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Heather Schoonover is a Vice President at Health Catalyst and is responsible for ensuring customer outcomes, including the development of strategies for driving and communicating customer outcomes. Heather has more than 20 years’ experience in nursing and healthcare. Prior to joining Health Catalyst, Heather was the director of professional practice at PeaceHealth and was responsible for improving patient safety and outcomes, organizational outcomes, leader and staff competency, and the nurse practice environment. Heather has held adjunct nursing faculty positions and pro tem appointments on the Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission, the State regulatory board of nursing. Heather obtained a Master of Nursing from Washington State University and is board certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center as a clinical nurse specialist in public and community health. Heather is a Clinical Nurse Specialist Institute Fellow, and has been honored to be the recipient of leadership awards from both Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society for Nursing, and the Northwest Organization of Nurse Executives.
Around the world and within the United States, pregnancy and childbirth still carry grave, often avoidable risks for mothers and newborns. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 810 women die worldwide daily from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. In the U.S., approximately 6,700 newborns die each day, comprising 47 percent of all deaths under the age of five, and two million babies are stillborn each year, with 40 percent occurring during labor.
For World Health Day 2021 (September 17), the WHO is calling for action around “safe and respectful childbirth.” Individual health systems can contribute to childbirth safety improvement by leveraging their data and analytics to better understand risks to mothers and newborns within their populations and identify ways to avoid preventable harm.
With limited information about the novel coronavirus, industries are scrambling to create an effective response to more quickly and safely return to life before the pandemic. Data has proven to be the best way to capture information about the developing virus. With access to the latest, comprehensive COVID-19 data, decision makers in any industry—from education to healthcare—can develop a sustainable, viable approach to pandemic-era operations.
In the education sector, leaders can use accurate, up-to-date COVID-19 data to make decisions about implementing in-person or virtual learning. When states across the country instituted virtual learning as a stopgap until it was safe to resume in-person education, the most vulnerable students experienced the greatest disadvantages. As these disparities grow with continued virtual learning, it is an imperative that leaders have access to the latest coronavirus data to rapidly return to face-to-face learning.
The rapid onset of COVID-19 has strained hospital resources, including workforce management. Qualified nurses have responded to the virus and volunteered in the hardest hit areas, but many have been prohibited from helping due to cross-state nurse licensing laws that don’t allow nurses to deliver care across state lines.
As health systems continue to face current and emerging needs due to the virus—addressing required training, knowledge, and experience—state licensing laws that would allow nurses to provide care in other states is a critical part of the conversation. Cross-state licensure will not only alleviate the burden placed on health systems and its workforce during a pandemic but also help organizations prepare future unforeseen challenges.
With improvement science combined with analytics, health systems can better understand how, as they implement new process changes, to use theory to guide their practice, and which improvement strategy will help increase the likelihood of success.
The 8-Step Improvement Model is a framework that health systems can follow to effectively apply improvement science:
1. Analyze the opportunity for improvement and define the problem.
2. Scope the opportunity and set SMART goals.
3. Explore root causes and set SMART process aims.
4. Design interventions and plan initial implementation.
5. Implement interventions and measure results.
6. Monitor, adjust, and continually learn.
7. Diffuse and sustain.
8. Communicate Quantitative and Qualitative Results.
With the right approach, an improvement team can measure the results and know if the changes they made will actually lead to the desired impact.
LGBTQ+ community members face unique challenges when accessing healthcare. Lack of knowledge among providers about the LGBTQ+ community leads to stigma, discrimination, and stereotypes that result in higher risk for cancers and substance abuse and higher rates of smoking. Poor health outcomes occur for multiple reasons—clinicians don’t know the best way to collect accurate health information and LGBTQ+ members don’t feel safe sharing personal health information.
The best way for health systems to improve healthcare delivery for the LGBTQ+ community is to rework the way they collect sexual orientation/gender identity data and educate clinicians about the health disparities LGBTQ+ members face.
Despite widespread efforts to improve patient safety, infection control breaches still happen at an alarming rate. In order to improve patient safety and prevent infections, healthcare organizations need to have infection control procedures in place and regularly assess protocols and adherence to these policies. In the case of an infection control breach, organizations need to be prepared to act quickly and follow a six-step evaluation procedure outlined by the CDC:
1. Identify the infection control breach.
2. Gather additional data.
3. Notify and involve key stakeholders.
4. Perform a qualitative assessment.
5. Make decisions about patient notification and testing.
6. Handle communications and logistical issues.
According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, health equity is achieved when everyone can attain their full health potential and no one is disadvantaged from achieving this potential because of social position of any other socially defined circumstance.
Without health equity, there are endless social, health, and economic consequences that negatively impact patients, communities, and organizations. The U.S. ranks last on measures of health equity compared to other industrialized countries. Healthcare contributes to this problem in many ways, including ignoring clinician biases toward certain populations and overlooking the importance of social determinants of health.
Fortunately, there are effective, tested steps organizations can take to tackle their health inequities and disparities (e.g., incorporating nonmedical vital signs into their health assessment processes and partnering with community organizations to connect underserved populations with the services they need to be healthy). Some health systems, such as Allina Health, have achieved impressive results by making health equity a systemwide strategic priority.
The crisis of opioid abuse in the U.S. is well known. What may not be so well known are the ways for clinicians and healthcare systems to minimize misuse of these addictive drugs. This article describes the risks for patients when they are prescribed opioids and the need for opioid intervention. It offers four approaches that healthcare systems can take to tackle the crisis while still relieving pain and suffering for the patients they serve:
1. Use data and analytics to inform strategies that reduce opioid availability
2. Adopt prescription drug monitoring programs to prevent misuse
3. Adopt evidence-based guidelines
4. Consider promising state strategies for dealing with prescription opioid overdose
Opioid misuse is a public health epidemic, but treatments are available and it’s time for those involved in the delivery of healthcare to change practices.