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Hospital Association Honors Four Members for Quality, Population Health


June 20, 2019

WASHINGTON — America’s Essential Hospitals, whose 300 members care for the vulnerable and keep communities healthy, today honored four member hospitals and health systems for outstanding work to improve health care quality and population health.

The association announced the 2019 Gage Award winners at its annual meeting, VITAL2019, in Miami. Named for association founder Larry Gage, the awards recognize creative and successful programs that improve patient care and serve community needs.

“When faced with some of the nation’s most pressing health care challenges, essential hospitals step up,” said America’s Essential Hospitals President and CEO Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH. “Their innovative programs to improve quality of care and support their communities lead the way for systemic change.”

2019 Award for Quality

This award recognizes activities to improve the quality of care delivered or that work to eliminate events that harm individual patients or groups of patients.

Winner: UK HealthCare, Lexington, Ky.

To mitigate the opioid crisis in Eastern Kentucky, UK HealthCare overhauled its prescribing practices by forming an opioid stewardship committee and Office of Opioid Safety. Meetings with providers and provider groups led to changes in patient education, patient messaging, and guidelines for alternative pain management. In two years, overall opioid use at the health system decreased by 250,000 oxycodone pills per year, with zero change in aggregate pain scores.

“Kentucky ranks fifth in the United States for opioid deaths, and our people have suffered through the opioid epidemic since its inception,” said Mark Newman, MD, UK executive vice president for health affairs. “As the major academic medical center serving the state, it’s our responsibility not only to treat patients suffering from opioid use disorder and addiction, but to develop ways to prevent this disease from occurring in the first place. Projects like this one, led by UK HealthCare pharmacist Doug Oyler and trauma surgeon Phillip Chang, are essential to help more patients manage their pain with the minimal effective dose of opioids — if any.”

Honorable Mention: Erie County Medical Center, Buffalo, N.Y.

Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) conducted a quality improvement (QI) project to improve classification and increase treatment of heart failure at its Internal Medicine Clinic. Through electronic health record workflows and educational fliers, the QI team encouraged resident physicians to take a holistic view of symptoms when diagnosing heart failure and to order echocardiograms to properly classify and treat the heart failure. Case managers and social workers helped mitigate socioeconomic barriers for patients receiving echocardiograms by providing transportation and other resources. These interventions helped the clinic achieve a 58.5 percent echocardiogram completion rate, improve heart failure classification, and increase treatment with guideline-directed medical therapy.

“On behalf of ECMC’s dedicated caregivers, we are honored by this recognition from America’s Essential Hospitals,” said Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., PhD, president and CEO of ECMC. “ECMC is our region’s community hospital, and we are committed to developing and implementing population health–based initiatives that will improve the quality of life for some of the most vulnerable in our community. Like our fellow member hospitals, ECMC continues to find innovative, cutting-edge health care methods to further improve access to quality services for the thousands of individuals that depend on us.”

2019 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: University Health System, San Antonio

Bexar County, Texas, had a striking 51.8 percent teen birth rate in 2010, along with a high rate of repeat teen births. To target this community need, University Health System’s Adolescent Health Program provides long-acting reversible contraceptives, counseling and support, and culturally competent care to at-risk teens through a network of more than 20 ambulatory clinics and mobile health units. From 2010 to 2016, teen births decreased 40 percent. The program has provided evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention education to more than 73,000 youth.

“Teen pregnancy is closely linked to social risk factors, such as poverty, lack of education, and interpersonal violence. Our Adolescent Health Program’s significant reduction in the teen pregnancy rate makes a huge difference in countless young lives today and helps build a stronger San Antonio for tomorrow,” said George B. Hernández Jr., JD, president and CEO of University Health System. “I’m proud of our clinic’s leadership team and their collaboration with more than 25 youth-centered organizations, including the school districts, the juvenile justice system, and mental health providers.”

Honorable Mention: Regional One Health, Memphis

The ONE Health program links emergency department (ED) super users — uninsured, medically and socially complex patients who have visited the ED 10 or more times or who have had four or more hospitalizations — with services inside and outside the walls of the hospital, treating the needs of the person first and improving access to appropriate care. An online database, ONE Health Connect, aggregates free and reduced-cost services by ZIP code. Within 11 months, the program reduced ED visits by 61 percent and inpatient admissions by 71 percent, helping to avoid more than $3.2 million in health care costs.

“Regional One Health’s ONE Health initiative has made remarkable strides in providing hope and healing to some of our community’s most vulnerable residents,” said Reginald Coopwood, MD, president and CEO of Regional One Health. “The economic impact for our system is valuable, but that is not why we do this work. The stories of lives changed that have come out of this work is immeasurable.”

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About America’s Essential Hospitals

America’s Essential Hospitals is the leading champion for hospitals and health systems dedicated to high-quality care for all, including the most vulnerable. We support our 300 members with advocacy, policy development, research, and education. Communities depend on essential hospitals to provide specialized, lifesaving services; train the health care workforce; advance public health and health equity; and coordinate care. Essential hospitals innovate and adapt to lead the way to more effective and efficient care. Learn more at

Carl Graziano


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