Quality Innovations

At Pacific Medical Centers, the record shows that year-by-year we’re building on our reputation for delivering quality care. In 2010 our claim to quality has been confirmed by two distinct evaluations. One of these is the Washington Health Alliance Community Checkup, a kind of “snapshot” that compares health care across the Puget Sound Region. The other quality measure is the Premera Blue Cross Quality Score Card.

In 2009 the Washington Health Alliance* Community Checkup showed that PacMed scored better than regional averages in all measures of diabetes care. In 2010 we scored better than average in screening for both breast cancer and Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease. We also scored better than average in prescribing generic medications for the treatment of depression and pain relief. In 2014 PacMed was ranked as one of the high-performing medical groups that demonstrated outstanding quality care on many metrics.

(*The Alliance is a nonprofit organization formed as a partnership among doctors, hospitals, patients, employees, unions, health plans and others working together to improve health in the Puget Sound Region. To learn more about PacMed’s Checkup scores, visit Washington Community Checkup).

The Value of Screening Tests

Screening for breast cancer and Chlamydia is part of important preventive care because the tests help our doctors identify conditions in the early stages when treatment is less expensive and more likely to succeed. It’s far better to catch breast cancer early than in its later stages. Chlamydia is a common disease that usually doesn’t cause symptoms. Left untreated it can infect the urinary tract. This, in turn, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease which can cause infertility or problems in pregnancy. Early detection is key to successful treatment.

Generics: Effective Treatment at Lower Cost

Whether a provider is prescribing generic medications instead of brand names is also a quality measure. Generic drugs are those medications that have the same chemical makeup and work the same ways as brand name drugs, but they are less costly. The use of generic drugs is not just about cost savings though. Sometimes the difference in price between a brand name drug and a generic can make the critical difference between filling a prescription that’s more affordable or not complying with treatment because a prescription costs more than a patient can afford. Health insurance copays for generic medications are usually lower, too.

Premera Quality Score Card Rates PacMed High

The Alliance isn’t the only source of quality information about Pacific Medical Centers. The 2010 Premera Blue Cross Quality Scorecard also measures quality of health care in key areas. The health insurance carrier’s approach is based on national guidelines, best practices and a commitment to continuous improvement in healthcare quality.

PacMed scored above the network average in all areas including:

  • Asthma
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Diabetes care including blood glucose testing, LDL cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Ear infection
  • Mammogram
  • Pap test
  • Preferred drug list performance
  • Use of generic drugs
  • Well child visits

Our Own Quality Controls

In addition to these external score cards, we have had our own internal score card at PacMed for a long time. We track every clinic against 14 quality measures. This score card helps ensure that our patients are getting the care they deserve. For example, every patient who needs care under these internal quality measures receives a chart review. If a patient with diabetes hasn’t come in for his or her glucose (blood sugar) test or a patient hasn’t had her mammogram, PacMed contacts him or her to ensure that each patient is aware of the need for the test or screening.

In addition, the nurse director of PacMed’s quality program looks at data at the beginning of every month. Then, he goes to the clinics and coaches medical assistants about how to use the data effectively so that all patients receive the best care possible. Medical assistants in our clinics keep notebooks that track patients with diabetes and heart diseases. Our medical teams use the information effectively to ensure the best outcome for patients.

Primary Care and Specialist Physicians Collaborate

Quality measures are only one way PacMed clinicians live out their commitment to best quality care. When it comes to teamwork without barriers, PacMed is working along the lines of the Mayo Clinic, a provider of healthcare often touted as a model for delivering very high quality care at low cost. As at Mayo, PacMed primary care physicians and specialists work together so care is more comprehensive and less fragmented.

Dr. Rick Ludwig is the Director of PacMed’s Quality Initiative. He says there is a culture of patient-centered care at PacMed. “We believe in patient-centered care. It’s just who we are,” said Ludwig. This means, for example, that when new guidelines for colorectal cancer screening are published by the American College of Gastroenterology (gastroenterology is the medical field that deals with digestive diseases, including those of the colon), PacMed specialists and primary care physicians sit down together to talk about what that means for patients. “We bring well-trained doctors into the mix, and we talk to each other about how best to screen patients. Then we implement changes. With collaboration, we can be sure our patients get the best,” said Ludwig.

Taken together all of these quality measures are important tools that our clinicians use to ensure that our patients are receiving the best care possible. And, because of PacMed’s internal quality initiative and the commitment of our medical teams to bring it alive for patients, patients can feel confident when they come to PacMed for care. “You can rely on us,” concluded Ludwig.