Category Archives: Quality of care

Aug 1 2014

The Imperative to Engage Surgical Residents in Quality Improvement

Charles D. Scales Jr., MD, MSHS, an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/VA Clinical Scholars program (UCLA 2011-2013), is a health services researcher at the Duke Clinical Research Institute and assistant professor in the division of urologic surgery at Duke University School of Medicine.  He is also assistant program director for quality improvement and patient safety for the urology residency training program at Duke University Hospital.  


Young doctors training to become surgeons, also called surgical residents, are increasingly caring for patients in an environment that links quality, safety, and value to patient outcomes. Over a decade ago, the Institute of Medicine highlighted the need for improving care delivery in the landmark report, Crossing the Quality Chasm, suggesting that high-quality care should be safe, effective, patient-centered, timely, efficient (e.g., high value), and equitable. Just this week, the Institute of Medicine followed with a clarion call for training new physicians to participate in and lead efforts to continually improve both care delivery and the health of the population, while simultaneously lowering costs of care.

To support this imperative, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which accredits all residency training programs in the United States, mandates that all doctors-in-training receive education in quality improvement. Despite this directive, a number of substantial barriers challenge delivery of educational programs around quality improvement.  Health care is increasing complex, driving residents to focus on learning the medical knowledge and surgical skills for their field.  Patient care demands time and attention, which can limit opportunities to learn about quality improvement within the context of 80-hour duty limits. This barrier particularly challenges surgeons-in-training, who often spend 12 or more hours daily learning surgical skills in the operating room, leaving little time for a traditional lecture-format session about quality improvement. Finally, many surgical training programs lack faculty with expertise in the skills required to systematically improve the quality, safety, and value of patient care, since these skills were simply not taught to prior generations of surgeons.

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May 23 2014

Emergency Care: A Story of Extraordinary Success and Lingering Challenge

Brendan Carr, MD, MA, MS, directs the Emergency Care Coordination Center and is on the faculty of the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Clinical Scholars program (2008-2010).

Brenda Carr

Human Capital Blog: The Emergency Care Coordination Center (ECCC) was created in 2006 by presidential directive in response to pressing needs in the nation’s emergency medical care system. Can you describe those needs?

Brendan Carr: I’ll try my best. While the landmark Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on the future of emergency care really brought much of this into focus in 2006, the story of the emergency care system’s struggles extends back well before that. The IOM reports on the health care system’s response to injuries (Accidental Death and Disability in 1966 and Injury in America in 1985) really foreshadowed the shortcomings of acute care delivery. At the time, we understood that rapid intervention in trauma was lifesaving and that our delivery system wasn’t keeping pace with the science of emergency care. 

Over the last few decades, we’ve really come face to face with this reality on a broader scale. Our growing appreciation for the importance of early diagnostics and intervention, combined with increased awareness about the importance of creating a patient-centered health care system, have highlighted the mismatch between the demand for care and the product that we deliver. The emergency care system’s crisis is really the health system’s crisis.  

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Apr 29 2014

How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? Shift the Cost-Access-Quality Axis.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Italo M. Brown, MPH, a rising fourth-year medical student at Meharry Medical College, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Brown holds a BS from Morehouse College and an MPH from Boston University, School of Public Health. He is an alumnus of the Health Policy Scholars Program at the RWJF Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.


In our domestic health care system, we nurture the drive to improve patient outcomes, and apply evidence-based knowledge to solve contemporary health care challenges. Yet, studies have demonstrated that minorities are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions, and on average are less likely to receive ongoing care/management of their comorbidities. In addition, public health experts have asserted that social determinants of health (e.g., education level, family income, social capital) directly impact the minority community, and effectively convolute the pathway to care. 

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Feb 3 2014

Evidence to Improve the Quality of Care

Richard Kronick, PhD, was named director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in August 2013. Kronick is a health policy researcher with a background in academia as well as in federal and state government. He received a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Investigator Award in Health Policy Research in 1998.


Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your new position at AHRQ. This is an exciting time for health care. What do you see as AHRQ’s place in the U.S. health care universe?

Richard Kronick: Thank you! You’re right—this is an exciting time.

We have an almost $3 trillion health care system. We pour tremendous resources into the delivery of medical care—but comparatively little effort into trying to understand how health care can be delivered more safely, with higher quality, and be more accessible and affordable. AHRQ’s role is to produce evidence that can be used to make health care safer, higher quality, more accessible, equitable, and affordable, and to work with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and other partners to make sure that the evidence is understood and used.

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Jan 9 2014

Guide to Nursing’s Role in Care Coordination

A new guide, Care Coordination: The Game Changer—How Nursing Is Revolutionizing Quality Care, explores how care coordination is positioned in the context of health reform. It was published by the American Nurses Association (ANA).

Care coordination has long been an integral part of nursing practice, the ANA said in a news release, with registered nurses leading the way in designing and delivering successful team-based care coordination programs that improve patient care and reduce costs. In the book, editor Gerri Lamb, PhD, RN, FAAN, and 23 leaders in care coordination explore topics including:

  • A historical perspective on nursing and quality care;
  • The role of care coordination in quality and safety;
  • Models and tools for improving quality and safety;
  • The role of nurse leaders in advancing care coordination;
  • The care coordinator’s role in reducing avoidable hospital stays;
  • Partnering with patients and families for better outcomes; and
  • Community-based care transitions.

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Dec 5 2013

Human Capital News Roundup: Light-based defibrillators, the primary care workforce, how women change men, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

A strong primary care system is essential to improving health care in the United States, and front-line clinicians, staff, and leaders need to re-examine traditional roles and responsibilities, Maryjoan Ladden, PhD, RN, FAAN, told Medical Home News. Ladden is senior program officer for RWJF’s Human Capital portfolio. To investigate primary care workforce transformation, RWJF funded The Primary Care Team: Learning from Effective Ambulatory Practices (LEAP), Ladden said.  Her full interview is available at: (subscription required.)

Women with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) gain weight more rapidly and are more likely to be overweight or obese than other women, according to a study co-authored by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Magdalena Cerda, DrPH. The study, featured in Health Canal, is the first to look at the relationship between PTSD and obesity over time.

New tools such as the Omnibus Risk Estimator, which the American Heart Association recommends doctors use instead of cholesterol tests to determine whether to prescribe statins, are developed with little regulatory authority over their design and use, Jason Karlawish, MD, writes in a New York Times op-ed. Karlawish, recipient of an RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research, encourages better oversight and regulations to monitor such tools.

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Dec 4 2013

The Importance of Nursing in Achieving the “Best Care at Lower Cost”

Richard C. Lindrooth, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Olga Yakusheva, PhD, is an associate professor of economics at Marquette University. Both are grantees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative.

file Richard C. Lindrooth

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the findings of its Committee on the Learning Health Care System in America in a report entitled “Best Care at Lower Cost: The Path to Continuously Learning Health Care in America[i] in September, 2012. The report recognized that the complexity of clinical decision-making is rapidly increasing and that clinicians need to continuously update their skills in order to keep up with (1) rapidly expanding diagnostic and treatment options and (2) the increasingly complex and chronic clinical condition of patients.  Given the growing external demands placed on nurses, the IOM reports that a critical determinant of the success of an organization in dealing with these demands is how “a learning health care organization harnesses its internal wisdom—staff expertise, patient feedback, financial data, and other knowledge—to improve its operations.”

file Olga Yakusheva

Nurses in particular are in an excellent position to play a central role in creating a virtuous feedback loop such that it is feasible to continuously adjust and incrementally improve systems in response to rapidly changing external demands.  The report, supported by the results of a growing and increasingly robust body of academic research, stresses the important role of leadership and management in fostering and maintaining an environment within which continuous learning could take hold.

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Nov 26 2013

Empathy and Appreciation for the Impact of the Social Determinants of Health

Gretchen Hammer, MPH, is executive director of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved. She works with local and state health care leaders and policy-makers to improve Colorado’s health care system.


Healing is both an art and a science. On one hand, clinicians are intensely driven by the quantifiable, the measurable, and the evidence-based algorithms that lead to accurate diagnosis and treatment as well as allow us to develop new innovations in medicine. However, healing is also an art. Patients are not just a collection of systems that can be separated out and managed in isolation of the whole patient. Each patient and their family has a unique set of values, life experiences, and resources that influence their health and ability to heal. Recognizing the wholeness and uniqueness of each patient is where the art of healing begins.

Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” It takes presence of mind and time to be empathetic. For clinicians, finding the balance between the necessary detachment to allow for good clinical decision making and empathy can challenging.  This balance can be particularly difficult for students and new clinicians.

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Oct 15 2013

A Journey Well Worth Taking

Linda Burnes Bolton, DrPH, RN, FAAN, is vice president for nursing, chief nursing officer, and director of nursing research at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was vice chair of the Institute of Medicine Commission on the Future of Nursing, and is a trustee of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It has been three years since the Institute of Medicine issued Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.


Developing the Institute of Medicine report, Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health and working to implement its recommendations has been a magnificent journey. It hasn’t been about nursing, but rather about health and health care. We focus on nursing, because it is one of the keys to improving health and health care. But our success, and the reason people are joining us on this journey, is because the report and its recommendations mean better health for the public and a stronger health care system for the country.


What began as a report has become a groundswell.  It is doing exactly what we hoped it would do, bringing people together to strengthen our health care system. Today a large, multidisciplinary, national movement is engaging nurses, consumers, and other health professionals in local and regional efforts to bring this report to life. There are great examples, for instance, of people from diverse fields coming together to remove practice barriers, physicians saying they believe medicine must be a “team sport,” consumers working to improve care in their communities—and much more.

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May 15 2013

Will Dr. Robot Open New Doors for Nurses?

Olga Yakusheva, PhD, is an associate professor of economics at Marquette University. Richard C. Lindrooth, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Both are grantees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative.


Technological innovation is rapidly transforming patient care. A new generation of innovations will potentially change the most fundamental aspect of the patient experience – patients’ interactions with physicians and nurses. The FDA recently approved the first autonomous telemedicine robot for use in acute care hospitals. Even more advanced technologies, some capable of processing up to tens of millions of pages of plain medical text per second, are being tested and may soon be used to diagnose conditions and recommend treatment, with limited input from clinicians.

"We suggest that nurses should embrace rather than fear these innovations."

This new technology has the potential to perform several tasks more efficiently than clinicians, albeit with some limitations. It can quickly and effectively sift through large amounts of information and, based on a complex set of guidelines, create a probability-weighted list of diagnoses and recommendations. The result will be purely evidence-based and free of human cognitive decision-making biases.  The technology can drastically speed diffusion of new research and guidelines through electronic dissemination, similar to automatic software updates, and make most novel treatment regimens instantly available to patients.

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