American Hospital Association names University Hospitals this year’s Leader in Quality

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Industry’s most prestigious honor – the Quest for Quality Prize -- recognizes UH’s commitment to quality and safety, care innovations, efforts to address health care disparities and community collaboration to improve health outcomes  

CLEVELAND – The American Hospital Association (AHA), the premier national trade association representing more than 5,000 hospitals and health systems, has selected University Hospitals health system as the 2022 winner of its most prestigious honor: the Quest for Quality Prize.
The prize recognizes health care leadership and innovation in improving quality and advancing health in communities. AHA first awarded the Quest for Quality Prize in 2002.  The association will present the award to UH on July 18 at the AHA Leadership Summit in San Diego.
“We have long known University Hospitals is a jewel in our community, with a 156 year legacy of providing the highest quality care for all,” said Cliff A. Megerian, MD, FACS, UH Chief Executive Officer; Jane and Henry Meyer Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair. “We take pride in knowing that AHA also recognizes the exceptional work our UH team has undertaken to provide unparalleled patient-centered care for our community. The fact that our caregivers have earned this highest praise at a time when many were emotionally exhausted by the pandemic and stretched to the limits from staffing shortages, underscores the strength, resilience and dedication of our team to innovate, uphold our steadfast focus on quality and safety, and care for our patients no matter what. Our goal is to be the most trusted health care partner in Northeast Ohio, and this award is proof we are moving the needle in that regard.”
A multi-disciplinary committee of health care quality and patient safety experts gave UH the award based on the system’s exemplary achievements. Specifically, AHA lauded UH for its maturity and approach to quality, safety and equity. The AHA prize committee believes quality is deeply embedded in UH’s culture -- from the board level, to the unit level, and across all sites in the organization.
“University Hospitals has made outstanding contributions in elevating the quality of care they provide each day to their patients and communities throughout Northeast Ohio,” said Rick Pollack, AHA’s president and CEO. “The important lessons learned from University Hospitals will inspire hospitals and health systems to advance care across the country.”
The AHA committee also praised UH’s use of “I Will” statements, part of UH’s High Reliability Organization program, in which caregivers develop positive statements of belief around their roles. For example, members of the environmental services staff at UH have agreed to stop seeing themselves as housekeepers only. They created their own commitment: “I will
start believing that I play a critical part in the safety, well-being and health of all those we serve.”
Other departments throughout UH created similar pledges in support of the organization’s Zero Harm initiative. The committee considered this practice a powerful tool in establishing a common language and culture around safety, while empowering staff to speak up when an error occurs.
The committee also cited the system’s connections to the communities UH serves and its mantra that “the community is our patient.” AHA thinks the UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Ahuja Center for Women and Children could serve as a national example of a new, innovative and effective model of patient, family and community support. The committee also viewed UH as an excellent example of a learning organization. Additionally, AHA highlighted UH’s efforts around justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, applauding its Food for Life Markets and other non-traditional health care initiatives aimed at improving workforce opportunity and health equity in habitually marginalized communities.
For the past three years, UH has been changing beliefs about patient safety. “The secret sauce to get to zero is that people need to stop believing that harm is inevitable and start believing ‘it’s preventable and it’s my job to do it,’” said Peter Pronovost, M.D., PhD., the system’s Chief Quality and Clinical Transformation Officer, who played a pivotal role designing and guiding UH’s value journey. 
That new mindset is one component of UH’s broad initiative to eliminate defects in value. “What’s this ‘defect’ term? It’s an action or a behavior that we know we should be doing for a patient to improve quality or reduce costs that we’re not doing,” Dr. Pronovost said. “Let’s make those visible and then design them out.”
UH also created a fractal management framework that facilitates the free flow of ideas and the sharing of promising practices across the system.
In winning this award, UH joins an elite group of approximately 20 other health systems and hospitals who have earned this highest honor. UH first won this award 10 years ago for being a champion in transparency, accountability and quality innovation.

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