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Awards Honor Exceptional Care, Innovation at Essential Hospitals


WASHINGTON — America’s Essential Hospitals, whose more than 300 members care for low-income and other marginalized people, today recognized seven member hospitals for outstanding work to improve health care quality and population health and to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association announced the 2022 Gage Award winners at a luncheon at its annual meeting, VITAL2022, in Boston. Named for association founder Larry Gage, the awards recognize creative and successful programs that improve patient care and serve community needs. For the second year, the association also honored innovative responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even with the challenges and heavy costs of COVID-19, our hospitals found ways to innovate, improve care, and target upstream factors that affect health,” says Kalpana Ramiah, DrPH, MSc, America’s Essential Hospitals’ vice president of innovation and director of Essential Hospitals Institute. “We are proud to recognize our members for their dedication to reaching marginalized people and overcoming barriers to care.”

2022 Award for Quality

This award recognizes activities to improve the quality of care or that mitigate threats to patient safety.

Winner: Memorial Healthcare System, Hollywood, Fla.

Patients discharged directly home after open-heart surgery have a higher survivability rate than patients discharged to post-acute care facilities. To promote independence for open-heart surgery patients and reduce their need for post-acute care, Memorial Healthcare System in 2016 launched Keep Your Move in the Tube (KMIT), a mindful movement program that replaces traditional sternal precautions.

In the year and a half before implementing KMIT, 42 percent of cardiac surgical patients were discharged directly home, and 58 percent were discharged to a secondary facility. Following implementation, 86 percent of cardiac surgical patients were discharged directly home, and 14 percent were discharged to a secondary facility.

“We are honored to receive the Gage Award from America’s Essential Hospitals. This award is a testament to the dedication, compassion, and ingenuity of our rehab team,” says Peter Powers, CEO of Memorial Regional Hospital. “Because of their efforts, open-heart patients have greater freedom of movement and increased functional independence. This evidence-based practice can be adopted by any caregiver at no cost for the betterment of patients everywhere.”

Honorable Mention: Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, San Francisco

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center (ZSFG) launched Social Medicine (SM) with the University of California San Francisco in 2017 to meet patients’ psychosocial needs at the point of care while reducing non-acute emergency department (ED) visits and inpatient days.

The SM team studied 70,000 ED patient records to analyze reasons for visits and deployed an interdisciplinary, team-based holistic care model to meet patient needs. The program expanded in December 2020 to track patient-centered outcomes, including linkage to substance use services, referrals to permanent supportive housing, and provision of patient care supplies. Since 2017, SM has cared for more than 6,000 patients with complex needs and provided more than 3,000 complex care consultations. The program provided 1,500 patients with discharge medications and pharmacy education at no cost and prevented more than 800 admissions and readmissions.

“Our Social Medicine Team has provided ground-breaking, person-centered holistic care, involving our patients, staff, and the community,” says ZSFG CEO Susan Ehrlich, MD, MPP. “Winning this award is not only a huge honor for our organization but also a way for us to share what we have learned on our journey to advance equity and put patients at the center of all we do. We are honored by and grateful for this award.”

2022 Award for Population Health

This award recognizes activities focused on social determinants of health, such as food insecurity, homelessness, language barriers, and other socioeconomic factors.

Winner: Harris Health System, Houston

Harris Health System developed a diabetes patient registry and community health worker (CHW) home visit pilot program to work with disengaged patients with uncontrolled diabetes. CHWs understand patients’ health-related social needs, diabetes knowledge, and self-management behaviors and launch a care plan that can include establishing eligibility for charity care, making appointments with interdisciplinary teams, applying for rental assistance, education on public transportation, and more.

Since its inception in 2017, the program has grown to 14 clinics and expanded to include virtual and telehealth care. Before the start of the pandemic, 181 program participants reported an average decrease of 2.2 percentage points in HbA1c levels and increased knowledge of their condition and appropriate treatment. The program sustained these outcomes amid the pandemic, with 417 patients completing the program from November 2020 to October 2021.

“Our Community Health Worker Home Visit Program epitomizes the critical work that happens beyond the walls of our facilities. Their work, led by our Population Health Department, ensured patients who struggled to manage their diabetes would not be abandoned during the pandemic,” says Harris Health President and CEO Esmaeil Porsa, MD. “These patients needed our help even more when access to primary care providers proved to be very difficult, and our staff rose to the challenge. This recognition not only validates but motivates us to continue our cross-sector approach to improve all our patients’ health and well-being.”

Winner: The MetroHealth System, Cleveland

To meet community needs for asthma management, well-child exams, immunizations, and other primary care and mental health screenings and services, The MetroHealth System in 2013 opened the first Institute for H.O.P.E. school health program clinic in a converted elementary school classroom. Today, the program has expanded to more than two dozen sites and mobile units. In addition to traditional medical care, the clinics target behavioral health issues and social determinants of health by helping students and their families sign up for insurance, recognize lead exposure, and connect with community partners to find housing, pay rent, and more. The program also provides students coats, toothbrushes, backpacks, and school supplies.

Compared with a baseline, program enrollees were 64 percent more likely to be up to date on immunizations, 38 percent more likely to have attended one or more primary care visits, and 22 percent more likely to have had an annual well-child exam.

“The passionate caregivers in MetroHealth’s School Health Program have turned a great idea into something revolutionary,” says MetroHealth President and CEO Akram Boutros, MD. “They have expanded the traditional model of school-based care to address behavioral health, prevention, and the nonmedical factors that affect the health of our kids. The Gage Award is a tremendous honor for them and proof of the hope they provide to students every day.”

2022 COVID-19 Innovations

This award highlights innovative practices, projects, and programs related to the coronavirus pandemic. This temporary category captures creative solutions for the current or potential future pandemics within the hospital or in its community.

Harborview Medical Center, Seattle

Harborview Medical Center partnered with Public Health—Seattle & King County (PHSKC) to improve access to COVID-19 testing and vaccination for low-income and minority populations, people with limited English proficiency (LEP), and people experiencing homelessness. Harborview created mobile walk-up, no-cost testing and vaccination sites at locations that were easily accessible and trusted by at-risk communities, including churches, mosques, schools, housing units, homeless shelters, encampments, and food banks.

From April 2020 to March 2021, Harborview and PHSKC performed 21,758 COVID-19 tests at more than 50 sites. From February to October 2021, mobile outreach teams administered 9,457 vaccine doses at more than 97 locations; of those vaccinated, 70 percent identified as Black, indigenous, and people of color, one-third were from a LEP population, and 14 percent were housing insecure.

University Medical Center of El Paso, El Paso, Texas

Since December 2020, University Medical Center of El Paso has administered 327,000 COVID-19 vaccines through a central hub site, four neighborhood health clinics, a mobile health clinic, and two county jail facilities. UMC also staffed Texas’ first binational COVID-19 vaccine effort between El Paso and its sister city, Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, which had a 30 percent vaccination rate before the health system intervened.

As of November 29, 2021, 91.7 percent of community members 65 and older were fully vaccinated and 99.9 percent were partially vaccinated. As of early October, 75.8 percent of those 12 and older were fully vaccinated and 87.9 percent partially vaccinated, and 69.3 percent of those 5 and older were fully vaccinated and 84.7 percent partially vaccinated.

University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas

To help physicians and patients interpret test results for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) pathology faculty in October 2020 developed a compendium of expert interpretive commentary and a supporting application that applies these comments to tests and delivers them to physicians and patients.

In 13 months, UTMB completed more than 325,000 test interpretations and monitored COVID-19 outcomes to assess whether better distribution of COVID-19 test results reduced diagnostic ambiguity and led to better outcomes. UTMB had:

  • a mean length of stay of 6.5 days, compared with an 8.3-day regional average and 9.1-day national average;
  • a 4.4 percent rate of escalation to the intensive care unit, compared with a 22.6 percent regional rate and 23.3 percent national rate; and
  • a mortality rate of 7 percent, compared with a 10.1 percent regional rate and 12.7 percent national rate.

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About America’s Essential Hospitals

America’s Essential Hospitals is the leading association and champion for hospitals dedicated to equitable, high-quality care for all, including those who face social and financial barriers to care. Since 1981, America’s Essential Hospitals has advanced policies and programs that promote health, health care access, and equity. We support our more than 300 members with advocacy, policy development, research, education, and leadership development. Communities depend on essential hospitals for care across the continuum, health care workforce training, research, public health and health equity, and other services. Essential hospitals innovate and adapt to lead all of health care toward better outcomes and value. Learn more at

Carl Graziano


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