UW Medical Center Quality of Care

​Innovation, research, training — everything UW Medical Center does is directed toward providing the best possible health care for its patients and ensuring their safety.

In putting patients first, UWMC is following its mission. But it also is following guidelines set by the Institute of Medicine, guidelines that allow hospitals to measure their progress and set new standards of transparency in health care.

Patient with health-care professional after successful heart transplant“Some of these standards are as simple as noting in a patient’s record that you counseled them on smoking cessation, or that you pre-medicated a patient with antibiotics prior to surgery,” said Dr. Tom Staiger, UWMC’s interim medical director. “We join our colleagues across the country in implementing best practices.”

The National Academy of Medicine's (previously known as the Institute of Medicine) guidelines reflect a change in the way health care is measured. During the early years of medicine, measuring the quality of a patient’s care depended almost completely on a patient’s anecdotal view of their experience, rather than hard data.

More recently, these measures have become more quantitative, making it possible to measure quality in very specific areas of patient care. It’s a good change, Staiger said.

“Due to the availability of data and more publicly reported data, we are able to make more accurate comparisons of the quality of care at UWMC,” Staiger said. “We benchmark against other comparable academic medical centers in the United States in an effort to obtain the highest possible level of performance on these measures.”

“Patient care quality and safety continue to be our highest priorities,” he said.

The following programs have been implemented to help UWMC be the safest possible hospital, and as a result, provided the highest quality care: 
  • A new hospital-wide electronic patient safety net reporting system helps reduce human errors by alerting providers to possible safety concerns related to a patient’s care. The provider can then re-evaluate the patient or intervene on the patient’s treatment protocol, which in some cases could prevent a medical error. 
  • As a member of the University Healthcare Consortium, UWMC is one of about 100 academic medical centers in the nation reporting statistics related to patient care. As a result, the medical center is able to quickly target areas or processes that could be improved to ensure all patients receive the best possible care and experience at every visit. 
  • UWMC maintains a complete and up-to-date list of patients’ medications in their electronic medical records so that any UW Medicine health-care provider can access the list when needed. This reduces the likelihood that a patient, who may not remember to tell a provider about all their medicines, would be inadvertently prescribed drugs that may react poorly together. The initiative, while it sounds simple, is challenging for medical centers as large as UWMC, which admits about 80 patients and 1,000 more in outpatient clinics every day. The Joint Commission has recognized UWMC for the program. 
  • UWMC is one of eight hospitals worldwide to participate in a pilot project by the World Health Organization that asks surgeons, nurses and other personnel to use to a formal 22-point pre-surgery checklist before operating on a patient. Initial data indicates the list has helped reduce patient-safety errors by about half.