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Dome - Hospitalists Set the Standard

Dome July/August 2014

Hospitalists Set the Standard

Date: July 8, 2014

New program helps establish universal clinical guidelines.

Eric Howell’s formula for better care.
Eric Howell’s formula for better care.

Eric Howell, director of hospitalist programs at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Suburban Hospital and Howard County General Hospital, says it’s impossible to improve the quality and reduce the cost of inpatient care without finding a way to answer some fundamental questions.

What, for example, does a decrease in patient lengths of stay in one hospital mean without a comparison to another hospital’s numbers? Does hospitalist care cut down on the hospital costs for each patient?

“In medicine, for better or for worse, there is a lot of individual variation from physician to physician,” Howell says. “We want to figure out how to reduce unwarranted variation that is harmful to improving the quality of care.” Now, in partnership with the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, Howell and his colleagues have embarked on a quality improvement project to reduce such differences.

The program, called EQUIP (Excellence in Quality, Utilization, Integration and Patient-Centered Care), identifies successful care models through a dashboard that measures the quality and cost of care by individual hospitalists at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Hopkins Bayview, and Howard County General and Suburban hospitals. By establishing standard clinical guidelines in such areas as patient handoffs, discharge planning and consultation wait times, Howell and his team hope to shorten expensive hospital stays whenever possible, potentially saving $2 million a year.

EQUIP exemplifies the dedication that is required of employees to achieve the institution’s performance goals, says Rich Grossi, senior vice president and chief financial officer for Johns Hopkins Medicine. “It is critically important for members of our workforce to step forward with projects they feel can help us meet strategic priority targets,” he says. “This is why I was thrilled when Eric Howell and his hospitalist colleagues proposed EQUIP to improve inpatient care and reduce costs.”

—Stephanie Shapiro

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