A decade of innovations in quality

Jeffords Institute marks 10-year milestone

We sat down with Anna Noonan, vice president, Quality, to talk about the work of the Jeffords Institute through the years.

Q: How would you describe the overall role of the Jeffords Institute for Quality?

A: The best way to think about the Jeffords Institute is as an accelerator for improvement. The Jeffords Institute team brings the skill set of their respective divisions to help our organization continuously improve the quality and safety of the care and services we provide. We are a resource to our organization, network and for the communities we serve.

I’ve been involved in Quality for the past 18 years in this organization, and never once have I heard someone say, ‘We can’t improve.’

Anna Noonan, vice president, Quality

Q: What defines an organization that performs well in quality?

A: Quality is defined by the results we achieve relative to national standards and metrics. One example of how we measure our performance is our relationship with Vizient UHC. This organization provides risk-adjusted benchmarking data comparing us to 110 academic medical centers around the country. These data compare our performance with the best centers in the country. When we perform better than others we share what we are doing. When we have an opportunity to improve, we reach out to our colleagues nationally to understand their practices and adapt what we learn here.

There are many examples where we are the leader in quality. One example is our “top performance” standing among academic medical centers (AMCs) in areas of quality, safety and operational efficiency. For the past six years, we have ranked in the top 20, and we ranked 13th in 2016.

Vizient recently looked at which characteristics emerge as being critical to helping top performers reach the highest level of service, quality and safety. They include:

  • A shared sense of purpose, in which the organization consistently reinforces patient care as the primary mission
  • Leadership style, in which the CEO plays a critical role on the shared purpose and bringing it to life
  • An accountability system for service quality and safety
  • A focus on results
  • Collaboration in solving problems and identifying opportunities for higher levels of excellence

I’ve been involved in Quality for the past 18 years in this organization, and never once have I heard someone say, “We can’t improve.” Our physicians, our staff and the Jeffords team are deeply committed to continuous improvement. This is in large part how we became a top performer and why we have sustained that level of performance over time.

Q: How has the work of the Jeffords Institute changed over the past decade?

A: The biggest shift has been the pace of change and a shift toward being proactive in optimizing the health of our population. We have developed strong community partnerships in addition to striving to improve the health of our patient and families. We are constantly refining our improvement methods to sustain our results over time.

One of the improvement techniques that we have employed is the use of “Kaizens,” a Japanese term for an approach that identifies waste in a system and takes a grassroots, multidisciplinary, focused approach that uses direct observation and measurement to redesign the system. We’re facilitating a number of these projects both inside the organization and with our community partners.

Finally, we are sharing improvement practices by collaborating across our network.

Q: What’s up next for the Jeffords Institute?

A: We will continue to educate staff, nurses, physicians and other providers on the use of improvement methods and tools. We are engaging with the Larner College of Medicine and the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, focusing on the students so that improvement methodology becomes a part of their practice early in their careers.

We will continue to focus on the social factors that help determine health and to support the shift toward health optimization, care coordination and wellness. This means extending our reach and looking toward innovative strategies. This is a very exciting time – for the Jeffords Institute, the UVM Medical Center and our network!