Demonstrating quality and cost savings important

By Cheryle Mitvalksy / Guest Column

When Mercy Medical Center President and CEO Tim Charles offered me the opportunity to author a health care column on the topic of quality, I immediately said yes. As the chair of Mercy Medical Center’s Board of Trustees as well as chairperson of its Quality and Patient Safety Committee – and as a health care consumer – I strongly believe in the importance of transparent, easy-to-access information about safe, high-quality care.

Between costs and coverage, measuring medical outcomes and weighing different care environments, patients often find themselves mired in unknowns, unsure of the right and most affordable choices to meet their needs.

The board understands this because we’re all patients, too, and we hold quality, safety and patient satisfaction as top priorities. Each meeting opens with a thorough review of Quality and Patient Safety Committee initiatives along with the hospital’s dashboard, a report that tracks health care metrics and offers insights into opportunities to advance care.

Through implementing initiatives that reduce the length of hospital stays and by following best practices that lower hospital readmission rates, patients are happy to return home sooner while health care costs are lowered. There’s a correlation between excellent quality and patient satisfaction, and identifying care efficiencies results in lower costs without sacrificing outstanding service.

We know the public deserves to receive the best care by the best providers resulting in their best health at the best value, a concept derived from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Quadruple Aim which acts as a roadmap for carrying out patient-centered plans. Because we’re all businesspeople, we also know company leaders are continually examining new ideas and resources as they look to save insurance costs, boost employee productivity, reduce absences and improve the overall well-being of their workforce.

From the board’s commitment to these aspects and more, Mercy Medical Center and MercyCare clinics published its first Quality Report in 2012 as a repository of easily understood clinical data. Six years later, the annual Quality Report continues to demonstrate the role of high-quality health care and lower costs. It’s a report we hope offers health care consumers a clear, accessible resource explaining measures of care to help patients gauge outcomes in relation to their individual health care needs.

At the same time, we hope business leaders will find interest in the innovative, cost-saving initiatives highlighted within its pages. One of those initiatives, MercyCare Match, is a component new to MercyCare Business Health Solutions (BHS) in 2017. Through a wide scope of services, BHS helps organizations act on opportunities to empower employees to lead healthier lives, thus saving insurance costs while encouraging a happier, healthier workforce.

The new MercyCare Match tool helps companies connect staff to a family doctor. This is especially beneficial for newly hired employees relocating to Eastern Iowa or established employees who need to build a medical home by obtaining a primary care provider, which is an important first step in fostering good health.

Another opportunity for bettering employee health covered in this year’s report was the launch of mental health counseling sessions via video visits. Mental fatigue can adversely affect job performance just as frequently as physical ailments. For staff who have a difficult time breaking away from the busy work day to attend an in-person therapy session, Mercy’s Employee Assistance Program began piloting a convenient video-visit option that allows an employee to connect with their counselor through the MyChart app on a smartphone or tablet – a telehealth visit to help our community’s workers overcome emotional and mental health concerns, resulting in better overall health and a more productive work environment.

This is just a snapshot of diverse quality care initiatives at work to improve the health of Eastern Iowans. I invite readers to view Mercy’s Quality Report at and consider how transparent and accessible quality information can help improve overall health and an employer’s bottom line.

Cheryle Mitvalksy is chair of the Mercy Medical Center Board of Trustees.