital leadership’s investment in additional ongoing training in a variety of topics including enhancing communications, mentoring leaders and peer coaching.

Because not all hospitals are the same when it comes to quality, it is important for consumers to be able to make comparisons. Fortunately, the federal government has made it easier to evaluate hospitals.

“CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is the federal agency that administers the Medicare, Medicaid and Child Health Insurance programs,” said Ryan. “CMS requires that all hospitals receiving Medicare payments participate in the reporting of a few quality standards – the processes of care, outcomes, and patient experience, for example.

“CMS rates these standards so that hospitals throughout the United States can be compared,” she said.

In recent years, several organizations outside of the federal government are helping consumers figure out how local health care facilities are performing.

One of the better-known is Leapfrog, a consortium of more than 60 businesses who were concerned about the safety and quality of care they were purchasing for their employees. The result was Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade which uses a simple A, B, C, D, F grading system to rate hospitals.

Memorial Hermann Northeast, for example, was most recently graded “A” for safety by Leapfrog.

“There are many reputable organizations that will help you judge the quality of a hospital for yourself,” Ryan said. “I’d recommend the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality at ahrq.gov or medicare.gov which is the official government site for Medicare, or the “hospital compare” website at cms.gov which provides information on how well hospitals provide recommended care to their patients.”

Focusing on quality and patient safety not only saves lives, it also saves money, said Ryan.

“When something bad happens to a patient, there are costs associated with that care,” she said. “A patient may need additional treatment, additional medication or may have to stay in the hospital longer.”

Medicare will not reimburse for errors or adverse events that are preventable or acquired at the hospital, Ryan pointed out.

“Frankly, it’s in our best interest financially and for the health and well-being of our patients to provide safe, high quality, efficient and cost-effective care.”

Ryan said Memorial Hermann Northeast employees live and breathe safety.

“Each day during our leadership huddles, our executive team and the directors gather together to focus on safety,” Ryan said. “This is the time we celebrate “good catches” related to safety that our employees have discovered. We often discover new and innovative ways to prevent harm, create a safer environment for patients and staff, and improve our patients’ care and treatment.”

The result, Ryan said, leads to positive patient outcomes and experiences.

So, remember, when you step into Memorial Hermann Northeast’s new state-of-the-art Patient Tower or their spiffy new Convenient Care Center in Kingwood, quality and patient safety always come first.



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Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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