Did you know that going to a hospital is one of the riskiest things a person can do? It is estimated that more than 250,000 Americans die each year from medical errors. At Mountains Community Hospital (MCH), patient safety is a core value. To reduce the risk of patient harm, MCH is collaborating with its insurance carrier, BETA Healthcare Group, in a program named “HEART.”
HEART stands for Healing, Empathy, Accountability, Resolution and Trust. The program helps member hospitals to create a “culture of safety” by encouraging staff and patients to speak up about issues that have or may lead to patient harm, and by developing reliable systems for providing safe care. The program also promotes a “Just Culture” which focuses on fixing “systems issues” that affect staff performance, and holding staff accountable only when conduct is risky or reckless. We believe that our HEART participation will take MCH from “good to great.”
In our year of participation with HEART, we have made significant progress. Hospital leaders and managers now hold daily huddles to improve communication among departments about safety and operational issues. Community members attend our monthly board meetings to review our safety reports and provide a patient/ family perspective on our efforts to prevent patient harm or dissatisfaction. Hospital departments develop improvement projects that promote patient safety. As an example: in 2017 the Rural Health Clinic developed a process that reduced the wait time for X-ray insurance authorization from 3 weeks to just 4 days.
HEART emphasizes accountability and empathy when patient harm actually occurs. Such incidents are investigated thoroughly, with a focus on understanding all perspectives, and preventing recurrence in the future. If harm occurs as a result of medical error or inappropriate care, every attempt is made to resolve the matter in an ethical, humane way that instills trust among patients, patients’ families and caregivers. The HEART approach also supports caregivers, who are often deeply troubled when a patient is harmed under their watch.
In 2017, MCH conducted a staff survey (“SCORE”) which provided many valuable insights into staff perceptions and concerns. As a result, several departments created action plans and began making improvements right away. Many departments identified “culture of safety” champions: front line staff members who promote the HEART message among their peers. We hope to see improvement over last year’s results, and will continue our efforts to make MCH a GREAT hospital: one that is safe for patients and one where staff feel proud to work.