Studies show possibility of improving healthcare by tackling problem in standardized way

Published on December 1, 2012 at 1:40 AM · No Comments

A series of studies directed by Intermountain Healthcare's Oncology Clinical Program shows that it's possible to improve care across the board if you tackle the problem in a standardized way, relying on the best evidence available

Given the right equipment, training and skill, an individual surgeon can expect to provide the best possible care on a consistent basis. But how do you get an entire system of surgeons - each with his or her own ideas, backgrounds, and routines - to provide that same level of care?

A series of studies directed by Intermountain Healthcare's Oncology Clinical Program shows that it's possible to improve care across the board if you tackle the problem in a standardized way, relying on the best evidence available.

"It sounds simple, but it's really very difficult," said John C. Ruckdeschel, MD, Medical Director of Intermountain's Oncology Clinical Program. "We've shown that with the right approach, we can make meaningful improvements in patient care, even across a very large and complicated hospital system."

The Intermountain team will present their findings at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's first-ever Quality Care Symposium, Nov. 30-Dec. 1, in San Diego.

The Oncology Clinical Program launched a project to improve care for breast cancer patients at all of Intermountain Healthcare's 22 hospitals. The effort took aim at a common problem in medicine: variation. For example, if two identical patients seek treatment from two different physicians, they may get two entirely different treatment approaches and outcomes.

The Intermountain cancer research team did a thorough review of the best scientific literature and national guidelines, developed a clinical score card for physicians to follow and made sure the doctors had access to the right equipment and resources. They did not remove a physician's ability to make decisions about patient care, but rather provided the richest tools with which to make the decision.

Almost a decade after the project began, care has improved across the system. Two examples:

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