If you have an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room.


St. Luke’s Quality Awards Spur Advances Locally and Nationally
October 10, 2017

In 10th year, nationally recognized, innovative program taps staff’s expertise and creativity to improve care.

Question: How does St. Luke’s University Health Network come up with new, innovative ways to improve care and cut costs year after year? Answer: The Network’s nationally recognized Quality Improvement Awards Program.

The Quality Awards are just that – a competition. Teams of doctors, nurses and other caregivers and administrative staff come up with and test their own ideas about how to raise standards, expedite workflow or otherwise improve care and service. Then the projects are judged on their quantitative results.

The winning projects spur permanent changes in how the Network operates – and how other health systems and hospitals function as well since St. Luke’s shares its findings in journal articles and at conferences.

For example, by standardizing pre- and post-surgical procedures, a Quality Awards team at St. Luke’s University Hospital in Fountain Hill was able to significantly reduce the number of patients recovering from hip and knee replacements who developed kidney injuries and hypotension (low-blood pressure).  The Reducing the Incidence of Acute Kidney Injury and Hypotension in Total Hip and Total Knee Population team was one of five teams to win First Place awards in St. Luke’s Health Network’s 2017 Quality Improvement Awards Program.

“The first step was to look at pre-op procedures to make sure patients were getting the appropriate screenings to assess their kidney function,” said Jaclyn Rowbotham, MSN, RN, who lead the kidney team. “Then we created a guideline for patients who may be at risk for acute kidney injury.”

The team, comprising physicians and nurses, also standardized procedures to manage patients’ pain before, during and after surgery. “We found that NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) contributed to acute kidney injury in this population so we scratched that protocol,” Rowbotham said. “And if patients were on medication to treat certain heart conditions and high blood pressure we recommended stopping it 48 hours prior to surgery and not restarting it until one or two days post-op to give their kidneys time to recover.”

As a result of these recommendations for new medication protocols and standardizing other processes, the team was able to reduce the incidents of acute kidney injury and hypotension among these orthopedic patients from 2015 to 2017 by a whopping 87 percent!

Program in 10th Year

St. Luke’s Quality Improvement Awards Program is in its tenth year. “Each year, the quality of our quality projects has gotten so much better as well,” said St. Luke’s Performance Improvement Project Manager Diana Tarone, MSN, MBA, RN. Most of the projects have centered on improving patient care and safety, Tarone said. Other projects have focused on cost-savings and workflow efficiencies that result in better outcomes and improve the patients’ experience.

The Quality Awards have become so important within the Network that this year saw more entries than ever – 46, said Donna Sabol, St. Luke’s Vice President and Chief Quality Officer. “Our employees value this recognition and it creates a sense of healthy competition within the organization,” Sabol said. “It is an excellent way to recognize teams demonstrating performance excellence and plays a role in our journey towards performance excellence as an organization.”

Teams are encouraged to share their successes within and outside the Network. For example, the joint replacement team presented a live webinar for Premier, Inc., an alliance of approximately 3,750 U.S. hospitals and 130,000 other providers formed to improve the health of communities. The team also disseminated information about its Nurse Hypotension Protocol throughout the Network and is expecting others to adopt it.

“Quite often, our Quality Awards program has served as a springboard to external awards programs and publication opportunities,” Sabol said.

Vying for 2017 President’s Award

One of the five 2017 First Place teams will be named the President’s Award for Quality winner at St. Luke’s 10th annual Quality Awards dinner and reception at the SteelStacks in Bethlehem beginning at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 18.

The other First-Place teams vying for the top honor along with The Acute Kidney Injury Team this year are:

  • Development of a Post-Acute Skilled Nursing Care Network. Its aim was to better coordinate care after patients are discharged from the hospital. Under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service’s bundle payment initiative, the care discharged patients receive at skilled nursing facilities are included in the reimbursement. The team partnered with area SNFs to better coordinate care and decrease cost resulting in millions of dollars saved.
  • Improving Emergency Department Throughput. The quality improvement (QI) team implemented actions to decrease turn-around times in the Emergency Department at St. Luke’s Warren Campus. The initiative resulted in patients being seen sooner and an improvement in patient satisfaction.
  • Optimizing Medicare Wellness Visits Within Primary Care. Under the Affordable Care Act, most health plans must provide preventive services. This QI team from St. Luke’s Physician Group increased and improved the ability of its providers to be sure their patients received personalized preventive care plans that included appropriate screenings and wellness visits.
  • Patient SafetyNet: Improving Patient Safety Throughout Early Recognition. This QI team at the Bethlehem Campus was able to not only better identify patients at risk for respiratory depression (hypoventilation) and prevent potential patient harm, but also reduce costs by decreasing the number of patients requiring transfer to critical care.

Competition is Prestigious

There are five second-place winners as well.

The program is open to all of the Network’s campuses and entities, inpatient and outpatient areas, and clinical and nonclinical areas. The President’s Award winner is kept confidential until the award ceremony.

Nurses and physicians from every entity serve as the judges. Judging is done anonymously. Submissions are grouped by Quality, People, Service, Finance and Growth. Judging is based on the process improvement methodology, relevance to the Network’s mission and alignment with the leadership model which defines St. Luke’s, Sabol said.

The Quality Awards dinner is by invitation only. This year’s awards ceremony will include remarks by President and CEO Richard A. Anderson and Sabol and a lookback at the awards over the years.

The awards ceremony is held annually during National Healthcare Quality Week in October. 

Media Contact:

Sam Kennedy, Corporate Communications Director, 484-526-4134,samuel.kennedy@sluhn.org

About St. Luke’s

Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is a non-profit, regional, fully integrated and nationally recognized network providing services at seven hospitals and more than 270 outpatient sites. The network’s service area includes Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Schuylkill, Bucks, Montgomery, Berks and Monroe counties in Pennsylvania and in Warren County in New Jersey. Dedicated to advancing health education, St. Luke’s operates the nation’s oldest School of Nursing and 23 graduate medical educational programs and is considered a major teaching hospital, the only one in the region. In partnership with Temple University, St. Luke’s created the region’s first Medical School. Repeatedly, including 2017, St. Luke’s has earned Truven’s 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation as well as 50 Top Cardiovascular program in addition to other honors for clinical excellence. St. Luke’s is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of St. Luke’s information technology applications such as electronic medical records, telehealth, online scheduling and pricing information. St. Luke’s is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers in comparison to major teaching hospitals and other health systems.