Betsy Ryan is president and CEO of the New Jersey Hospital Association. Her blog, Healthcare Matters, examines the many issues confronting New Jersey's hospitals and their patients. Readers are encouraged to join the discussion, because healthcare matters - to all of us.

My Healthcare Team Saved My Life: An Appreciation for Hospital Week and Nurses Week

It’s Hospital Week and Nurses Week, a perfect time for me to extend a heartfelt thank you to the healthcare professionals who care for us every day of the year. And this isn’t just about my job here at NJHA – it’s about the care team that saved my life.

Two years ago, I found myself admitted to the hospital near my hometown of Florence for the first time of my life (aside from giving birth to my son.)

I had lain in bed at home over a weekend in March, sidelined by a stomach pain that worsened by the hour. I deluded myself into thinking it was food poisoning. By the time I gave up that delusion, my appendix had burst and my husband had to rush me to the ED. I had sepsis, with a life-threatening infection coursing through my body. I was very, very sick in the hospital for two weeks, and much of that time is hazy. But what I do recall is the amazing skill of the medical team and the incredible human compassion of the nurses, aides, technicians and others who provided bedside care.

My healthcare experience was a sobering reminder of how vitally important our work is, and that the things we do – both large and small – affect individuals and families in profound ways. It extends from the hospital throughout our healthcare delivery system including rehabilitation facilities, behavioral health facilities, long term acute care hospitals, nursing homes, home health, hospice, medical day care, assisted living and Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. I’m here today because of it, and I thank New Jersey’s exceptional healthcare professionals for the work they do every day and every night.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

South Jersey Healthcare Community Seeks to Transform Behavioral Health Care

There is some exciting and innovative work being done in South Jersey by the region’s five healthcare systems – Cooper University Healthcare, Inspira Health Network, Kennedy Health, Lourdes Health System and Virtua.

These healthcare leaders – otherwise fierce competitors – have come together to address a need for better care for those confronting mental health or substance use issues.

Called the South Jersey Behavioral Health Innovation Collaborative, this unique partnership also includes NJHA and the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers.

This collaborative was born from information in the community health needs assessments that hospitals regularly perform to examine the most pressing healthcare needs facing their local area. The gaps identified in those assessments focused hospital leadership on systemic problems that made it difficult for residents to access the behavioral health and substance abuse services they needed. The results included poor outcomes for these individuals, lots of return visits to the hospital emergency room and high healthcare costs. I applaud the five CEOs who put competitive issues aside and came together to address these regional findings.

The project started one year ago, and recently we gathered to share the findings from our first year of data collection, mined by the Camden Coalition through an extensive process. We found that ED visits for behavioral health or substance abuse needs increased 30 percent between 2010 and 2014. We also found 800 individuals who had visited all five health systems, and an overwhelming majority had at least one mental health or substance use disorder. Together, those patients logged more than 31,000 hospital visits with more than $260 million in charges. That shows the power of data in identifying problems and designing solutions.

There’s been a great deal of progress in a short period of time. The collaborative’s partners and their dedicated teams are working together to share protocols and data for the greater good of the patient. They are conferencing together on patient cases for individuals that commonly visit multiple hospitals. They’re integrating psychiatric specialists in their EDs. And moving forward, they are offering supportive needs like stable housing and exploring a regional site for psychiatric emergency services.

This project shows the power of collaboration in today’s complex healthcare system, and it highlights the commitment of our members in doing what is best for their patients and their communities. 

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

4 Reasons to Feel Good About Healthcare in the Garden State

There’s plenty of reason to feel good about the state of your healthcare here in New Jersey. The accolades have been pouring in in recent weeks:

  • New Jersey hospitals once again ranked 5th best nationwide for patient safety, according to the semi-annual Hospital Safety Score released by the Leapfrog Group in October.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported this week that an estimated 87,000 fewer patients died in hospitals and nearly $20 billion in healthcare costs were saved as a result of a reduction in hospital-acquired conditions from 2010 to 2014. During this same period, New Jersey hospitals, working together with NJHA under the Partnership for Patients-NJ initiative, achieved measurable reductions in hospital-acquired conditions. That work averted 13,730 cases of patient harm and achieved $120 million in healthcare cost savings over the project’s initial three years.
  • Also this week comes news that New Jersey has an impressive four hospitals on the Leapfrog Group’s list of the Top Hospitals of 2015 list. Only 98 of the 1,600 U.S. hospitals that submit data to Leapfrog make the list. How impressive is New Jersey’s showing? Consider that our neighbors in New York didn’t have any hospitals on the list, and Pennsylvania had one. Congratulations to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Virtua Marlton and Virtua Voorhees.
  • And among the nation’s nursing homes, New Jersey facilities exceed the national average with 75 percent of our facilities scoring three stars or more on the national Nursing Home Compare’s 5-star rating system.

We’re proud to be among such great company, but even more proud to provide New Jersey residents with some of the nation’s finest healthcare services. 

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00

A Hat Trick for Healthcare

Our healthcare system has scored a hat trick of reduced mortality rates, fewer hospitalizations and reduced healthcare costs, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That’s great news for patients, taxpayers, employers and anyone who’s interested in high-value healthcare.

Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine reported that mortality rates among Medicare patients fell 16 percent from 1999 to 2013. That’s 300,000 fewer deaths a year in 2013 than in 1999, said cardiologist Harlan Krumholz, the lead researcher and author. He called the results “jaw-dropping.”

In addition, hospitalization rates fell 24 percent, and the costs for hospitalized patients fell by 15 percent.

Those findings are precisely the types of results we’re striving for in our hospitals and other healthcare organizations. Our goal, and our challenge under the Affordable Care Act, is to provide high-quality healthcare at lower costs. And we do that by focusing on wellness and preventative services, keeping patients out of the hospital, improving quality and reducing complications and providing the right amount of care in the right healthcare setting. That’s why you’re seeing things like hospital-run fitness centers and urgi-care centers; hospitals integrating into larger systems with physician groups and post-acute providers; patient follow-up programs that aim to keep discharged patients from a return hospital stay; and many more new initiatives.

It’s incredibly rewarding to see those efforts validated and quantified in the JAMA report. We know there’s much more change and many more challenges ahead as we work to transform our healthcare system. But today, it’s great to see that our shots are on goal and we’ve found the back of the net

Written by Default at 00:00

Nurses Week 2015: Ethical Practice, Quality Care

A number of recent reports have lauded New Jersey hospitals for the high-quality care they deliver. In the most recent example, our hospitals ranked fifth in the nation on The Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Score.

New Jersey is also among the national leaders in the number of hospitals that have achieved the prestigious Magnet award for nursing excellence from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Coincidence? I think not. Nurses play an essential role in the quality improvement efforts under way in hospitals across our state.

Nurses are the eyes and ears on our patient units, and they hold invaluable insight into what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to optimal patient care. Here at NJHA, our statewide quality improvement efforts are led by a nurse – Dr. Aline Holmes, RN, who recently earned her doctorate in nursing practice – along with several other nurses with various specialties. I am impressed every day by their knowledge not just of patient care, but of processes and policies that can make the healthcare system better. I’m so thankful to have them on our team. Working collaboratively with our member hospitals and post-acute facilities, they have helped New Jersey hospitals improve patient outcomes and reduce complications like infections and pressure ulcers. Empowered nurses deliver real results!

As we observe National Nurses Week, I can’t think of a better time to recognize New Jersey nurses for the vital role they play throughout our healthcare facilities – not just in hands-on patient care but in areas like quality and patient safety, ethics, patient education, community engagement and in executive leadership.

The theme for the 2015 observance of National Nurses Week is “Ethical practice, quality care.” It’s a short but very precise statement of the value that nurses bring to our healthcare system.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 00:00