June 23, 2000

Stead to help craft quality report on nation’s health care system

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Dr. William Stead is Vanderbilt’s representative on a multi-center committee drafting a national quality report on health care delivery. (photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

Stead to help craft quality report on nation's health care system

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is one of a select group of academic medical centers on a committee charged with designing a national quality report on health care delivery.

Dr. William W. Stead, associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs, is the institution's representative on the committee, which will complete its work next March.

The 15-member committee was appointed by the Institute of Medicine to identify the most important questions to answer in evaluating whether the nation's health care delivery system is providing high quality health care and whether the quality is improving over time.

It is also charged with identifying the domains of information that should be included in the report, together with examples of specific measures that fall into each domain.

Congress commissioned the report in 1999 in the legislation establishing the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The law stipulates that the director of the agency submit to Congress an annual report on national trends in the quality of health care beginning in fiscal year 2003.

“It is important to note that this is a report about the quality of the health care system and not on the health of the American population,” said Stead.

“Over the last 10-15 years the focus of health care reform has been on administrative approaches to cost containment. Vanderbilt is trying to shift the focus to improving quality. Cost should take care of itself if we can give physicians and nurses the training and the tools to do just the right amount of the right thing at the right time.”

Although the members of the committee are unable to comment on the form the report will take once it is finished, Stead hopes that it will be of use not only to lawmakers and the public but also to health care professionals looking to improve their practice.

“The fundamental premise of any strategy for achieving quality is that if you want to improve it you have to be able to measure it,” said Stead.

The report might benefit medical centers by creating a framework that will measure the quality of care not just now, but 10 years down the road when advances in medical science and new technologies improve the health of Americans.

“This is an attempt to come up with a framework that will last years and hopefully decades. We believe we have an academic and business strategy here at Vanderbilt that other centers don’t have and we hope to be able to share that vision with others,” said Stead.

In fact, VUMC has been well represented in national efforts to change America’s health care system. Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing, was named to the National Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, which is looking at ways to make Medicare solvent for the 76 million baby-boomers that will enter its rolls in the coming years. Brigid L.M. Hogan, Ph.D., Hortense B. Ingram chair in Molecular Oncology, serves on a NIH committee creating guidelines for research into stem cells.

“Vanderbilt’s involvement in these issues is very important to the future of America’s system of medicine," said Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

"Academic medical centers should have a lot to offer and should play a big role in improving both the quality and efficiency of health care in this nation.”