WASHINGTON, D. C. — How can anyone work for a health care organization and not care?  Simple but profound words of a Washington, D. C. physician who cares about his profession and the people who entrust their wellbeing to him.

 Exceptional Care by Exceptional People, Every Person, Every Day, Every Time is the mantra of this physician’s hospital. 

 When preventable errors in hospitals contribute to more than 400,000 deaths every year, and the number of preventable injuries, or medical errors, that produce other serious consequences in even higher numbers, this is an important question that we should be asking ourselves.  Really, every day, we should be thinking about these dismal facts and asking ourselves why they continue in ever increasing numbers.

 Here is a thought:  In healthcare, we tend to take simple problems or challenges and apply the most complex analysis and problem solving solutions to address them. I would hasten to add that calling more than 400,000 preventable deaths each year “a problem” seems vulgar and heartless.  I am in the camp that believes that our preference for those complex theories and solutions is one very big reason why, as an industry, we spend hundreds of millions of dollars on finding answers to these fundamental challenges with no appreciable improvement in our quality outcomes.

 That must change.

 This brings me to the second paragraph of this post, which I see as being the heart of the solution. 

 “Exceptional care by exceptional people, every person, every day, every time.  

 This is the essence of producing quality care in a safe environment.  It comes from the Hospital CEO, David R. Small, FACHE, who has been engaged by Huron to direct the turnaround at Washington, DC’s, United Medical Center.  Formerly known as Greater Southeast Community Hospital, once a crown jewel in the city’s hospital network, it is the only hospital east of the Anascostia River in DC.  The nearest hospital is 30 minutes or more, depending on traffic.   Poor management and strategic blunders drove it to bankruptcy, foreclosure and disrespect.  Previous attempts to save the hospital failed for a variety of reasons.  But not this time. 

The District of Columbia is making a concerted effort to reposition the hospital, strengthen its operations and financial performance in hopes of finding a suitable strategic partner for the future.  It is a focused and determined approach that includes some lessons for all of us to consider.

With his no-nonsense values regarding service, quality and accountability, I think my friend is on to something.  Their quality and financial results agree.

 If you work at United Medical Center, or any other hospital in this country and you see your work as just a job, do the industry and all patients a favor, consider changing careers.  That just a job attitude is a big problem and threatens patient safety.