Walla Walla General Hospital honored for pneumonia care

The hospital was recognized by a national nonprofit for its consistent, quality care.

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WALLA WALLA -- With its first-ever recognition of top-performing hospitals, The Joint Commission has named Walla Walla General Hospital in its national listing of facilities excelling in pneumonia care.

Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission reports annually on its evaluation of health care organizations in how those facilities provide safe and effective care of the highest quality and value.

The nonprofit accredits more than 19,000 facilities and programs -- all via voluntary participation -- in the U.S.

Its evaluations consider 22 evidence-based clinical processes shown to improve care for certain conditions, including heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care and children's asthma.

Walla Walla General Hospital is one of 405 U.S. hospitals earning the distinction of top achiever on key quality measures. Only five Washington hospitals were so recognized in the commission's performance report.

Some states had no such accolades, or only one hospital awarded, said Monty Knittel, president of WWGH, noting that having five in this state speaks well for the quality of care in Washington.

Reaching the necessary standard took a great deal of work from his staff, Knittel said.

That meant taking the 2006 standards set forth by The Joint Commission and building accountability and automated checklists into every action needed. "So it would carry on regardless of who was here," explained Teresa Price, director of quality care and risk management.

That included seemingly small things, such as putting icons on doctors' orders to indicate pneumonia care, steering physicians to prescribe certain antibiotics and remind them what needs to be done for that particular patient, she said.

Using evidence-based medicine means giving a flu vaccine to those at risk for pneumonia and placing red bands on patients to indicate blood had been drawn -- important to ensure the right antibiotic is prescribed, Price said. It might mean offering help to stop smoking to an at-risk patient, too.

Having the visual cues has helped providers better design orders to address the risk of pneumonia, said Jackie Fullerton, vice president of patient care.

"I think, in the old days, the doctors and nurses did this off the top of their heads," Knittel said. "This is hard wiring, being consistent, so that every patient gets the same level of care."

WWGH began implementing the recommended commission standards in January 2010, he added.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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