There’s no magic wand to wave to improve health care quality. But a close look at 2014 AHA–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize honorees highlights some key characteristics of organizations showing remarkable progress starting with aligned objectives, use of system-based approaches, challenging goals, community health focus, culture of individual accountability and commitment, focus on creating highly reliable care, and priority on patient and family engagement.

The AHA–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize recognizes hospitals that are committed to and have developed a systems-based approach to improving care that systematically integrates and aligns their improvement efforts throughout their respective organizations. Using the Institute of Medicine’s six quality aims — safety, effectiveness, efficiency, timeliness, patient-centeredness, and equity — as a framework, these hospitals are working to achieve the Triple Aim of improved experience of care, improved population health and lower per capita costs in their communities.

On behalf of the Quest for Quality Committee, thanks to all the hospitals that applied for the 2014 awards and special thanks to those that hosted site visits. Collectively, you have raised the bar and provided models and inspiration for the entire field. Some of the key highlights and learnings from the 2014 honorees:

It all begins with leadership commitment and the ability to transfer that passion to everyone in the hospital, including patients and families. Governance, medical staff, administration and nursing must all be in it together to bring about true culture change that instills in each staff member personal responsibility for the quality and safety of care. Hospital board members who round on patients, medical staff leaders who insist on on-time starts in surgery, C-suite executives who make a point of talking with (and hearing from) staff and patients, performance improvement initiatives by front-line and support staff, and engaged and informed patients set the tone for the entire hospital.

What goes on outside of hospital walls is just as important as what goes on inside the hospital. Community collaboration and leadership to address behavioral health, violence and homelessness, as well as education and outreach for rural areas help keep the community safe and healthy and out of the hospital.

Patient and family engagement changes the mindset of the hospital. To quote the poet Robert Burns: “O would some Power the small gift give us/To see ourselves as others see us!” The perspectives of patients and families are changing from “this is the way we do it” to “how can we do it better for our patients and families and each other?” And patients and families are not shy about participating on all levels.

Education: Since three of our honorees are academic medical centers, it was great to see that they are engaging the medical school and their residents and students in interprofessional education and training in quality improvement.

The AHA–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize Committee congratulates the 2014 winner, VCU Medical Center, Richmond, Va.; the 2014 finalist, Carolinas Medical Center–NorthEast, Concord, N.C.; and the three 2014 Citation of Merit honorees, Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center, Charleston; Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indianapolis; and University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, Madison. Please read their stories in this issue of Hospitals & Health Networks.

Gary Yates is chair of the AHA–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize Committee and president of the Sentara Quality Care Network, Norfolk, Va.

News from the AHA

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A new guide offers hospital executives step-by-step information on the financial planning process and how it can help their organizations evaluate the impact of repositioning initiatives in the move toward value-based care and payment. The guide, from Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence, is called “Navigating the Gap Between Volume and Value.” Visit

‘Reliable’ partners needed

AHA President and CEO Rich Umbdenstock in July urged the government to end policies that impede improvements in care delivery. Writing in the Morning Consult e-newsletter, he called on Congress and regulatory agencies to “be a more reliable business partner, providing hospitals with better predictability in the payments they receive for the services they provide.” He asked policymakers to remove outdated regulatory and antitrust barriers, fix programs like the recovery audit contractor system and stop cutting Medicare funding for hospital services to pay for other programs. Visit

‘Appropriate’ use of resources

The “Appropriate Use of Medical Resources” white paper identifies the drivers of health care utilization and ways hospitals can reduce nonbeneficial services while improving care. It includes a Top 5 list of hospital-based procedures or interventions that should be discussed by a patient and physician prior to proceeding. Hospital executives can share the white paper with the board, physicians and community leaders. Visit

Organ donation efforts honored

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