February 29, 2008

Heart Institute keeps focus on service, quality

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Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute’s recent town hall meeting gave staff and faculty an update on various quality and patient satisfaction initiatives. (photo by Anne Rayner)

Heart Institute keeps focus on service, quality

Since the Vanderbilt Heart & Vascular Institute (VHVI) began holding its quarterly Town Hall meetings a year ago, it has seen tremendous growth in the areas of volume, quality and patient satisfaction.

At last week's Town Hall, VHVI senior leadership outlined the progress that's been made with an eye toward future areas of improvement and growth.

Douglas Vaughan, M.D., director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, emphasized the need to remain focused on customer service and patient safety.

“Building an infrastructure for patient safety is fundamental in our mission. Everyone who works at Vanderbilt Heart — faculty, nurses, staff — is empowered to improve the quality of patient care and the safety of the work we deliver on a daily basis. Nothing is more important,” he said.

VHVI continues its mission to take heart care to the community and opened its 12th outreach clinic last week in Lebanon. To support this mission, Hank Jennings, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine, has been named Outreach Medical Director. Jennings coordinates the VHVI’s broad network of outreach practices.

“Strategically, we want to be the premier cardiovascular health care provider of choice in Nashville. We want the people in our region to have an opportunity to come to Vanderbilt because we think it's to their advantage to do so,” Vaughan said.

John Byrne, M.D., chair of the Department of Cardiac Surgery, said growth has been “terrific over the last two years.” The number of surgical cases doubled to 1,200 in 2007. There were 13,000 outpatient visits to off-campus clinics and 50,000 outpatient visits on campus.

“I think we're one of the only major centers in the country that has experienced this type of growth,” he said.

Vaughan said that quality of care will determine success in the future.

“We don't want to be the biggest cardiovascular program, but we do want to be the best. The best means you have the best quality,” he said.

Vanderbilt is the only hospital in the University Health System Consortium that ranks in the top 10 of UHC members for both volume and mortality for coronary artery bypass.

“I think that is a tremendous accomplishment by the team,” Byrne said.

CEO Jeff Samz discussed initiatives aimed at improving infrastructure with the goal of being “the most integrated academic heart center in the country.”

“We want the physician leadership and management and staff to have a sense of ownership and have a say in what's happening. It's going to take some time to build that,” he said.

Building a sound infrastructure starts with having enough beds and operating rooms, building out the fifth floor of Vanderbilt University Hospital, expanding clinics, establishing best-in-class imaging, and world-class informatics.

“What are we going to do that's different from our competitors that will be hard for them to copy?” Samz asked. “In Davidson County, it's an intense market. We've got to be convenient, accessible and provide the best service.”

In terms of patient satisfaction the goal is to be above the 90th percentile for inpatient and outpatient settings.

Marie Glaser, assistant administrator, said VHVI is sustaining patient satisfaction results and is working diligently at informing patients quickly of lab results and making it easier for patients and referring physicians to make appointments. To this end, it is the goal of VHVI management to do away with the phone tree later this year and to have every phone call answered by an employee within two rings.

“We are in a customer service business. No one likes voicemail,” Byrne said. “Answering the phone says, 'I care about your problem, and I'll take care of it.'”