AHA establishes quality center for hospitals

Better outcomes among its goals

The American Hospital Association (AHA) has created a performance improvement organization to serve as a resource specifically targeting process improvement in the hospital setting.

The AHA Quality Center was slated for an April 29 launch at the AHA’s annual meeting, according to Stephen Mayfield, MBA, MBB, a health care expert from Georgia who has been named senior vice president for quality of performance improvement and director of the AHA Quality Center.

"Our main constituents and customers are hospitals and health systems, and through them the patients who receive their care," says Mayfield. "Part of the impetus for forming this center is that there are about 6,000 hospitals in the United States, all trying to serve communities and constituents. They are bombarded on many fronts by external pressures like pay for performance, public reporting, the demand for more transparency, and articles in the media. Internally, hospitals — and, in particular, physicians, nurses, and ancillary caregivers — find themselves in a system not of their own design, nor of their own choosing. That system, because of myriad forces that push and pull, often creates obstacles to them delivering the care they want to deliver. It results in waste, delays, bottlenecks, incomplete information transfer, and information not being available at the point at which it is needed."

Making the choice easier

All hospitals want to give the best care they can, says Mayfield, but "there are so many choices [for performance improvement] that many hospitals are caught in the middle and don’t know where to start." This new center, he asserts, will provide one central location to get hospitals on a path to improve quality.

"A hospital may say, We are working as hard as we can; how can we get started? What should we work on first? How do we find the resources to do this with a limited budget?’" Mayfield says. "Our goal is that the quality center will be the first place they go to."

Mayfield acknowledges the worth of organizations such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). However, he also notes their limitations.

"Each of those entities has an agenda — CMS is payment, the Joint Commission is accreditation, IHI is safety," he asserts. "I applaud them all, but each has a narrowly designed expertise and wants a particular thing. We will not compete with them, but instead will give each their presence on our site. Anyone can come to our site and find all of these organizations."

In other words, he explains, the center will not be the creator of in-depth research or contents, "but a collector and convener of all the great work going on. We will not be in competition with these organizations, or trying to replace them, but we will try to highlight what they are doing," says Mayfield. "What we mightdo is provide a little translation for the hospital consumer that then leads them to an IHI or an AHRQ — a summary that guides them in a particular direction. Our goal is to make it facile, transparent, effective, and efficient."

So, for busy hospital professionals who have safety and affordability at the top of their minds, but only so much time to dedicate, "we can leverage their resource of time, maximize their return, and get the answer they are looking for as quickly as possible," Mayfield explains.

Several services provided

The most visible presence of the new center will be its web content, says Mayfield. "There will be three main sections," he shares. "One will be the major linkages; an opportunity assessment for hospitals on where they might start their search, a quality leadership connection, and a clinical quality exchange. The middle section will focus on the eight dimensions of the hospital that are critical to quality (leadership, improvement strategies and methodologies, the business case for quality, information technology, patient focus, physician and workforce engagement, culture and communication, and performance measurement and reporting). The third section will include timely events and case studies — stories from the field."

One of the goals of the site, he adds, is to feature stories submitted by hospitals. "So, for example, if you are from a hospital in middle Georgia and have a pay-for-performance situation coming, but your AMI [acute myocardial infarction] scores are not where you want them to be, you can go to the web site, click on AMI and find case studies from hospitals similar to you," he explains. "Our goal is to include contact names and phone numbers; that’s one of the connections we’re hoping to make."

The AHA will also be opening a call center, which will seek to provide responses to all questions within two days.

"One of the things I am most proud of is that the web site will be available to everyone — irrespective of your membership," says Mayfield. "You will have to create a login ID, but even non-AHA hospitals can access it free of charge – because this is the right thing to do."

For more information, contact Stephen Mayfield at (312) 422-2926.