Providence St. Vincent Receives Statewide Award for Work on Reducing Infections and Blood Clots

May 31, 2011

PORTLAND, Ore.  — Patients at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center are reaping the benefits of clinical staff determination and hard work – and that work has now been recognized with a statewide award.

The Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems has honored Providence St. Vincent by recognizing the medical center with the organization’s first ever Urban Quality Leadership Award. The honor is given to a hospital in an urban setting that demonstrates outstanding performance in overall quality, reliability and availability of care for all Oregonians.

The honor recognizes the work done to achieve a dramatic reduction in colorectal surgical site infections, general surgery blood clots and urinary tract infections over a two-year period. With staff developing and following focused plans, patients reaped the benefits of improved health and shorter hospital stays.

“Providence St. Vincent Medical Center was selected based on its ongoing commitment to delivering high quality care.  The infection reduction result is one to be modeled and demonstrated across the state,” said Diane Waldo, OAHHS director of quality and clinical services.

“We were able to accomplish these improvements at Providence St. Vincent because our clinical staff recognized we could, and must, do better for our patients,” explained Rick Waller, M.D., chief, division of surgery. “We came together as a team to identify where we could improve, and then figured out how we could achieve that goal for those we serve.”

Specifically, colorectal surgical site infections dropped by more than half to 11 percent, during the two years from 2008 to 2010. This is key, since surgical site infections can lead to prolonged hospital stays and additional surgeries, kidney failure or death. To reduce the infection rate, patients were educated and carefully screened before surgery. Every patient was evaluated to ensure they were up to surgery. They were also screened for diabetes, since patients with diabetes often are at greater risk for infection. Smokers also were counseled about the link of smoking to increased infections. After surgery, all patients were taught wound self-care.

During the same time frame Providence St. Vincent staff decreased the blood clot rate of general surgery patients from 1.24 percent to 0.42 percent. This is significant because nationally, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolus are responsible for nearly 100,000 deaths a year. To bring down the rate of blood clots, staff ensured patients confined to bed used compression devices on their legs that automatically expanded and contracted to ensure blood flow. In addition, blood thinners were ordered as a standard practice to reduce clots.

Additionally, in the same two-year window, staff reduced the rate of painful urinary tract infections from 1.75 percent to 0.99 percent. These infections often lead to longer hospital stays. Again, in this case, nurses were instrumental in monitoring patients and reminding physicians to remove catheters within 48 hours after surgery.

While many of the steps taken to reduce infections and blood clots seem simple, combined they have dramatically improved the health of individual patients and reduced hospital stays.

All of the data was documented by the American College of Surgeons, with infection rates compared between June 2008 and June 2010.