Spectrum Emphasizes Services Value

June 21, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — "Value" has become the mantra for Spectrum Health, as the health system begins putting a greater emphasis on publicizing its adherence to patient safety and quality standards, financial operations, and charges vs. other large hospitals in the state.

In a first-of-its-kind annual report to businesses published last month, Spectrum cited data that show it rates highly in all three categories, generating the kind of value businesses are seeking in an age of ever-rising heath care costs.

The report, entitled "Defining Health Care Value," is part of a broader effort by Spectrum Health to promote the value the health system believes it offers and provide the business community a view of the organization in terms it can understand.

"We feel we have a strong story that needs to be told. We have a lot to talk about here," Spectrum Chief Executive Officer Rick Breon said. "Spectrum Health does understand value and we're trying to put it in very concrete terms. It's something we believe the health care industry ought to do."

The goal of publishing performance data in a condensed format is to "start a conversation" with the business community over the perceived value of a health care organization, he said.

"It's just getting out there and trying to start the conversation," Breon said. "What we want them to tell us is what is it that they want to know."

Spectrum Health, by far the largest health system in the market, cites data showing its prices for certain procedures are below other large hospitals in the state. Spectrum also says it meets or will soon meet three key patient-safety standards established by the Leapfrog Group, an organization that corporate executives in the U.S. formed following a 1999 Institute of Medicine report that concluded 98,000 people die annually nationwide from preventable medical mistakes that occur during hospitalization.

Working with medical professionals, The Leapfrog Group — an offshoot of The Business Roundtable that consists of Fortune 500 CEOs — has established standards designed to promote and ensure patient safety and quality among hospitals.

While not everybody in health care is sold on The Leapfrog Group's specific standards, the organization does provide one more third-party measure to gauge a hospital's performance and quality. The difference between Leapfrog and other organizations such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations is that Leapfrog's reporting is targeted directly at businesses.

To Paul Conlin, vice president of quality and safety at Trinity Health, parent company of Saint Mary's Mercy Medical Center in Grand Rapids and Mercy General Health Partners in Muskegon, The Leapfrog Group's standards are part of a broader equation as the industry moves toward standardized quality measures.

Leapfrog, he said, is just one of the measuring sticks that is driving the industry in that direction, Conlin said.

"Anything that brings favorable attention to change is good," Conlin said. "As you start looking at all those tiles in the mosaic, you're going to get a much better picture of health care."

Breon believes The Leapfrog Group "has a real potential to grow in significance." The industry has an obligation to use some sort of measurable indicator that businesses can use to determine a health care provider's value, he said.

"We need to have some measurable metrics," Breon said. "Right now they're the best thing out there."

Spectrum Health significantly exceeds Leapfrog standards for minimum volumes for surgical procedures that include coronary artery bypass graft, coronary angioplasty, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair and esophageal cancer. The volumes standards are based on research data that show the more a hospital or physician performs a procedure, the better the patient outcome.

The health system also exceeds Leapfrog standards for staffing in its intensive-care unit.

Spectrum has yet to meet the standards for computerized order entry when physicians prescribe a medication, a system that's designed to reduce errors. Spectrum is now implementing a new pharmacy system to improve its ability to catch errors, and over three years will put into operation a computerized physician order entry.

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