PART 3. Hopkins All Children’s Hospital/ North Carolina Children’s – pediatric cardiac surgery debacles.

ASSIGNMENT: What are the Lessons Learned from the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and North Carolina Children’s Hospital pediatric open cardiac surgery program failures? What are the regulatory implications?

New PART 3 after PARTs 1 and 2.

PART 1. February 26, 2019. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (St Petersburg, Florida) – problems in the hospital’s heart surgery unit

PART 2. June 1, 2019. “The situation that the New York Times described in North Carolina parallels that at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, which stopped performing heart surgeries after the Tampa Bay Times reported on problems in the unit

PART 1. February 26, 2019. Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (St Petersburg, Florida) – problems in the hospital’s heart surgery unit

“The Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality Masters program is a fully online, interdisciplinary degree offered by Johns Hopkins University. It is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality. It combines coursework from JHU’s top ranked schools and the Armstrong Institute’s pioneering advances in patient safety-educating students in the transformative mechanisms and evidence-based protocols that reduce preventable patient harm and improve clinical outcomes.

Renowned, industry-shaping experts lead this exciting new program designed for working adults. The program focuses on: Measurement of safety and quality; Designing safer systems; Organizational and cultural change. ” (A)

“Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Each day in a hospital, staff members undertake complicated tasks caring for patients. Johns Hopkins Medicine’s patient safety efforts aim to ensure that all of these steps work together to deliver high-quality, compassionate care to all patients across our health system.

Johns Hopkins Health System hospitals and services consistently receive awards and honors for patient safety and quality, including Top Performer on Key Quality Measures by the Joint Commission, Magnet designation for nursing, HomeCare Elite and Delmarva Foundation Excellence Awards. The Johns Hopkins Hospital has been ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for 22 years of the survey’s 25-year history, most recently in 2013.

Patient Safety and Quality Measures

This website shares data for the Johns Hopkins Health System. Here, you will find information about key safety issues and the patient’s experience of care, including:

Patient Experience – Based on survey results from previous patients, you can see how others rated their experience of care from a Johns Hopkins Medicine hospital or home health care provider.

Infection Prevention – These measures include the rate of CLABSIs, a bloodstream infection caused by a central line (large IV) that are considered preventable and hand hygiene, the percentage of medical staff members observed washing their hands or using hand sanitizer before and after caring for a patient.

Core Measures – These measures are national standards of care and treatment processes for common conditions. Core measure compliance shows how often a hospital follows each of these steps.

Surgical Volumes – Studies have shown a strong relationship exists between the number of times a hospital performs a specific surgical procedure and the outcomes for those patients. In 2016, we started sharing our hospitals’ surgical volumes for many common and high-risk procedures.

Quality of Care Ratings – The quality of patient care star rating is a summary of how well the Johns Hopkins Home Care Group and Potomac Home Health Care perform on nine quality measures such as ambulation.

Pediatrics – These measures include national standards of treatment for common conditions, infection prevention, pain management and emergency department wait times for Johns Hopkins’ pediatric divisions.

Hospital Readmissions – Patients are most vulnerable for readmission to a hospital immediately following discharge. This measure tracks how many Medicare patients with specific conditions were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days for any reason.

Our Commitment to Transparency

Patients and their loved ones deserve to be informed about the quality of their heath care. At Johns Hopkins Medicine, we are dedicated to sharing our performance and how we work to provide the best care with past, present and future patients. The Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality coordinates safety and quality improvement efforts and training across our health system.

We hope you will find this website a valuable resource and encourage you to ask your health care team if you have any questions or concerns. (B)

“Patient Trust, Confidence Built on Interprofessional Innovation

Medical errors and preventable patient infections and injuries together make up the third-leading cause of death in the United States, a startling statistic.

The Johns Hopkins School of Nursing understands that an increasing focus on patient safety and quality of care depends upon a healthcare workforce that knows the risks and the proper responses from patients’ arrival to their safe discharge.

The Helene Fuld Leadership Program for the Advancement of Patient Safety and Quality (The Fuld Fellows Program) emphasizes interprofessional education and training, simulation, and service-learning experiences involving nurses, medical students, pharmacists, and other health professionals whose collaboration is critical for reducing preventable harm to patients.

Nurses, as the primary contact with patients, play a key role in their safety. Hopkins Nursing, as part of an interprofessional team that includes the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety & Quality and the Johns Hopkins Health Systems, works to prepare nurses ready to communicate, cooperate, innovate, and lead on issues of patient safety and quality of care.” (C)

“Johns Hopkins Medicine Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality

A roadmap for patient safety and quality improvement

This month the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published a new report that identifies the most promising practices for improving patient safety in U.S. hospitals.

An update to the 2001 publication Making Health Care Safer: A Critical Analysis of Patient Safety Practices, the new report reflects just how much the science of safety has advanced.

A decade ago the science was immature; researchers posited quick fixes without fully appreciating the difficulty of challenging and changing accepted behaviors and beliefs.

Today, based on years of work by patient safety researchers-including many at Johns Hopkins-hospitals are able to implement evidence-based solutions to address the most pernicious causes of preventable patient harm. According to the report, here is a list of the top 10 patient safety interventions that hospitals should adopt now.

Top 10 Recommended Patient Safety Strategies

1. Preoperative checklists and anesthesia checklists to prevent operative and postoperative events.

2. Bundles that include checklists to prevent central line-associated bloodstream infections

3. Interventions to reduce urinary catheter use, including catheter reminders, stop orders, or nurse-initiated removal protocols

4. Bundles that include head-of-bed elevation, sedation vacations, oral care with chlorhexidine, and subglottic-suctioning endotracheal tubes to prevent ventilator-associated pneumonia

5. Hand hygiene

6. The do-not-use list for hazardous abbreviations

7. Multicomponent interventions to reduce pressure ulcers

8. Barrier precautions to prevent healthcare-associated infections

9. Use of real-time ultrasonography for central line placement

10. Interventions to improve prophylaxis for venous thromboembolisms…

Even with a list of sound strategies, creating a plan to implement all or even half of them may sound like a daunting task. The Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality has created a checklist to help you get started.

1. Identify priorities and assess readiness for change.

2. Establish engagement and accountability at all levels of the organization.

3. Communicate constantly (the good and the bad).

4. Measure, measure, measure… and then measure some more. (D)

“Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital provides expert pediatric care for infants, children and teens with some of the most challenging medical problems in our community and around the world.

Named a top 50 children’s hospital by U.S. News & World Report, we provide access to innovative treatments and therapies. Taking part in pediatric medical education and clinical research helps us to provide care in more than 50 specialties.

With more than half of our 259 beds devoted to intensive care level services, we are the regional pediatric referral center for Florida’s West Coast. Physicians and community hospitals count on us to care for critically ill patients and perform complex surgical procedures.

Parents count on us, too. Our philosophy of family-centered care means family members are an important part of our health care team. We include parents in making decisions and plans for their child’s care. We also include patients who are old enough to take part in these discussions.

To help us design our hospital that we opened in January 2010, we asked patients, parents and our staff to share ideas. The result was a spacious and bright hospital with individual rooms where parents can comfortably spend the night. With the latest technology and our commitment to family-centered care, our hospital provides an ideal environment for healing.” (E)

“Quality, Outcomes and Patient Safety at Johns Hopkins All Children’s

We are committed to treating you and your child with compassion and respect. We believe that you deserve honesty in our communication about the plan for your child’s care and we will demonstrate uncompromising integrity to earn your trust. We will be responsible for including each family as a part of our care team that is committed to safe and innovative care practices. Our goal is to inspire hope for you and your child through our focus on inquiry, collaboration, and team work.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital believes in Creating healthy tomorrows… for one child, for All Children. Our focus on Quality assures that we are continually improving our processes in an effort to achieve this vision. Using a team approach we tap into the know-how of our expert medical staff and employees to improve the quality and safety of the care we provide.

Our Quality Model provides the basis for understanding patient needs, measuring and using data, and achieving real improvement. Improving continuously is our goal. To do this we encourage each member of our team to find ways to do their work better and to make patient safety a priority. Together we are focused on pursuing perfection for All Children.

Quality Measures

There are many ways to look at and measure quality. Our data uses information from key areas to help families, healthcare providers, and others learn about our progress in pursuing perfection for All Children.” (F)

“Sandra Vázquez paced the heart unit at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

Her 5-month-old son, Sebastián Vixtha, lay unconscious in his hospital crib, breathing faintly through a tube. Two surgeries to fix his heart had failed, even the one that was supposed to be straightforward.

Vázquez saw another mom in the room next door crying. Her baby was also in bad shape.

Down the hall, 4-month-old Leslie Lugo had developed a serious infection in the surgical incision that snaked down her chest. Her parents argued with the doctors. They didn’t believe the hospital room had been kept sterile.

By the end of the week, all three babies would die…

The internationally renowned Johns Hopkins had taken over the St. Petersburg hospital six years earlier and vowed to transform its heart surgery unit into one of the nation’s best.

Instead, the program got worse and worse until children were dying at a stunning rate, a Tampa Bay Times investigation has found.

Nearly one in 10 patients died last year. The mortality rate, suddenly the highest in Florida, had tripled since 2015…

Times reporters spent a year examining the All Children’s Heart Institute – a small, but important division of the larger hospital devoted to caring for children born with heart defects…

They discovered a program beset with problems that were whispered about in heart surgery circles but hidden from the public.

Among the findings:

All Children’s surgeons made serious mistakes, and their procedures went wrong in unusual ways. They lost needles in at least two infants’ chests. Sutures burst. Infections mounted. Patches designed to cover holes in tiny hearts failed.

Johns Hopkins’ handpicked administrators disregarded safety concerns the program’s staff had raised as early as 2015. It wasn’t until early 2017 that All Children’s stopped performing the most complex procedures. And it wasn’t until late that year that it pulled one of its main surgeons from the operating room.

Even after the hospital stopped the most complex procedures, children continued to suffer. A doctor told Cash Beni-King’s parents his operation would be easy. His mother and father imagined him growing up, playing football. Instead multiple surgeries failed, and he died.

In just a year and a half, at least 11 patients died after operations by the hospital’s two principal heart surgeons. The 2017 death rate was the highest any Florida pediatric heart program had seen in the last decade.

Parents were kept in the dark about the institute’s troubles, including some that affected their children’s care. Leslie Lugo’s family didn’t know she caught pneumonia in the hospital until they read her autopsy report. The parents of another child didn’t learn a surgical needle was left inside their baby until after she was sent home.

The Times presented its findings to hospital leaders in a series of memos early this month. They declined interview requests and did not make the institute’s doctors available to comment.

In a statement, All Children’s did not dispute the Times’ reporting. The hospital said it halted all pediatric heart surgeries in October and is conducting a review of the program.

“Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital is defined by our commitment to patient safety and providing the highest quality care possible to the children and families we serve,” the hospital wrote. “An important part of that commitment is a willingness to learn.” (G)

The top three leaders of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in Florida resigned Tuesday following a Tampa Bay Times investigation that revealed increasing mortality rates among heart surgery patients.

The resignations from the 259-bed teaching hospital in St. Petersburg included CEO Jonathan Ellen, M.D., and Vice President Jackie Crain, as well as Jeffrey Jacobs, M.D., who is the heart institute’s deputy director, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Paul Colombani, M.D., stepped down as chairman of the department of surgery but will continue working in a clinical capacity, a statement from the health system said.

“Losing a child is something no family should have to endure, and we are committed to learning everything we can about what happened at the Heart Institute, including a top-to-bottom evaluation of its leadership and key processes,” a statement from Johns Hopkins read. “The events described in recent news reports are unacceptable.”

Johns Hopkins, which owns and operates the hospital, said it would install Kevin Sowers, who is president of the Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine, to lead the hospital in a temporary capacity while a plan for interim leadership is put into place.

George Jallo, M.D., who is medical director of the Institute for Brain Protection Sciences and chief of pediatric neurosurgery, will serve as interim vice dean and physician-in-chief, and Paul Danielson, M.D., who is chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, will serve as interim chair of the surgery department.

Johns Hopkins’ board also said it commissioned an external review to examine the heart surgery program and said it would share its lessons from the review to help hospitals around the country avoid the same mistakes.

The moves come following the Tampa Bay Times investigation that highlighted a growing number of heart surgery deaths at the hospital amid warnings about safety from staffers that went unheeded. (H)

“Three additional senior administrators have left Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in the wake of a Tampa Bay Times investigation into high mortality rates at the hospital’s Heart Institute, the hospital announced Wednesday.

A total of six senior officials have left since the Times report, including the hospital’s CEO, three vice presidents and two surgeons who held leadership roles at the Heart Institute. A seventh official stepped down as chairman of the surgery department but remained employed at the hospital as a doctor.

The resignations announced Wednesday included vice presidents Dr. Brigitta Mueller, the hospital’s chief patient safety officer, and Sylvia Ameen, who oversaw culture and employee engagement and served as the hospital’s chief spokeswoman.

The hospital also said Dr. Gerhard Ziemer, who started as the Heart Institute’s new director and chief of cardiovascular surgery in October, would leave the hospital. The hospital never publicly announced Ziemer had been hired, and he had not yet obtained his Florida medical license when the Times investigation was published at the end of November. At that point, the hospital said the Heart Institute had already stopped performing surgeries.

“While Dr. Ziemer is not responsible for the current state of the program, we agreed that a fresh start was needed to ensure success for the program,” Johns Hopkins Health System President Kevin Sowers said in a letter to the hospital’s staff.” ..

In his letter to the staff, Sowers said that several hospital executives had been tasked with leading “critically important work around advancing our culture of safety.”

“As we work to rebuild the trust of our community, we must also work to fully embrace and support a culture where we are each empowered and encouraged to speak up and speak out if we see or hear something that concerns us,” he wrote. “This commitment applies to clinical concerns as well as inappropriate workplace behavior.”

Sowers also announced that Johns Hopkins had hired external experts to develop a plan to restart heart surgeries at All Children’s.

That is a separate effort from an external review of the problems in the Heart Institute, which Johns Hopkins announced its board had commissioned last month, spokeswoman Kim Hoppe said…

Johns Hopkins is one of the most prestigious brands in medicine and is internationally renowned for developing innovative patient safety protocols that are used at hospitals across the world. But last weekend, the Times published a story detailing a series of safety problems at hospitals across its network. In response, the health system pledged to “do better.” (I)

“The Johns Hopkins Medicine Board of Trustees has appointed a former federal prosecutor to lead its investigation into the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital’s heart surgery unit, the health system announced late Tuesday.

F. Joseph Warin, of the global law firm Gibson Dunn, and his team will review the high mortality rates and other problems at the hospital’s Heart Institute and report back to a special committee of the board of trustees by May, the health system said.

Once the review is complete, the health system said it would also name an independent monitor at All Children’s to “make sure that the hospital is being held accountable for taking corrective action where necessary.”

The announcement was accompanied by a video of Johns Hopkins Health System president Kevin Sowers, who acknowledged for the first time that the hospital had been warned about problems by frontline workers.

“I know personally that many of you courageously spoke out when you had concerns but were ignored or turned away,” he said. “That behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated going forward.”

Sowers, who is also interim president at All Children’s, said he hoped to meet with the families of patients affected by problems in the Heart Institute in the coming days to share his “profound sadness for the failures of care they experienced.” (J)

“The external review was prompted by multiple reports by the Tampa Bay Times about problems at the center which could have contributed to its mortality rate tripling between 2015 and 2017…

Health News Florida’s Stephanie Colombini talked about what could come next with Kathleen McGrory, one of the lead reporters.

One of the big problems you uncovered in your reporting was the lack of available data about mortality rates at a lot of these heart surgery programs…

Officials have either refused to release it or they only release four-year averages, which could mislead families about the current state of the program they’re choosing.

How is the state looking at making these programs more transparent?

There were some problems at another pediatric heart surgery program in 2015 in Palm Beach County (St. Mary’s Medical Center), and after those problems surfaced, the legislature put together a panel (Pediatric Cardiology Technical Advisory Panel) tasked with looking at transparency and ways we could, as a state, make these programs better and more accountable.

That panel is in the middle of doing its work right now and in fact has come close to finalizing some recommendations.

The panel would like all of these heart surgery programs to be reporting their one-year data (on mortality rates) rather than their four-year data because that four-year data can sometimes hide serious problems…

So the state is looking into making heart surgery programs more accountable, but is anyone calling for change when it comes to the government’s role in this?

You reported that multiple times state and federal regulators were alerted to problems at All Children’s and yet little, to no action was taken.

We saw U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist put some really tough questions to federal regulators asking what they had investigated and when. We haven’t heard back yet on that front but we know it’s something they’ll be looking into.

The state told us that they did the best they could do with the information that they had, same thing with the federal government.

But ACHA has a new chief (Mary Mayhew). We haven’t gotten a chance to connect with her yet and see what her thoughts are on this, but we certainly will do that in the new year. (K)

“State and federal inspectors descended on Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital this week, following sharp calls for an investigation into problems in the hospital’s heart surgery unit, the Tampa Bay Times has learned.

The scope of the inspection is unclear. But hospital regulators had been criticized in recent weeks for their lax response to early signs of an increase in mortality at the hospital’s Heart Institute.

A Florida Agency for Health Care Administration spokeswoman said her agency had been at the facility.

A spokeswoman for the hospital confirmed federal inspectors had been there, too.

“We appreciate the oversight role that our regulators play and we will, as always, be fully cooperative and collaborative as they conduct any reviews necessary,” a statement from the hospital said.

A spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services declined to comment beyond saying the matter remained “an ongoing review.”

In November, the Times reported that the mortality rate for heart surgery patients at All Children’s tripled from 2015 to 2017 to become the highest rate in Florida. The increase occurred after staff members warned the hospital’s leaders about problems with two heart surgeons, the Times found.

State and federal regulators knew the institute was having problems months earlier. In April, the hospital’s CEO told the Times that the institute had “challenges” that led to an uptick in mortality, and acknowledged the hospital had left surgical needles inside two children.

In May, state regulators cited the hospital for not properly reporting two medical mistakes, which is required by state law. Days later, a spokeswoman for the federal agency told the Times that it would perform its own investigation.

But state regulators didn’t fine the hospital, and overlooked several subsequent warnings that its surgical results had been poor.

And federal inspectors later changed course and decided not to undertake a comprehensive review of the heart surgery program, the Times reported last month. One reason was that state inspectors hadn’t found any violations of federal rules, a spokeswoman said. Another was that a nonprofit hospital accreditor was due to perform a scheduled review.” (L)

Two Omaha surgeons filed a lawsuit Friday against Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, alleging that they were wrongfully suspended and forced to resign privileges there after they raised patient safety concerns.

In the suit, Dr. Jason Miller and Dr. Mark Puccioni say that the hospital suspended their privileges to practice at the Omaha facility after they raised concerns about the death of a 7-month-old during an operation. That operation was performed this fall by another surgeon, Dr. Adam Conley, the suit says.

In their communications, according to the suit filed in Douglas County District Court, the two also questioned Conley’s “skill and ability.”

In addition to the hospital, the lawsuit names as defendants Conley, as well as Dr. Richard Azizkhan, who took over as Children’s president and CEO in October 2015.

Children’s officials said in a statement that the hospital does not comment on pending litigation “other than to say we strongly disagree with these allegations…

Children’s has faced other issues in recent months.

In late November, a former pharmacy director at the hospital was accused of funneling more than $4.4 million from the organization into her personal account over six years. She was terminated in June and faces a hearing regarding possible disciplinary action later this month.

About three weeks ago, the Nebraska Medical Association sent a letter to the board of Children’s Hospital expressing concerns about “patient care, safety and quality” at the Omaha hospital, in addition to the loss of longtime physicians.

In the Dec. 11 letter, the president of the group, Dr. Britt Thedinger, wrote, “We as physicians are concerned about the summary suspensions, terminations and resignations of long-time outstanding physician colleagues.” The letter also expressed concern that children were being transferred to outside institutions because of “complications” and inadequate staffing at the Omaha hospital.

Thedinger said the organization did not intend for the letter to become public. The intent, he said, was to bring issues that had been raised by members to the hospital board and administration.” (M)

“The New Jersey Department of Health is investigating four Acinetobacter baumannii cases in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of University Hospital in Newark, authorities announced Thursday evening.

DOH officials stated:

“The department first became aware of this bacterial infection on Oct. 1 and two department teams have been closely monitoring the situation. Those department teams, which have been at the facility last week and this week, have been ensuring that infection control protocols are followed and are tracking cases of the infection. The department’s inspection revealed major infection control deficiencies.”

According to the DOH, a premature baby with the bacteria who had been cared for at University Hospital was transferred to another facility and passed away toward the end of September, prior to the department’s notification of problems in the NICU.

“Due to the other compounding medical conditions, the exact cause of death is still being investigated,” DOH officials said.

The department has ordered a Directed Plan of Correction that requires University Hospital to employ a full-time Certified Infection Control Practitioner consultant, who will report to the DOH on immediate actions taken in the coming days.

DOH officials said they are also exploring further actions the agency may need to take in the coming days to “ensure patient safety.” (N)

“Four New Jersey pediatric care facilities and one hospital are now under the state’s microscope after nine children died and 26 people were sickened by a deadly virus over the past month.

A Department of Health team of infection control experts and epidemiologists will visit University Hospital in Newark and four pediatric long-term care facilities in November to conduct training and assessments of infection control procedures, Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal has announced.

The team of experts will visit University Hospital, the Wanaque Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Haskell, Voorhees Pediatric Facility in Voorhees and Children’s Specialized Hospital in Toms River and Mountainside. The department reached out to the facilities last week to schedule visits in November.

The decision comes after nine children at a Wanaque facility have died since an outbreak of the adenovirus was declared there. Victims became sick between Sept. 26 and Oct. 22. Authorities confirmed that the virus killed eight of the nine kids.

Twenty-six kids and a staff member, who has since recovered, have become ill as part of the outbreak, state health officials said. Laboratory tests confirmed the 26th case. (O)

“Two decades ago, the Institute of Medicine shook the medical profession with its “To Err is Human” report which said nearly 100,000 people a year lost their lives to preventable medical errors…

During the 7th Annual World Patient Safety, Science & Technology Summit over the weekend, the Patient Safety Movement Foundation released a new tool on its website to help with the training.

The patient safety curriculum is one of 17 Actionable Patient Safety Solutions (APSS) made available to organizations for free to help train health professionals in systems science so they can help find ways to reduce preventable patient deaths, officials said.

“The goal is to get every health professional to think in a system way,” said Steven Scheinman, M.D., the president and dean of Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. He led a Patient Safety Movement working group which included experts from Geisinger, San Diego State, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Johns Hopkins Health, and MedStar Georgetown to develop the curriculum over an 18-month period.

The Patient Safety Movement was founded in 2013 to help reduce preventable deaths in healthcare and in 2015 set a goal of zero preventable deaths by 2020. More than 90,000 patients who might have died as a result of medical errors were saved in 2018 due to efforts made by more than 4,700 hospitals that committed to patient safety efforts, according to figures released by the foundation. In all, a total of 273,077 lives have been saved since the first summit, officials said.

The newly released safety curriculum can be adapted to any healthcare profession including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and behavioral health and can be used for student training, as well as training for experienced professionals.

“We want to train every health professional to take ownership of the patient’s safety and experience so they understand safe communication and know when they are telling another person about the patient or handing them over or referring them over, how to make sure they get all the critical information there,” Scheinman said…

“The airline industry solved safety by creating the right systems,” Scheinman said. “Medical errors are very widespread. But they usually aren’t a doctor making a mistake. They can be. But they’re more often the system failed to pick something up or allowed something bad to happen.”

And with this training, he said, those medical professionals might be that much more likely to help figure out a new solution to make sure something bad doesn’t happen again.” (P)

“.. experience showcases the promise of a much-touted but little understood collaboration in health care: alliances between community hospitals and some of the nation’s biggest and most respected institutions.

For prospective patients, it can be hard to assess what these relationships actually mean – and whether they matter.

Leah Binder, president and chief executive of the Leapfrog Group, a Washington-based patient safety organization that grades hospitals based on data involving medical errors and best practices, cautions that affiliation with a famous name is not a guarantee of quality.

“Brand names don’t always signify the highest quality of care,” she said. “And hospitals are really complicated places.”..

To expand their reach, flagship hospitals including Mayo, the Cleveland Clinic and Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center have signed affiliation agreements with smaller hospitals around the country. These agreements, which can involve different levels of clinical integration, typically grant community hospitals access to experts and specialized services at the larger hospitals while allowing them to remain independently owned and operated. For community hospitals, a primary goal of the brand-name affiliation is stemming the loss of patients to local competitors…

In some cases, large hospital systems opt for a different approach, largely involving acquisition. Johns Hopkins acquired Sibley Memorial and Suburban hospitals in the Washington, D.C., area, along with All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. The latter was re-christened Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in 2016…

Although affiliation agreements differ, many involve payment of an annual fee by smaller hospitals. Officials at Mayo and MD Anderson declined to reveal the amount, as did executives at several affiliates. Contracts with Mayo must be renewed annually, while some with MD Anderson exceed five years…

“It is not the Mayo Clinic,” said Dr. David Hayes, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, which was launched in 2011. “It is a Mayo clinic affiliate.”

Of the 250 U.S. hospitals or health systems that have expressed serious interest in joining Mayo’s network, 34 have become members.

For patients considering a hospital that has such an affiliation, Binder advises checking ratings from a variety of sources, among them Leapfrog, Medicare and Consumer Reports, and not just relying on reputation.

“In theory, it can be very helpful,” Binder said of such alliances. “The problem is that theory and reality don’t always come together in health care.”

Case in point: Hopkins’ All Children’s has been besieged by recent reports of catastrophic surgical injuries and errors and a spike in deaths among pediatric heart patients since Hopkins took over. Hopkins’ chief executive has apologized, more than a half-dozen top executives resigned and Hopkins recently hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct a review of what went wrong.

“For me and my family, I always look at the data,” Binder said. “Nothing else matters if you’re not taken care of in a hospital, or you have the best surgeon in the world and die from an infection.” ” (Q)

PART 2. June 1, 2019. “The situation that the New York Times described in North Carolina parallels that at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, which stopped performing heart surgeries after the Tampa Bay Times reported on problems in the unit

“Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., has been given another extension from federal regulators to correct its problems. The pediatric hospital came under fire in late 2018 after the Tampa Bay Times uncovered widespread problems at the facility, including a rising death rate in the pediatric heart unit.

The reporting from the Times led to the resignation of several high-profile executives at the hospital and a federal investigation from CMS that led to a series of corrective actions with the government.

Now, the hospital still needs more time to meet the demands of inspectors, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Inspectors found problems with All Children’s infection control unit, which the hospital must fix by “early May.” The agreement with CMS to meet corrective actions underscores how the hospital has been at risk of losing public funding, which covered more than 60% of its patients in 2017, according to the Times.” (A)

“Care in a special heart surgery unit at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., became so troubled that last year one in 10 patients died and others suffered devastating complications before procedures were halted, a year-long investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found.

The investigation found that staff raised safety concerns as early as 2015 but the hospital, led by administrators sent by Hopkins, disregarded warnings and didn’t stop performing the most complex procedures until early last year. All surgeries were curtailed eventually and a review launched. The status of two surgeons connected to most of the complications is unclear…

In a statement to the Tampa Bay Times, All Children’s said it “is defined by our commitment to patient safety and providing the highest quality care possible to the children and families we serve. An important part of that commitment is a willingness to learn. When we became aware of challenges with our heart institute we took action to address them.”

The hospital said it initially stopped performing complex cases and brought in a surgeon from Baltimore. Then it halted all surgeries after that surgeon left. The hospital said it is currently reviewing the program and recruiting new surgeons with aid from Hopkins and plans to resume surgeries “when all involved are confident that the care being delivered meets the high standards set by this organization.”

A statement from Johns Hopkins Medicine to The Baltimore Sun said, “We are devastated when children suffer, and losing a child is something that no parent should have to endure. We are continuing to take a very close look at the program, and will not resume open heart surgeries until we are confident this program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital delivers care that meets the highest standards.”” (B)

“Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital posted an operating loss in the three months ended March 31, as the St. Petersburg pediatric hospital dealt with the fallout of federal and state probes into its practices.

The hospital had an $11.5 million quarterly operating loss, according to a May 13 financial report from The Johns Hopkins Health System Corp. and affiliates. Operating revenue dropped 7.1 percent to $119.9 million, while operating expenses climbed 10.5 percent to $131.4 million.

The operating loss was attributed to closing the hospital’s Heart Institute. The facility closed after an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found seven children had died or were permanently injured due to substandard care in the cardiovascular surgery program…

“The decrease in income from operations and operating margin percentage was mainly driven by lower net patient service revenue at [Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital] as a result of the closing of the Heart Institute,” the May 13 report said.” (C)

“Tasha and Thomas Jones sat beside their 2-year-old daughter as she lay in intensive care at North Carolina Children’s Hospital. Skylar had just come out of heart surgery and should recover well, her parents were told. But that night, she flatlined. Doctors and nurses swarmed around her, performing chest compressions for nearly an hour before putting the little girl on life support.

Five days later, in June 2016, the hospital’s pediatric cardiologists gathered one floor below for what became a wrenching discussion. Patients with complex conditions had been dying at higher-than-expected rates in past years, some of the doctors suspected. Now, even children like Skylar, undergoing less risky surgeries, seemed to fare poorly.

The cardiologists pressed their division chief about what was happening at the hospital, part of the respected University of North Carolina medical center in Chapel Hill, while struggling to decide if they should continue to send patients to UNC for heart surgery…

That March, a newborn had died after muscles supporting a valve in his heart appeared to have been damaged during surgery. At least two patients undergoing low-risk surgeries had recently experienced complications. In May, a baby girl with a complex heart condition died two weeks after her operation. Two days later, Skylar went in for surgery.

In the doctors’ meeting, the chief of pediatric cardiology, Dr. Timothy Hoffman, was blunt. “It’s a nightmare right now,” he said. “We are in crisis, and everyone is aware of that.”

That comment and others – captured in secret audio recordings provided to The New York Times – offer a rare, unfiltered look inside a medical institution as physicians weighed their ethical obligations to patients while their bosses also worried about harming the surgical program.

In meetings in 2016 and 2017, all nine cardiologists expressed concerns about the program’s performance. The head of the hospital and other leaders there were alarmed as well, according to the recordings. The cardiologists – who diagnose and treat heart conditions but don’t perform surgeries – could not pinpoint what might be going wrong in an intertwined system involving surgeons, anesthesiologists, intensive care doctors and support staff. But they discussed everything from inadequate resources to misgivings about the chief pediatric cardiac surgeon to whether the hospital was taking on patients it wasn’t equipped to handle. Several doctors began referring more children elsewhere for surgery.

The heart specialists had been asking to review the institution’s mortality statistics for cardiac surgery – information that most other hospitals make public – but said they had not been able to get it for several years. Last month, after repeated requests from The Times, UNC released limited data showing that for four years through June 2017, it had a higher death rate than nearly all of the 82 institutions nationwide that do publicly report…

The best option, Dr. Kelly said, was to combine UNC’s surgery program with Duke’s. For years, physicians at both children’s hospitals talked informally about joining forces, but nothing came of it. They were “basically destroying each other’s capacity to be great,” Dr. Kelly said, by running competing programs less than 15 miles apart. But even combining the programs wasn’t an instant fix: It would take at least a year and a half, he said…

At a conference last fall, Dr. Backer, the Chicago heart surgeon, urged fellow surgeons to consider “rational regionalization,” or joining forces in an effort to reduce mortalities nationwide for congenital heart defects, potentially saving hundreds of lives.

Reaching adequate case volumes to keep up skills is a challenge because so many hospitals are competing for patients – surgical programs are an important driver of revenue. The Orlando, Fla., and San Antonio metropolitan areas, for example, each have three hospitals doing pediatric heart surgeries. Cleveland has two about a mile apart. A study last year by Dr. Backer and other physicians found that 66 percent of hospitals doing the surgeries were within 25 miles of another one.” (D)

“The situation that the New York Times described in North Carolina parallels that at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, which stopped performing heart surgeries after the Tampa Bay Times reported on problems in the unit.

A Tampa Bay Times analysis found that the death rate among pediatric heart surgery patients at All Children’s had tripled from 2015 to 2017…

UNC Health Care only made some of its death rate data public to the New York Times after numerous requests from the newsroom. The statistics showed that UNC’s children’s heart surgery program had one of the highest four-year death rates in the country.

The newspaper said it is suing the health system for more data.

UNC Health Care told the New York Times that the physicians’ concerns had been handled appropriately.

After the New York Times started reporting, the hospital ramped up efforts to find a temporary pediatric heart surgeon and reached out to families whose children had died or had unusual complications to discuss their cases…

The turmoil at UNC underscores concerns about the quality and consistency of care provided by dozens of pediatric heart surgery programs across the country. Each year in the United States about 40,000 babies are born with heart defects; about 10,000 are likely to need surgery or other procedures before their first birthday.

The best outcomes for patients with complex heart problems correlate with hospitals that perform a high volume of surgeries – several hundred a year – studies show. But a proliferation of the surgery programs has made it difficult for many institutions, including UNC, to reach those numbers: The North Carolina hospital does about 100 to 150 a year. Lower numbers can leave surgeons and staff at some hospitals with insufficient experience and resources to achieve better results, researchers have found.

“We can do better. And it’s not that hard to do better,” said Dr. Carl Backer, former president of the Congenital Heart Surgeons’ Society, who practices at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “We don’t have to build new hospitals. We don’t have to build new ICUs. We just need to move patients to more appropriate centers.”

North Carolina Children’s Hospital, part of the University of North Carolina medical center, performs about 100 to 150 pediatric heart surgeries a year.

Studies show that the best outcomes for patients with complex heart problems correlate with hospitals that do a higher volume of surgeries – several hundred a year.

At least five pediatric heart surgery programs across the country were suspended or shut down in the last decade after questions were raised about their performance; a Florida institution run by the prestigious Johns Hopkins medical system stopped operations after reporting by The Tampa Bay Times in 2018. At least a half-dozen hospitals have merged their programs with larger ones to achieve more consistent results. And more institutions are considering such partnerships.” (E)

“UNC Health declined a CBS 17 request for an interview. Phil Bridges, UNC Health’s Integrated Communications Executive Director issued a written statement:

We are proud of our pediatric congenital heart surgery program, and our current team is receiving top results that would place us among the best in the nation. We have been engaged in continuous quality improvement efforts for decades and have made significant improvements in the past 10+ years.

As the state’s leading public hospital, the UNC Pediatric Congenital Heart Surgery program often receives the most complex and serious cases. For many of these very sick children, we are often parents’ last hope.

As we shared with the New York Times, there were team culture issues back in 2016. They were handled appropriately. That, combined with decades of continuous quality improvement (CQI) efforts, have led us to today in which we have a very strong program. For our team, and each family, even a single death is too many, and we will continue our CQI work.

To characterize today’s program as anything but strong, would not only be misleading, but not factual. To say we ignored issues would also be false.” (F)

“First and foremost, we are physicians who have dedicated our lives to caring for and caring about patients. We celebrate with families the joys of curing illness; and we are deeply impacted by any death, particularly that of a young child. We lead our respective areas of surgery and pediatrics with the mindset of always doing what is right for children and families. Caring for these children is a privilege. Children and families are always our top priority. Our mission is to provide the best care for all children across North Carolina. We and our colleagues live this mission every day.

Regarding this week’s story from The New York Times (“Doctors Were Alarmed: Would I have my children have surgery here”): We are proud of the medical care provided to all patients at UNC Children’s. They become part of our family, and as providers we wouldn’t hesitate to bring our own loved ones here for treatment. Any negative outcome or death is taken incredibly seriously and we strive to constantly look for ways to improve the care provided.” (G)

“North Carolina’s secretary of health on Friday called for an investigation into a hospital where doctors had suspected children with complex heart conditions had been dying at higher than expected rates after undergoing heart surgery.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, the secretary, said in a statement that a team from the state’s division of health service regulation would work with federal regulators to conduct a “thorough investigation” into events that occurred in 2016 and 2017 at North Carolina Children’s Hospital, part of the University of North Carolina medical center in Chapel Hill.

“As a mother and a doctor my heart goes out to any family that loses a child,” Dr. Cohen said in the statement. “Patient safety, particularly for the most vulnerable children, is paramount.”

The investigation is in response to an article published by The New York Times on Thursday, which gave a detailed look inside the medical institution as cardiologists grappled with whether to keep sending their young patients there for surgery.

The article included discussions among doctors that were captured on secret audio recordings provided to The Times, in which the physicians talked openly about their concerns, including that some might not feel comfortable allowing their own children to have surgery at the hospital. The physicians also discussed unexpected complications with lower-risk patients.

While the doctors could not pinpoint what might be going wrong, they considered everything from inadequate resources to misgivings about the chief pediatric cardiac surgeon to whether the hospital was taking on patients it was not equipped to handle.” (H)

The 2018-19 Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll (I)

1. Boston Children’s Hospital

2. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center

3. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

4. Texas Children’s Hospital

5. Children’s National Medical Center

6. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

7. Nationwide Children’s Hospital

8. Johns Hopkins Children’s Center (BALTIMORE)

9. Children’s Hospital Colorado

10. Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago

North Carolina Children’s Hospital at UNC. Pediatric Cardiology & Heart Surgery Scorecard.

https://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/area/nc/north-carolina-childrens-hospital-at-unc-PA6360260/pediatric-rankings/cardiology-and-heart-surgery

Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Center. Pediatric Cardiology & Heart Surgery Scorecard.

https://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/area/nc/duke-university-medical-center-6360355/pediatric-rankings/cardiology-and-heart-surgery

PART 3. Hopkins All Children’s Hospital/ North Carolina Children’s – pediatric cardiac surgery debacles.

“Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has begun implementing some of the dozens of recommendations from a law firm hired to identify deficiencies at the hospital and its parent organization, Johns Hopkins Medicine, in the wake of high death rates in the St. Petersburg hospital’s pediatric cardiology program…

The recommendations focus on four key areas, said Dr. Kevin Sowers, president of Johns Hopkins Health System and executive vice president of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

He outlined those four areas in a video posted online. They are: strengthen the management and culture at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital; improve processes for evaluating patient clinical quality and safety; clarify and streamline the reporting structure between the six Johns Hopkins Hospitals and the Johns Hopkins Health System; and review the ways in which the boards of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Johns Hopkins Medicine should advance their governance responsibilities…

…In the coming weeks, the board of Johns Hopkins Medicine will appoint a monitor to track and report regularly back to them on the hospital’s progress.” (A)

“The recommendations for improvement include:

Prioritize a culture of absolute commitment to patient safety and of raising and addressing problems and concerns, including throughout the process of hiring and evaluating senior executives

Give physician leaders a stronger voice, create a more robust check-and-balance on the president

Better educate staff and faculty about JHM’s commitment to transparency and a culture of “see something, say something” and to improve channels to submit complaints and provide for independent review

Separate the medical staff office responsibilities from the patient safety and quality department responsibilities, which previously were overseen by a single vice president of medical affairs…

In the coming weeks, the board of Johns Hopkins medicine will appoint an external monitor to track and report back regularly to them on the hospital’s progress,” he said.

The initial focus will be on the St. Petersburg hospital, a team will go to the other five hospitals in the network to ensure the changes are taking place.” (B)

“The review recommended a commitment to patient safety and said the “see something, say something” culture is a vital part of that.

The hospital published the report on its website along with a video of Sowers talking about the results.

“Above all, we must work each and every day to support a culture in which each of us is supported and empowered to speak up and speak out,” Sowers said in the video.

He provided a toll free number where employees can anonymously report any issues: 1-844-SPEAK2US.

“If you have any concern about a patient safety issue, misconduct, a legal or unethical behavior or anything else, please call the Johns Hopkins medicine hotline,” Sowers said.

Problems with the hospital’s heart institute did not come to light until they were reported in the Times. The stories prompted inquiries by federal and state regulators and led to the resignation of six top officials.” (C)

“The changes include new checks and balances on the hospital’s president, more rigorous evaluations for top executives, better tracking of internal complaints, more thorough vetting of doctors and improved monitoring of patient safety and quality metrics.

Top executives will now report to both the hospital president and Johns Hopkins Health System leaders in Baltimore. And officials in Baltimore will be more involved in hiring, firing and discipline in St. Petersburg…

System leaders will analyze whether the same steps are needed at the five other Johns Hopkins hospitals, Sowers said.

Sowers said the firm discovered a culture of “fear of retaliation and retribution” across the hospital but determined that the quality and safety issues were limited to the heart unit…

Other recommendations addressed key findings in the Times report.

One example: The Times reported that procedures started going wrong after All Children’s became part of the Johns Hopkins network and hospital leaders made a series of personnel changes within the Heart Institute.

The firm recommended “more strategic planning” when changing clinical programs and more quality monitoring during transitions, especially for units that handle complex procedures.

It made the point bluntly: “In making personnel decisions, consider the effect on team dynamics.”..

As All Children’s carries out the policy changes, it will also work to address systemic problems flagged by the federal government. Hospital leaders recently agreed to hire an external consultant to oversee improvement for 12 months in order to maintain public funding.

Separately, a team of national experts has been working on a plan to restart the heart surgery program. Sowers said the team had drawn up recommendations and given them to the board. But he said he did not have a timeframe for surgeries beginning and that the program would first need to hire another surgeon.” (D)

“Children’s heart surgery departments across Florida will soon be subject to more oversight.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill late Tuesday that will let physician experts visit struggling programs and make recommendations for improvement…

The bill signed into law Tuesday makes significant changes.

It lets a committee called the Pediatric Cardiac Technical Advisory Panel appoint physician experts to visit Florida’s 10 children’s heart surgery programs. They will be able to examine surgical results, review death reports, inspect the facilities and interview employees.

Dr. David Nykanen, the chairman of the advisory panel and a pediatric cardiologist at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, called site visits “crucially important,” especially when departments are having problems.

He said visits could start within the next six months…

The hospital has not yet resumed heart surgeries. The results of a review commissioned by the Johns Hopkins Medicine board are expected soon.” (E)

“A state regulatory process that limited the number of hospitals and some specialty services like transplant programs are going away on July 1.

Despite attempts by two hospitals, Central Florida doesn’t have a pediatric heart transplant program. But that could change in the coming years because a state regulatory process that limited the number of hospitals and some specialty services like transplants is going away on July 1.

For nearly five decades, the program known as certificate of need has required hospitals to get authorization from the state before building new facilities or offering new or expanded services — a complicated process that’s costly, includes reams of paperwork and potential challenges from competitors, and can take months or years…

Starting July 1, general hospitals are no longer required to obtain a certificate of need to build a facility or to start services such as pediatric and adult open heart surgery, organ transplant programs, neonatal intensive care units and rehab programs…

The second part of the bill goes into effect on July 1, 2021, when the certificate of need requirement will be eliminated for certain specialty hospitals such as children’s and women’s hospitals, rehab hospitals, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals and hospitals that offer intensive residential treatment services for children.” (F)

“It’s unclear how long a state health department team will take to investigate questions raised in The New York Times about pediatric heart surgeries performed at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital in Chapel Hill.

State regulators were at the UNC Medical Center on Monday as part of an inquiry launched last week by Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services…

Cohen announced late last week that she had assembled a team from the state Division of Health Service Regulation, which licenses and oversees health care facilities, to “conduct a thorough investigation into these events.” They are coordinating with the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal oversight agency…

Kelly Haight Connor, a spokeswoman for the state health department, said Monday it’s difficult to know how long an investigation will take. In other DHHS investigations, a team often interviews a range of people, from caregivers, staff and those in their care.

Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health Care since December 2018 and dean of the UNC School of Medicine, sent a five-paragraph email to staff on May 30 at 10:16 a.m. and attached the Times’ article he described as “critical of UNC Medical Center’s pediatric congenital heart surgery program.”

 “While this program faced culture challenges in the 2016-2017 timeframe, we believe the Times’ criticism is overstated and does not consider the quality improvements we’ve made within this program over many years,” Burks wrote in the email. “As the State’s leading public hospital, UNC Medical Center often gets the most complex and serious cases in its pediatric congenital heart program. For many of these very sick children, we are often parents’ last hope…

On Monday, UNC Health Care spokesman Phil Bridges released a “timeline of Continuous Quality Improvement within the program over the past 10 years.”

The timeline mentions a four-month period from June to September in 2016 in which “concerns and allegations against specific individuals in the Congenital Heart Program” were “independently investigated and reviewed” by the dean’s office and the chief medical officer.

“Allegations of misconduct and concerns determined to be unfounded,” the document states, adding “allegations against specific individuals and results of the investigations constitute personnel records, which may not be disclosed,” citing public records law.

An ongoing initiative, according to the document, calls for a Department of Pediatrics review after every death in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, including pediatric cardiac patients, to assess the care provided and evaluate any opportunities for improvement.” (G)

“UNC Health Care officials announced Monday they are halting the most complex pediatric heart surgeries following a report that raised serious safety concerns over a number of child deaths at UNC Children’s Hospital…

Officials from UNC HealthCare said in a statement they plan to create an advisory board of external medical experts and “pause the most complex heart surgeries” until that board and regulatory agencies review the program.

The external advisory board, which is expected to have members from the University of Southern California, the University of Michigan, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, will examine the efficacy of the UNC Children’s Hospital pediatric heart surgery program and make recommendations for improvement. The group will report to the UNC Health Care Board of Directors.

UNC Healthcare officials said they are also developing a new structure to support internal hospital reporting and plan to publicly release Society for Thoracic Surgeons’ (STS) patient outcome data, make a $10 million investment in new technology and bring in new specialists as part of their efforts to “restore confidence” in its pediatric heart program.

“Our pediatric heart program cares for very sick children with incredibly complex medical problems, and our clinical team works tirelessly to help those patients return to normal, healthy and productive lives,” Wesley Burks, M.D., CEO of UNC Health Care said in a statement. “We grieve with families anytime there is a negative outcome and we constantly push to learn from those tragic instances.

UNC Health Care’s board also endorsed the creation of a pediatric heart surgery family advisory council to provide a voice for patients, family members and staff directly to hospital leadership…

Most recently, Johns Hopkins’ All Children’s Hospital came under fire for increasing mortality rates among heart surgery patients at the 259-bed hospital following a Tampa Bay Times investigation. Top leaders of that hospital ultimately resigned and Johns Hopkins’ board also said it commissioned an external review to examine the heart surgery program.

In 2015, St. Mary’s Medical Center in Florida closed it’s pediatric heart surgery program after a CNN investigation revealed it had a mortality rate of more than three times the national average. In 2009, Massachusetts General Hospital suspended its pediatric surgery program in the wake of surgical errors.” (H)

“The actions are in response to a New York Times investigation last month into the medical institution, where cardiologists, department leaders and even the former head of the children’s hospital expressed concerns about patients faring poorly after heart surgery there. Secret audio recordings provided to The Times captured doctors talking openly, some even saying they might not feel comfortable allowing their own children to have surgery at the hospital.

The Times sued for the program’s mortality data and was still in a yearlong legal battle to obtain it when UNC Health Care released previously undisclosed statistics on Monday. The data shows that the mortality rate for heart surgery patients continued to rise after doctors warned administrators several years ago of possible problems.

The data, for four years through December 2018, showed that the hospital’s mortality rate for pediatric heart surgery was higher than those of most of the 82 hospitals in the United States that publicly report such data. The death rate at the North Carolina hospital was especially high among children with the most complex heart conditions — nearly 50 percent, the data shows. Those are the types of cases that some doctors had urged the hospital to temporarily stop handling in 2016 and 2017.

UNC administrators previously denied that there were any problems affecting patient care in the heart surgery program, saying only that there had been difficult team dynamics at the time of the doctors’ warnings, and that they had since been resolved by staffing and leadership changes.

Concerns about the quality of pediatric heart surgery programs have been noted at hospitals across the country. At least five programs were suspended or shut down in the last decade after questions were raised about their performance. At least a half-dozen hospitals have merged their programs with larger ones to achieve more consistent results. And more institutions are considering such partnerships.

After the Times article was published, the North Carolina secretary of health opened an investigation into the children’s hospital. In addition to an on-site investigation that finished on Friday after more than two weeks, state regulators have reached out to former UNC medical staff, asking to meet and interview them about concerns they had while employed there.

A spokeswoman for the state health department said it would submit a report to federal regulators from The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services within 10 business days.

In the statistics released on Monday, UNC Health Care included for the first time the hospital’s risk-adjusted data. Risk-adjustment helps account for prematurity, some genetic abnormalities and other factors that could make a child less likely to survive, and to more fairly assess hospitals that take on the most compromised patients. The statistical method also helps evaluate if hospitals are losing patients who wouldn’t be expected to die.

The health system first told The Times it was “critically important” to use risk-adjusted data, but then later released only raw, unadjusted numbers. The hospital subsequently said that no current risk adjustment adequately accounted for the breadth and severity of its patients’ medical issues.

The hospital’s overall mortality rate for pediatric heart surgery in the four years ending in 2018 was 5.4 percent, compared with a national average of 2.8 percent. The hospital’s risk-adjusted mortality rate was 5.6 percent…” (I)

“UNC Children’s Hospital should merge its pediatric heart surgery program with the same work being done at Duke Health’s Children’s Hospital, just 10 miles away. A common program would greatly enhance the treatment of children and babies in need of complex heart surgery.

As it is, UNC Children’s does 100 to 150 pediatric heart surgeries a year, a rate considered low volume. That makes it harder to recruit and retain surgeons and limits surgeons ability to hone their skills. It also makes it harder to maintain the other parts of the program, cardiologists, anesthesiologists and staff for a pediatric heart intensive care unit.

East Carolina University’s hospital faced similar challenges as it provided pediatric heart surgery at a low-volume level of 50 to 75 surgeries a year. Eighteen months ago, ECU started sending all its pediatric heart surgery patients to Duke. The change helped boost Duke’s volume to where it has done more than 800 surgeries in 18 months. During the same period, Duke has posted a 1 percent mortality rate, despite a caseload in which a third of the operations are high risk.

Unfortunately, UNC Children’s Hospital appears uninterested in combining resources despite overtures from Duke. In a statement Thursday, the hospital said, “While there have been discussions with Duke Health over the years about ways to collaborate across various pediatric specialties, there are no plans to combine our programs. Patients in this region benefit from having two world-class medical institutions located so close together. Our clinicians frequently collaborate with colleagues at Duke. We sometimes transfer patients to them and vice versa.

UNC Children’s would prefer to run its own pediatric heart surgery program as a matter of institutional pride and money — the most complex operations can cost a half-million dollars. But pride and money aren’t — or shouldn’t be — the primary concerns. What matters most is how to get the best care for children in this highly specialized and high-stakes area of medicine. To do that, North Carolina’s best hospitals should combine their resources and expertise.” (J)

“Two Triangle hospitals showed up on the list of Best Children’s Hospitals from U.S. News & World Report released on June 18.

The report broke out 10 different pediatric specialties and ranked the top 50 hospitals in each. Duke Children’s Hospital & Health Center and the North Carolina Children’s Hospital at UNC were the lone Triangle representatives that ranked in the top 50 in any of the categories…

The only pediatric category where a Triangle hospital did not appear in the top 50 was cardiology & heart surgery.” (K)

U.S. News & World Report ranked Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital No. 44 out of 50 on the 2019-20 Best Children’s Hospitals list for the two programs.

“Our cancer and pulmonology specialists care for some of the region’s most medically complex children, and we are grateful for this recognition of their hard work,” interim hospital president Tom Kmetz said in the hospital’s blog.

The hospital received an overall score of 73.3 out of 100.” (L)

Johns Hopkins Children’s Center ranked ninth overall and No. 1 in Maryland in U.S. News & World Report’s annual list of the top-ranked children’s hospitals in the United States, which was released earlier today.

The Children’s Center also earned a spot on the U.S. News Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll, a list of the 10 pediatric hospitals with the highest point totals in the survey. This marks the Children’s Center’s eighth appearance since the Honor Roll was established 11 years ago…

Founded in 1912 as the Children’s Hospital at Johns Hopkins, the Children’s Center offers one of the nation’s most comprehensive pediatric medical programs, with almost 110,000 patient visits and nearly 9,000 admissions each year. With 295 beds, it is Maryland’s largest children’s hospital and is the only state-designated trauma service and burn unit for pediatric patients. Since 2012, the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center Building has been its home.” (M)

Typically, with complex medical procedures, outcomes are strongly correlated with volume. That means that if a program does more procedures, it has more expertise, the healthcare team has more experience working together — and as a result, patients have better results. Larger programs often have better equipment and more personnel. Sadly, the pediatric surgery program at North Carolina Children’s Hospital was a low-volume center…

Powerful forces stand in opposition to the closure of low-volume centers. Low-volume centers are attractive because they are geographically convenient; patients do not have to travel long distances for their care. Some insurance coverage is regionally-restricted, and families without resources are unable to access high-volume centers. Low-volume centers are often staffed by entrepreneurial physicians who don’t want restrictions on their right to practice medicine. And their goals are often closely aligned with those of local political officials, who would like to imagine that low-volume programs can replicate the results at large medical centers. Perhaps most importantly, hospital administrators at low-volume centers do not wish to see their revenues slashed — and their leadership positions eliminated.

So the problem of decentralized medicine and low-volume centers is getting worse, not better. To an increasing degree, a larger and larger proportion of specialized procedures in the United States are being done at low-volume centers…” (N)

“One in four hospitals that participate in The Leapfrog Group’s annual patient safety grades survey do not meet the national healthcare quality group’s standard for handling serious reportable events that should never happen to a patient.

Leapfrog’s 2019 Never Events Report is based on findings from its 2018 Leapfrog Hospital Survey with data voluntarily submitted by more than 2,000 U.S. hospitals. It is aimed at highlighting official hospital policies for responding to the 29 serious reportable events as identified by the National Quality Forum as never events.

Those events include errors and accidents that hospitals should always prevent, such as surgery on the wrong body part, foreign objects left in the body after surgery or death from a medication error…

The Leapfrog standard for hospital policies includes steps such as offering an apology to the patient, not charging for the event, conducting a comprehensive root cause analysis, reporting the event to appropriate officials and implementing a protocol to care for the caregivers involved.

“Patients and payors alike expect that 100% of hospitals will adhere to these basic principles, but unfortunately, we are not seeing that yet, with only 75% of reporting hospitals meeting Leapfrog’s standard,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, said in a statement.”..

In the report, released with the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, officials estimated that 160,000 people died from avoidable medical errors in 2018.” (O)

“Affiliation with a top-ranked cancer hospital appeared to offer no robust advantage for complex cancer surgery, a new study found…

“A favorable mix of hospital characteristics associated with safety at affiliate hospitals appeared to contribute to this mortality advantage,” they wrote in JAMA Oncology. “Thus, affiliate status appears to be a marker, but not a robust, independent predictor of favorable outcomes.”

For their study, the group examined cancer surgery outcomes at 338 hospitals affiliated with a top-50 cancer hospital and 2,729 hospitals that were not.

“This study helps to further our understanding of patient safety after major cancer surgery at hospitals affiliated with top-ranked cancer centers,” Lesly Dossett, MD, MPH, of the division of surgical oncology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told MedPage Today.

Dossett, who was not involved in the study, pointed to the important fact that the researchers compared outcomes at non-affiliated hospitals with the affiliates of top hospitals, rather than the flagship hospitals themselves.

“While the study does show that outcomes at affiliated centers are better than at non-affiliated centers, these differences are explained by other hospital characteristics known to be associated with patient safety,” Dossett said. “In the end, the study suggests that top-ranked hospitals selectively affiliate with safer hospitals, rather than having an independent effect on their outcomes.” (P)

“Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic has added Saudi German Hospital Cairo in Egypt to the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a select group of independent health systems that have access to Mayo Clinic’s knowledge and medical expertise.” (Q)

“The announcement Thursday that Jewish Hospital would suspend its heart transplant program was a blow to an institution that once led the nation as an esteemed leader in heart care and innovative medical procedures.

The decision directly affects 32 people on the hospital’s waiting list for new hearts. Once the program is halted next month, officials at Jewish Hospital are expected to help them transition to other transplant programs — and there’s only one other program for adults in the state at the University of Kentucky.

Jewish’s president Dr. Ronald Waldridge told staff on Thursday morning that patients who’ve already had transplants at the downtown Louisville hospital would continue to receive care, and that those who are awaiting the procedure would get help transitioning to another program.

“Though our heart transplant program will not be able to perform transplants or take new physician referrals, we will continue to provide physician coverage to manage care of our current heart transplant program patients,” Waldridge wrote, adding that as volumes of available hearts dropped, Jewish also lost heart transplant cardiologists…

KentuckyOne officials said Thursday that Jewish was in danger of falling out of compliance with federal regulations after its transplant numbers fell far short of required minimums — with just one procedure so far this year.

They blamed the drop on new rules that revised how donated organs are allocated nationwide and, as a result, delivered fewer hearts to Jewish starting last October.” (R)

From the Johns Hopkins Medicine Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality:

“If there was a wonder drug to save the lives of infants with serious heart abnormalities, doctors would be sure to prescribe it. Parents would insist that their children get it. The company that invented it would get rich.

But there already is something that can have as dramatic an impact on these young lives as a blockbuster pill: having complex heart surgery performed in a high-volume hospital.

Surgical volume — the number of certain procedures that a hospital performs each year — has far greater impact on whether these patients, most of whom are infants or children, survive than infection rates, readmissions or other publicly reported measures. As U.S. News’ Steve Sternberg reported, the risk of dying was 26 percent lower if a complex congenital heart operation was performed at a high-volume hospital rather than at low- and medium-volume hospitals. Yet, few parents know to ask about volumes, let alone know how to find and evaluate the data.” (S)

“The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) named Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital as a Magnet® designated hospital today. The recognition is considered the highest nursing honor a hospital can receive. There are only 498 Magnet hospitals across the world and fewer than eight percent of U.S. hospitals have received the designation.” (T)

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