Blues fund local collaborative study

February 2, 2011
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The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation and Blue Care Network are backing a study involving the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Grand Valley State University, the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and Grand Rapid Medical Education Partners with a donation of nearly $100,000.

The study, led by co-investigators Jean Nagelkerk, GVSU vice provost for health, and Dr. Tom Peterson, executive director of safety, quality and community health at Spectrum Health’s children’s hospital, will examine the role of communications in patient safety.

“The Blue Cross foundation spends about $3 million a year on health-related projects. Our focus is exclusively on programs and research that improve quality, contain costs and increase access to care,” said Ira Strumwasser, executive director and CEO of the foundation.

“This project was ideal. It really fit our desire to fund both education projects and research on improving patient safety in a children’s hospital.”

Nagelkerk said the study, which is just getting underway, will examine the impact that teaching health professions students and staff members about communication skills has on patient safety.

GVSU has developed six short and three long videos about communication between the various health professions, she said. Those will be used with MSU medical students, GVSU nursing students and others, she said. A total of 145 students and 60 staff members will be part of the three-phase, year-long study.

“We’ve developed six video clips that teach the different communication techniques such as validate and verify, repeat back,” she said. The longer videos look at breakdowns in communication and how they impact care.

Students and staff members will participate in simulations, interdisciplinary patient safety rounds and questionnaires. Then safety statistics will be reviewed for the hospital to see if the training has made an impact.

“This is going to be very healthy exercise,” said Jeff Connolly, president of West Michigan operations and managed care and vice president for BCBSM.

He said patient safety saves both lives and money. The foundation and Blue Care Network see patient safety as key to their missions.

“It’s the right thing to do, but frankly, it’s the prudent thing,” Connolly said, noting that the Michigan Health and Hospitals Association’s Keystone Center, also supported by BCBSM, has introduced life-saving patient safety programs.

“The expectation from a fiduciary, on behalf of our stakeholders, is we need to do this because it’s a step to help mitigate the continued escalation in the cost of health care.”

“While we advocate saving money, we’re funding this on the quality side of the ledger,” added Strumwasser. “A project like this is tough enough. A collaborative project like this makes it even more difficult. My experience in working with Grand Rapids is that it really is a unique community. Folks know each other. The word collaboration is not new to Grand Rapids.”

The BCBSM Foundation and BCN are contributing $99,499 for the project.

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