With hospitals facing increasing pressure to improve safety based on measurements, hospitalists need to build a key role in improving quality by developing safety scorecards, say leading hospital medicine experts.
A framework for designing scorecards was recently suggested by researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.1 The commentary suggests a framework to help healthcare organizations develop safety scorecards, evaluate their validity, and understand measures appropriate to present as rates.
Their framework is intended to build scorecards that monitor progress in improving patient safety over time or relative to a benchmark. The authors urged organizations to think of safety on a continuum and look for improvements, rather than regard practices as either safe or unsafe. They also stated that their term “safety scorecard” acknowledges an overlap between quality and safety.
To build their framework, the researchers adapted elements of the “Users’ Guide to the Medical Literature: A Manual for Evidence-Based Clinical Practice,” to address three key questions:
- Is the measure important?
- Is the measure valid? and
- Can the measure be used to improve safety in healthcare organizations?
The resulting worksheet to evaluate a scorecard guides hospitals through questions aimed at determining whether their institution meets the three criteria.
“This worksheet would be very important to follow, a good step forward in efforts to improve quality because its questions make clear where a group might be falling down in developing a scorecard,” says hospitalist Brian Bossard, MD, director of Inpatient Physician Associates at BryanLGH Medical Center in Lincoln, Neb. Dr. Bossard, who is also the medical staff quality designee, says he believes large national hospitalist groups should be involved in planning scorecards as part of a multidisciplinary team.
Other experts also tout hospitalists’ importance in the vanguard of creating these vital instruments.
“Hospitalists should be on or chairing safety committees, and there should be investments in training them in these areas,” says Eric Kupersmith, MD, division head of hospital medicine and assistant professor of medicine for the Cooper Health System, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Newark. “Because we are frontline physicians experiencing what is happening with patients and orchestrating as well as delivering care, we should provide feedback.”
Dr. Kupersmith, who is on his facility’s patient safety committee and has participated in a root-cause analysis of hand-offs as well as worked on medical reconciliation and pneumonia core measure performance improvement, says SHM “should help take the lead in bringing together specialists, administrators, and nurses with hospitalists who should have a major impact in designing a scorecard as a society.”
As hospitalists mature as clinicians, they become system- and process-oriented, says Dr. Kupersmith. As a result, “We should be part of re-engineering efforts because of our experience bringing people together,” he says. “We’re in a good position to analyze the process.”
Use with Care
There is also value in hospitalists’ anecdotal experiences, Dr. Kupersmith says, but “there needs to be a filter between anecdotes and a facility’s leadership to ensure that the information provided is broadly important. Decisions shouldn’t be made on anecdotes, but creative ideas can come from them.”
Randy Ferrance, DC, MD, and chief of the medical staff at Riverside Tappahannock Hospital in Tappahan-nock, Va., regards anecdotal information in much the same light. “It should be seen as guidelines, not rules,” he cautions. “There is still an art to medicine even though it is clearly science. Sometimes the best available evidence may be anecdotal. It’s not hard data, but it can be valuable.”