VCU Medical Center wins prestigious national top honor for safety and quality

VCU Medical Center wins prestigious national top honor for safety and quality

The American Hospital Association today recognized Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center with its top honor for leadership and innovation in safety and quality improvement.

VCU Medical Center was selected as the 2014 recipient of the AHA–McKesson Quest for Quality Prize® in part because of training that resulted in a 50 percent reduction in serious safety hospital events, an electronic early warning system that alerts caregivers in real time of a patient’s declining health status and a community clinic that has enhanced care management and care coordination for the sickest, poorest patients.

VCU Medical Center, an urban academic research medical center in Richmond, was selected by a multi-disciplinary committee of health care quality and patient safety experts based on its sustainable and widely adopted approach to achieve the Institute of Medicine’s six quality aims for safe, effective, efficient, timely, patient-centered and equitable health care.

“We are humbled and honored by this recognition because it affirms that we are among the best of the very best in the nation,” said John Duval, CEO of MCV Hospitals. “It is because of the dedication and hard work of our more than 10,000 alert and concerned team members that we have had such success in keeping our patients from encountering preventable harm.”

The AHA selection committee noted how VCU Medical Center physicians and staff across all elements of the organization demonstrated a laser-sharp focus on high reliability practices and a relentless dedication to ensuring the safety of patients, staff and visitors.

Sheldon Retchin, M.D., CEO of the VCU Health System and senior vice president for Health Sciences at VCU, said that to achieve the highest quality, an organization must foster a culture of high reliability across all team members, from the physicians and nurses to the pharmacists and therapists to the environmental care workers.

“We decided that as an academic medical center, we could not only set a new standard of excellence for safety and quality, but we could lead the nation in terms of teaching the next generation of health care professionals the behaviors and work processes that are necessary for safety and quality,” Retchin said.

In 2008, the medical center developed “Safety First, Every Day,” a mantra to support the goal of becoming America’s safest health system, through reaching zero events of preventable harm to patients, team members and visitors. Since the initiative’s inception, more than 12,000 team members have been trained in safe behaviors and error-prevention tools, and the hospital has seen a 50 percent reduction in serious safety events.

In 2012, VCU Medical Center created a customized early warning system that pulls data from more than 650 patients’ electronic records to alert providers to potential changes in their conditions. The system empowers the medical center’s Rapid Response Team, a team with clinicians who are in the hospital 24/7, to effectively triage and visit the most critically ill patients before their conditions deteriorate.

And as part of its robust community outreach, VCU Medical Center’s Virginia Coordinated Care program established the Complex Care Clinic in 2011 to improve the quality of care and to decrease the costs associated with the sickest patients, who often have financial, social and other barriers to accessing care. In its first year, the clinic achieved a 44 percent decline in inpatient admissions, a 38 percent decrease in emergency department use and a 49 percent reduction in total hospital costs. This resulted in a total cost savings of $4 million and an average annual cost savings of $10,769 per patient.

“The McKesson Award is a great honor and is evidence of our commitment to ensuring that every patient at VCU Medical Center will receive medical care that is world class and focused on safety and quality,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “I am so pleased and proud of my colleagues across VCU Medical Center who have made a real investment in and dedicated themselves to the safety and dignity of all our patients.”

Last year, the health system hired its first chief safety and quality officer, Gene N. Peterson, M.D., Ph.D., who also serves as associate dean for patient safety and quality care in the VCU School of Medicine. As an integral part of the leadership team, he is charged with taking the medical center to new levels of safety, quality, graduate medical education and curriculum design that crosses all clinical disciplines.

In addition to VCU’s top honor, there was a finalist, Carolinas Medical Center in Concord, N.C., as well as three organizations that received the Citation of Merit, including the Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center, Charleston, S.C.; the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics, Madison, Wis.; and Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, Indianapolis.

The AHA-McKesson Quest for Quality Prize is presented annually and is supported by a grant from the McKesson Corporation. This year’s awardees will be recognized on July 20 at the Health Forum and American Hospital Association Leadership Summit in San Diego.

For more information on VCU Medical Center's safety and quality initiatives, visit

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see

About the AHA

The AHA is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the improvement of health in their communities. The AHA is the national advocate for its members, which include nearly 5,000 hospitals, health care systems, networks and other providers of care. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information visit the Web site at

About McKesson Corporation

McKesson Corporation, currently ranked 14th on the FORTUNE 500, is a healthcare services and information technology company dedicated to making the business of healthcare run better. We partner with payers, hospitals, physician offices, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies and others across the spectrum of care to build healthier organizations that deliver better care to patients in every setting. McKesson helps its customers improve their financial, operational, and clinical performance with solutions that include pharmaceutical and medical-surgical supply management, healthcare information technology, and business and clinical services. For more information, visit or