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Published on January 15, 2020

UNC Health Southeastern improves quality measures in COPD, ER

Jason Cox, Suzanne Jackson, and Sonja Hilburn

Recently released data about Southeastern Health’s Southeastern Regional Medical Center (SRMC) highlight impressive statistics in the areas of patient outcomes for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and in emergency department wait times.

“We’re very pleased to share these outstanding accomplishments in our quality measures,” said Vice President and SRMC Chief Operating Officer Jason Cox. “Through collaborative efforts with providers, staff, and the community, Southeastern Health is continuously striving to ensure that our patients receive efficient, high-quality care.”

According to a report released Jan. 1, by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), SRMC outperformed the national rate for COPD mortality rates, and was the only hospital in the state to do so. This is the second year running that SRMC has had that distinction.

The report, which covers hospital patient visits between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2018, showed SRMC’s Risk-Standardized Mortality Rate for COPD patients within 30 days of discharge at 6.5 percent. The national average is 8.5 percent, and the state average is 9 percent.

UNC Health Southeastern’s Director of Care Management Suzanne Jackson said COPD patients are cared for by a physician-led interdisciplinary team that maximizes the system’s resources for each patient.

“Everyone is working in conjunction with the discharge planners to ensure that discharge planning is appropriate and using all the available resources, such as the pulmonary clinic, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation, the clinical team, respiratory therapy, and the primary care physician’s office,” Jackson said. “Because of the electronic health record system Epic, the team is able to communicate from an acute and post-acute setting throughout the system. These things combine to reduce repeated COPD admissions to the hospital.”

Another section of the CMS report showed that SRMC’s emergency department admitted patients an average of 47 minutes faster than the national rate for “very high volume” emergency departments, which was 139 minutes. The hospital’s 92-minute average was also significantly faster than the state rate of 140 minutes. “Very high volume” emergency departments see more than 60,000 patients a year.

According to UNC Health Southeastern’s Emergency Services Director Sonja Hilburn, SRMC’s ER saw more than 66,000 patients last year.

“Our staff works very hard to put patients front and center in everything we do,” Hilburn said. “Listening to patients’ feedback along with staff’s relentless commitment to excellence resulted in these incredible improvements. For instance, one of the more impactful ways we are doing this in the Emergency Department is the ‘direct bedding’ initiative, which allows staff to take patients to any ED bed that’s open and available without delays in triage. Additionally, providers see patients and implement protocols in our triage rooms when emergency room beds are full, to decrease wait time once a bed does become available.”