Memphis’ Breakfast Club: Comparing Quality

04 Nov 2013

One of the most pressing problems in health care is the lack of connection between national-level problems and local delivery. Common Table Health Alliance (CTHA), leader of the Aligning Forces initiative in Memphis, is seeking to connect local hospitals to national outcomes by setting benchmarks for quality and comparing data among hospitals.

CTHA has negotiated with six Memphis-area hospitals to share blinded data for comparison. This collective approach to quality was meant to help area hospitals come to an agreement on a community standard for quality. Quality improvement directors from each hospital decided the best course of action was to meet every other month to discuss what’s working and what’s not. These peer-to-peer meetings, informally called “the breakfast club,” allow hospital staff to share and define their commitment to achieving good-quality, equitable care in Memphis.

“Every quality improvement director has their hands full, and oftentimes we don’t get the opportunity to reach out to our peers around the city. We find that we all have the same struggles. We try to get our arms around some of the same information, like readmissions for heart failure and pneumonia,” said Pearlie Pilgram, director of clinical quality improvement at Saint Francis Hospital. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us.”

Soon, the first report showing data around specific interventions matched with collective blinded data will be released. The report is designed to be provocative and motivating to Memphis hospitals. “Our hope is that all boats will rise with this report—it’s not competitive, but collaborative through shared learning,” said CTHA chief executive officer Renee' Frazier.

Hospital quality improvement directors will be able to explore why they may be lower on certain measures and ask colleagues about potential interventions. “You want to know how the community is doing. What can I change at my facility to serve patients better?” added Pilgram. “There are always opportunities to do better.”

The report will compare Medicare spending per beneficiary, 30-day heart failure readmissions, patient experience of care using hospital consumer assessment of health care providers and systems survey measures, and average length of stay among the six hospitals. Preliminary data are telling. For example, the average length of stay for Shelby County inpatients was 3.1 days for July 2011 through June 2012. This is lower than the average length for the state of Tennessee as a whole, which is 4.8 days. Now that benchmarks will be established, hospitals can refocus their efforts to improve quality and home in on areas ripe for change.