May’s hot topics in health care

  • Seminar inspires PIOs to revamp crisis plans
  • National quality improvement initiative
  • NVAC proposes Aurora’s policy to increase vaccination rates
  • HHS grants $16.1 million to 5 local health centers


Crisis seminar inspires PIOs to revamp crisis plans

On May 1 and 2, the Wisconsin Hospital Emergency Preparedness Program (WHEPP), in partnership with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, sponsored a hospital public information officer (PIO) seminar in Madison and Wausau. David Morris, marketing director for St. John’s Regional Medical Center in Joplin, shared his experience as a PIO during the Joplin, Missouri tornado disaster. Morris recounted what preparations worked for his team, what didn’t and preparation advice.

The stories recounted haunting images in the aftermath of a tornado that hit St. John’s Regional Medical Center on May 22, 2011. In this video, St. John’s nurses described diving under hospital beds with newborn babies in their arms to protect them, ER physicians said they used their own bodies to shield their patients as powerful winds hit the hospital and blew out windows and doors. Nurses took their own shoes off and put them on the feet of ambulatory patients to protect their patients’ feet from the broken glass and sharp debris that littered the way out during the evacuation.

The St. John’s communications team received 500 media calls and requests for interviews within the first 48 hours of the disaster and a 200% increase in traffic to its main website. To this day, as they approach the year anniversary of the disaster, interview and news feature requests from media continue.

Gerard Braud, an expert in media issues and crisis communications, followed Morris’s presentation with hands-on crisis communications training for the group. Braud walked participants through a number of crisis scenarios and emphasized the importance of maintaining control of the message.

Biggest take-a-ways from Braud:

  • Have your crisis plan in print, car or person (iCloud, flash drive, all PIOs should have multiple forms too)
  • Rules for developing talking points to tough questions:
  1. Establish “ noble high ground”
  2. State the obvious
  3. Logical progression “in 3s”
  4. Add context
  5. Write the headline/state what headline you want in articles in actual statements
  • Use “key message tree” (trunk is noble high ground; 3 branches represent 3 key message areas; each branch has 3 limbs; each limb has 3 twigs; each twig has 3 leaves)
  • Pre-write press release and key messaging templates
  • Write crisis plan backwards for best results/best planning
  • You only have 90 seconds in an interview (regardless of time you sit with reporter) to get your important info in the sound bite. (Write talking points in headlines and quotes to get the best results – make the job easiest for the reporters)

Hospitals take part in national quality improvement initiative

The WHA staff is currently working to help Wisconsin hospitals plan their 2012-2013 quality improvement goals with its national CMS Partnership for Patients program. According to Kelly Court, WHA chief quality officer, a big part of it is to help hospitals see the connections among all the quality improvement and measurement initiatives so they can make sense of it in their facility.

Wisconsin has 98% of its hospitals working with a hospital engagement network, one of the highest participation rates in the country. The goal of the initiative is to reduce hospital readmissions by 20% and reduce hospital-acquired harm by 40%.  Within those goals are specific initiatives, including:

  1. Reducing readmissions
  2. Obstetrics events
  3. Pressure ulcers
  4. Catheter acquired urinary tract infections
  5. Catheter-acquired blood stream infections
  6. Adverse drug events
  7. Falls
  8. Surgical infections
  9. Venous thromboembolism
  10. Ventilator-associated pneumonia

Court says WHA is talking to the staff in our hospital quality departments and working out hospital-specific, custom approaches on improvement projects. “The idea is not to have hospitals work on all ten initiatives that are in the Partner’s for Patients project, but to start with those that work best in their setting,” Court says.

Court also said WHA has added three new staff members to work on the Partner’s for Patients initiative. For a listing of participating hospitals, CLICK HERE.

UPDATE: More than 300 hospital quality professionals, nurses, physicians and executives gathered in Madison May 10 and in Eau Claire May 15 to participate in the launch of the WHA Partners for Patient initiative. Guests learned how they can raise the standard for delivering higher quality, safer patient care in Wisconsin. To read the recap, CLICK HERE.



National Vaccine Advisory Committee to replicate local hospital’s vaccination policy

The Wisconsin Medical Journal and Wisconsin Health News reports The National Vaccine Advisory Committee is hoping to implement a similar vaccination policy created by Aurora Health Care to boost rates nationwide. The publication reports Aurora Health increased its vaccination rate to 97.7% after adopting a condition-of-employment policy in 2011. All employees are required to receive a flu vaccine, or approved exemption, by December 31 each year. The national committee is proposing adopting a similar policy across the country for health systems that fail to achieve 90 percent employee vaccination rates, according to a new article in WMJ, a Wisconsin Medical Society publication. To read the publication, CLICK HERE.

Department of Health and Human Services grants $16.1 million to 5 Wisconsin community health centers

Wisconsin Health News reports the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would award $16.1 million in grants to 5 Wisconsin community health centers to allow them to serve more than 29,000 new patients. The funding is part of a total $728 million in grants awarded across the country to support renovation and construction projects expected to serve an additional 860,000 patients.

The federal health reform law has so far supported the construction and renovation of 190 health centers, and the creation of 67 new centers, according to HHS. For more information visit HHS.

Feel free to connect Trish Skram on my Facebook page at Trish Skram “PR Gal” or on LinkedIn.

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