What is our Quality Department?

by Mary Rains

Mille Lacs Health System

You go to a hospital or clinic, emergency room or urgent care, and you see the nurses and medical providers, and you may notice the system around you that’s in charge of making sure you get the care you need. But what you may not know is, there’s a department that you don’t see, which also cares about what kind of services you get, and that’s the Quality Department.

Oct. 21-27 was Healthcare Quality Week, and though it doesn’t get a lot of press or fanfare, this department At Mille Lacs Health System functions to make sure the kind of patient encounters across all the touchpoints of care is the best possible.

The behind-the-scenes work is critical for improving patient outcomes, increasing efficiencies, and improving safety. How this translates to patients is that continuous improvement initiatives are consistently being developed and evaluated to keep patients safe and to limit risks.

Quality professionals are one of the keys to a healthcare system’s success. For instance, the MLHS Quality Department helps drive such things as improving the time interval between when a patient comes in to the ER with a possible heart or stroke issue and when they get critical assessments (tests) done. Also on the radar is a patient communications training program which is a framework for staff to communicate more thoroughly with patients and their families, as well as with each other.

MLHS Quality isn’t so much a department as it is a way to create meaningful and sustainable progress, setting goals at every level, and with a shared interest in constantly making things better. Patients who come to MLHS are often sent surveys after they’re seen in the clinic, hospital, and at other places within the healthcare system, and patients can help with improvement by filling these out and sending them in.

“Achieving excellence is everyone’s goal here, from the person who answers your phone call to the people doing your surgery,” said Greg Larson, Quality Manager at MLHS. “Of course we comply with directives that come from external reviews and the agencies who accredit us, but it’s more about making change and getting results that we can measure. It’s important to focus on systems and ways to analyze and improve. Our patients come here to stay healthy, and to get better when they’re sick, so we need a system to determine how well we’re doing and where we need to grow.”