Thomas Talks: Focus on quality shines national spotlight on Methodist Healthcare Ministries

By George Thomas, chief operating officer

As Chief Operating Officer at Methodist Healthcare Ministries, preparing for the new year means looking at the closing year to evaluate the degree to which the organization's operations achieved the objectives set by our board of directors and what processes are needed to achieve our goals or build upon them moving forward. As they say, "Hindsight is 20/20." There is always more we can do to improve—especially when I think about the lives this organization touches. We must constantly challenge ourselves to ask: "What can we do better, more efficiently, or in a way that more people can be served?" and "How can we be sure we are making a measurable, positive impact in our patients' health outcomes?" I know every team member at Methodist Healthcare Ministries is driven by the desire to do more for our patients; to make our communities healthier. It's why we invest so heavily in our performance management systems and utilize evidence-based models of care to ensure we offer the highest degree of quality in our programs and services. That investment and focus on quality is why Methodist Healthcare Ministries recently captured the attention of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) – the lead federal agency charged with improving the safety and quality of America's health care system. AHRQ recently featured Methodist Healthcare Ministries' Wesley Health & Wellness Center in San Antonio as part of their New Models of Primary Care Workforce and Financing study which examines the workforce that is needed to deliver fully comprehensive, high-quality primary care across the United States.

They visited with us in April to get a full view of our model of care, including our staffing structure and how it influences patient care. We spoke on how motivational interviewing training for our teams helps us to facilitate personal growth and behavior change in our patients/clients. And, we talked about how de-escalation education helps to provide our clinicians and front line staff with techniques to prevent the intensification of risky or potentially harmful situations. Their focus and interest centered on how we create and maintain an integrated care model, with consideration to the social determinants of health and how our holistic programming influences our patients' outcomes.

We also explored how morning huddles keep our interdisciplinary team on the same page, how rounding gives us consistent and steady feedback, and spoke to the importance of co-location – all being under the same roof.

Beyond in-person and inter-care collaboration, we highlighted how internal electronic health records, and our involvement in a citywide health information exchange network, help to keep clinicians well informed of patient history and better manage care. We explained how warm handoffs between our medical, dental and behavioral health team help us to build trust with our patients while providing comprehensive care, and how to meet the cultural needs of our patient population. And, of course, we stressed the high value we place on training and professional development as part of continuous quality improvement.

Hindsight is indeed 20/20. Looking back at these last few years, and seeing the culmination of all the organization's hard work being reflected in the AHRQ study, gives me great pride and motivates me to do more for our patients and clients. From the provision of services to those we fund through partnerships, this organization has made great strides in creating access to quality care for our patients, but also helping them to achieve better health outcomes. Above all, I am proud of the dedication and hard work our team puts into bringing life to our mission of "Serving Humanity to Honor God."