Improving Your Healthcare: Our Journey So Far

There’s a saying that the most dangerous phrase in healthcare is “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” As a nurse, I tend to agree – if you’re not constantly improving the quality of care provided to your patients, lives can be put at risk.

That’s why New Jersey took on a five-year journey to improve care provided in the Garden State, under the Partnership for Patients initiative. So far, our nurses, doctors, hospitals and health systems have worked together to avoid 77,342 cases of patient harm and reduce healthcare costs in the state by $641 million, between 2012 and 2016.

New Jersey hospitals have been re-examining our policies and embracing changes to how we provide care. We standardized steps for how to prevent infections. We implemented new tools in our hospitals, then shared the results so others could learn from our efforts. Fewer patients had complications or infections, meaning less time in the hospital and less money spent on their care.

Partnership for Patients is a national effort by hospitals to improve the quality and safety of the care they deliver. It was created under the Affordable Care Act, when a lot of the things “we’ve always done” in healthcare were re-examined. The Health Research and Educational Trust of New Jersey, part of the New Jersey Hospital Association, spearheaded our work.

More examples of how our journey has progressed:

  • Hospitals decreased pressure ulcers, also known as pressure injuries or bed sores, by 38 percent, saving $34 million by avoiding more than 800 instances.
  • We reduced readmissions to the hospital within 30 days of discharge by 30 percent – or 66,032 cases – ensuring our patients’ recoveries continue outside the hospital and reducing healthcare costs by more than $580 million.
  • Falls with injury in hospitals decreased by 43 percent, preventing 833 cases of harm and $552,236 in costs.
  • 400 lives were saved by decreasing sepsis deaths by 11 percent in one year.

These are just some of the results. How we achieved these results is just as important.

Change isn’t easy, but it’s less daunting when you’re not alone – that’s the partnership part, and it’s a lot different than the old approach of keeping everything in-house. Through Partnership for Patients, we utilized national experts to provide insight and education, both in-person and online. We focused on what was best for patients, which meant sharing what worked and what didn’t, and measuring how well we were making these changes to our routines. Training, tools and data showed us how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go.

We’re not done. New Jersey’s hospitals and health systems are in the middle of another two-year Partnership initiative. This time, we’re focusing on using antibiotics strategically to avoid more drug-resistant infections; getting patients and families more engaged with their care; and reducing unnecessary radiation exposure to kids.

It’s scary to think about the complexity of patient care and overcoming a culture that says “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” But I’m more confident than ever that our embrace of change is making New Jersey’s care the best it can be.

Learn more about New Jersey’s Partnership for Patients successes.

Shannon Davila, RN, is director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety at the New Jersey Hospital Association. NJHA is a healthcare trade organization committed to helping its members deliver high-value healthcare in their communities. This post originally appeared as an interview in The Star-Ledger and on 

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Shannon Davila, RN, MSN, is the director of the Institute for Quality and Patient Safety at NJHA. She leads clinical improvement programs under the Partnership for Patients initiative. An infection prevention specialist, Davila was named a 2016 Hero of Infection Prevention by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

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