CareOregon’s Releasing Time to Care

October 1 was a big date for health care reform: At the start of this month, several provisions of the health care law took effect, including two Medicare programs that are designed to improve the quality of medical care by leveraging the federal program’s financial resources – quality-adjusted hospital reimbursements and the hospital readmissions reduction program.  October 1 was also the target date for submitting a list of essential health benefits for the upcoming state insurance exchanges to the federal government.

Independent of these deadlines, ACHP member plans have been assiduously contributing to the nationwide effort to improve the quality of care, safety and efficiency. We recently spoke with CareOregon about their innovative nursing and hospital support program, which underwent significant expansion in September.

The Releasing Time to Care (RT2C) methodology was developed by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service in 2007. Designed by nurses to help hospital nursing staff increase the time available for direct patient care, RT2C applies Lean methodology to the particular needs of nurses and hospital staff.

At the core of RT2C are three foundational modules – Knowing How We’re Doing, the Well-Organized Ward and Patient Status at a Glance – which lay a framework to help nurses collaborate, conduct ward assessments based on quality metrics, keep organized and track patient status. An additional eight process modules focus on core ward processes; they include, among other things, admission, observation, shift handoffs and medication administration.

Seeing an opportunity to catalyze hospital transformation in Oregon, in July 2010, CareOregon funded the first year of training in this methodology for four hospitals; last month, RT2C was expanded to an additional 13 hospitals, speaking to the program’s efficacy. RT2C is implemented unit by unit in a hospital by the frontline staff, engaging and empowering nurses to lead the way to change.

Amidst this wave of program expansion, the health plan continues to stress collaboration and networking among the participating hospitals. Dave Ford, president and CEO of CareOregon, remarks that the health plan plays a valuable role in building relationships with many entities, allowing cooperation in facing shared issues of financial strain.

“The learning that is being shared among the hospitals is really incredible,” states CareOregon Governance and Business Development Manager Barbara Kohnen. “This shared learning will help all the hospitals in the state become better in every way—including having a happier and more empowered staff.” Indeed, nurses have responded well to the program, which allows them to spend more time with patients and improve the quality of their care.

RT2C has “helped us refocus on why we come to work every day,” affirms St. Charles Health System Chief Nursing Executive and Vice President for Quality Pam Steinke (St. Charles Health System is a participating hospital). “My personal belief is that if I can help make my organization the best place to be a nurse, it will also be the best place of all to be a patient.”

For more information on numerous other case studies featuring the work of our member plans, please browse our website. A full-length case study on CareOregon’s experience with RT2C will be coming soon.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.