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.

Cheers for Our Nurses and for NJ’s Great Strides in Cardiac Care

Great news for New Jersey: The state’s latest report card on cardiac surgery care in the state’s hospitals shows continued improvement. In fact, New Jersey’s mortality rate following heart surgery has now fallen to the lowest point since the state first started reporting the data in 1994-95.

Quality improvement is no accident. I happen to be writing this on Nurses Day, and I know that our nurses play a major role in our accomplishments in patient safety and quality improvement. Our steady, progressive improvement is the result of commitment, communication, attention to detail and persistence by those dedicated nurses as well as hospital leaders, physicians and the state Department of Health and Senior Services. It’s a partnership to examine our processes and outcomes in caring for cardiac patients, confront any shortcomings we find and dedicate ourselves to improvements that make our care better and safer.

All told, about 2 percent of patients undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery died following the procedure in 2007, the report states. That’s a serious operation and clearly there are risks involved. But we aren’t content with that 2 percent rate – although it does represent a 54 percent decline over the last 15 years. Our goal is zero. Some would say that’s unattainable, but the important thing is the journey – every step along the way improves healthcare for our patients.

To our nurses and physicians, keep up the good work. To state Health Commissioner Dr. Poonum Alaigh, thanks for the leadership and kind words. And to the patients of New Jersey, rest assured, we’ll keep working to provide you the best care possible.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 15:23

NJHA Goes to Washington – Day 2

We wrap up our journey to the American Hospital Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., with a day packed with big-name policymakers and visits with members of the New Jersey congressional delegation.
Yesterday we ended our day by having the full group of New Jersey hospital advocates hear from Congressman Frank Pallone, chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. He spoke to a packed room and was gracious enough to spend a lot of time answering our questions. Congressman Pallone talked about the difficult road to health reform and the state implementation issues in the future. We thanked him for all of his help and leadership (and that of his staff) in achieving this landmark legislation and for helping us with some specific issues of importance to N.J. providers. We agreed to communicate any concerns we encounter as the new law is implemented.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was a special quest this morning. She applauded hospitals' efforts to work with Congress to pass the healthcare reform bill. Reform, she said, will give the nation's hospitals 32 million individuals with insurance cards, fewer uncompensated ER visits, a larger supply of primary care physicians and expanded efforts to improve healthcare quality. (Of course, hospitals agreed to billions of dollars in funding reductions over the next decade to help pay for those reforms. Hospitals truly are committed and vested in being part of a solution to our healthcare system's problems.)

Our afternoon is full of visits with Congress members and their staff in their offices on Capitol Hill. We have a strong contingent of hospital leaders from New Jersey who are fanning out in meetings with Sens. Menendez (who was a tremendous advocate on N.J. hospital issues during the reform debate) and staff members for Sen. Lautenberg, along with almost all of our Congress members.

We appreciate the opportunity to meet with all the members of the delegation on the very important issues confronting healthcare in New Jersey. In the end, we share a common goal of providing affordable, accessible, quality healthcare to the people of our state.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 19:46

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NJHA Goes to Washington

I'm blogging today from the American Hospital Association Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. While it's gray and gloomy here, we aren't getting the rain that my friends back home in New Jersey are getting.

Attendance is up this year at the AHA meeting. I suspect it's a combination of the economy improving and everyone wanting to get the latest and greatest news on how to position themselves for healthcare reform implementation. Today NJHA members are hearing from Congressman Frank Pallone, chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. We are really pleased he could join us and share his inside-the-beltway perspective with leaders in our hospital community. Tomorrow we will hear from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then hit the Hill for one-on-one meetings with members of the Garden State congressional delegation. We really value the opportunity to meet with our elected officials and discuss the issues that affect healthcare providers and our patients. We have some key New Jersey- specific issues (something called the "imputed rural floor" that deals with wage adjustments under the Medicare program and recoupment for disproportionate share hospitals) along with other national issues such as an onerous payment cut that looms for physicians and a new proposed inpatient payment rule that would take $11O million from N.J. hospitals next year. This rule would be devastating to our state. Both the physician pay cut and the hospital inpatient payment rule could severely impact our healthcare system's ability to provide the quality care our patients demand.

Our message to Congress is this: The hospital community agreed to cuts in the healthcare reform law as part of our commitment to insure more Americans, but these new proposed cuts are well above and beyond those agreements. We believe that by working in concert with our New Jersey delegation and the AHA, we can stop this harmful proposal.

Stay tuned!

Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:54

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Take Action Today to Become an Organ Donor

Thank you, Grace Sato; thank you, Kellye Miller; thank you to the Bottino Family. And thank you to the many selfless New Jersey residents who have made the life-giving decision to donate an organ or tissue.

Their personal stories are available on the Web site It’s a one-stop resource to learn about organ and tissue donation in our state and, most importantly, it offers a simple way to join the statewide registry of designated donors.

I can’t underscore how important the issue is to your friends and neighbors across the Garden State. There currently are 4,200 N.J. residents who face a very uncertain future without an organ donation. Nationwide, about 100,000 people are awaiting a life-saving organ transplant, and another name is added to the list every 12 seconds. And each day, about 18 Americans die, still waiting…

April is National Organ Donation Awareness Month. Make it a time to talk with your family about organ donation and then take the next steps to become a designated donor. Surveys show that 90 percent of Americans say they support donation, but only 30 percent know how to take the steps needed to become a donor. It couldn’t be much easier. The next time you renew your drivers license, say “yes” to organ donation. Or take action today by visiting and sign up for the online registry.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 20:00

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Historic Vote Holds Tremendous Promise for Healthcare’s Future

Healthcare providers and patients alike have long struggled under our disjointed and in many ways broken healthcare system. Last night’s historic vote on healthcare reform offers tremendous new promise for New Jersey’s healthcare consumers, our physicians and hospitals, and most importantly, for New Jersey’s 1.3 million residents without health insurance. A projected 920,000 New Jerseyans could be added to the insurance rolls as a result of this landmark bill.

The nation’s hospitals committed early on to be part of this new and improved healthcare system by agreeing to more than $150 billion in funding reductions over the next decade that will help pay for other key components of reform. The impact to New Jersey hospitals will be about $5 billion in reductions over the next 10 years. We firmly believe that everyone – including insurance companies, hospitals, physicians and consumers – must have a stake in healthcare’s future. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.

Written by Betsy Ryan at 17:49

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