Group recognizes EMHS for ‘culture of safety’

Posted Dec. 10, 2009, at 9:08 p.m.

BREWER, Maine — Officials from Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems are in Washington, D.C., today to be recognized for creating a “culture of safety” and working to reduce medical errors at the organization’s seven member hospitals.

Dr. Erik Steele, EMHS chief medical officer, said in a prepared statement that the organization is seeking to establish a safety partnership with patients.

“We want people to ask us if we’ve washed our hands before we touch, question the medications they’re given and why that medication is necessary, and in turn we are linking quality and safety,” he said. “We are creating a delivery system that listens to what patients and families are saying.”

Out of more than 300 hospital systems invited to apply, EMHS is the only one being awarded the second annual National Health System Patient Safety Award by the National Business Group on Health and the VHA Foundation.

According to the VHA Foundation Web site, the two organizations collaborate to recognize “the enthusiasm and commitment senior leadership teams across the country are making to the ongoing challenge of preventing harm in health care.”

In 2008, the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit and the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston were given the award.

“To truly move the needle on safety, we cannot rely only on new technology and the latest interventions,” said Colleen Risk of the VHA Foundation. “Safer care is developed in carefully cultivated environments, such as the one at EMHS, where leaders promote shared values, attitudes and behaviors across an entire system al-lowing employees to work with common purpose to improve patient safety.”

EMHS corporate and clinical practices recognized by the award include the organization’s stated goal of becoming the nation’s best health care system by the end of 2012; tying executive compensation to quality and safety performance; promoting patient communications and access to clinical quality data and taking a leadership role in promoting safe practices in hospitals throughout the state.

EMHS is leading a statewide coalition of hospitals aimed at reducing the incidence of hospital-acquired infections.

The system has “hardwired” certain patient safety standards, including modifying its computerized admission process so it cannot be completed unless the patient’s risk for developing deep vein thrombosis is assessed and documented.

The Texas-based VHA Foundation is a nonprofit organization founded by VHA Inc., a national alliance of community-based health systems. The foundation funds disaster relief efforts and projects that promote leadership in patient safety.

The National Business Group on Health is a nonprofit organization that represents large employers on issues of national health care and public policy.

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