Public Release: 

Northwestern Memorial Hospital honored with one of the nation's top awards for quality

Northwestern Memorial HealthCare

CHICAGO - One of the nation's preeminent symbols of quality in health care - the 2005 National Quality Health Care Award - was bestowed upon Northwestern Memorial Hospital. The award is presented annually by the National Committee for Quality Health Care (NCQHC) with corporate sponsorship from the Cardinal Health Foundation and with legacy partner Modern Healthcare magazine.

Established in 1994, NCQHC's National Quality Health Care Award is presented to a healthcare provider which demonstrates outstanding programs to improve quality, embraces innovation and forward thinking, and establishes ways to measure and evaluate those processes to benefit the community. The award is the oldest and one of the most prestigious health quality awards in the United States.

"We are honored to receive this award. It provides validation that we are making significant strides toward our goal of providing the best and safest care for our patients," said Gary A. Mecklenburg, president and chief executive officer, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, Northwestern Memorial Hospital's parent company. "This recognition is very special to us as it comes from an organization comprised of providers and other healthcare industry leaders. None of this would be possible without the support and involvement of our board of directors, medical staff, employees and every member of the Northwestern Memorial family," added Mecklenburg.

"The jury, chaired by NCQHC board member Ken Samet, president and chief operating officer of Medstar Health, was impressed with Northwestern Memorial Hospital's strong commitment to guaranteeing that quality is central to healthcare delivery. NCQHC's National Quality Health Care Award honors Northwestern Memorial's executive leadership and staff for their exceptional efforts in the quality healthcare field to ensure patient centered practices, innovative use of new and emerging technologies, and continuous efforts to maintain financial strength." said Catherine E. McDermott, NCQHC's president and CEO.

"We see quality as extending beyond outcomes to include such things as how somebody answers the phone to how the patient is greeted when the food tray is delivered to their bedside," said Dean M. Harrison, president and chief executive officer, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "Quality is integral to everything we do at Northwestern Memorial and being able to measure it at all levels is a powerful tool," And we're doing it in a way that is non-punitive, collaborative and hopefully, very engaging."

Northwestern Memorial's recent accomplishments that were considered during the selection process included the successful integration of a process improvement program using industry-leading methodology from Six Sigma, DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control). More than 500 employees have served on project teams which have implemented more than 40 improvement initiatives ranging from clinical programs, transportation services and bed management to financial reporting. In addition, Northwestern Memorial continues to develop and refine its comprehensive clinical information system to improve quality and patient safety by implementing an electronic health record (EHR). During fiscal year 2004, 78 percent of all inpatients had medication administration documented online and 94 percent of Internal Medicine inpatients had the EHR available.

In 2004, Northwestern Memorial also began implementing computerized provider order entry (CPOE) to help ensure effective treatment based on clinical evidence, to improve patient outcomes and to enhance availability of clinical information across a broad network of care providers. By this spring, Northwestern Memorial will have achieved the Leapfrog Standard, which ensures that physicians enter at least 75 percent of medication orders online. Currently, fewer than 3 percent of hospitals nationwide have achieved this standard. Northwestern Memorial is also a national leader in using bar coding and robotic technology for specimen processing. Nearly three million laboratory tests are processed annually at Northwestern Memorial, and use of this technology has reduced result turnaround time by 32 percent, while also increasing accuracy and reducing costs.

"There is no one silver bullet for quality improvement in healthcare," says Julie Creamer, vice president, Operations and Quality, Northwestern Memorial. "However, if there is one strategy that is critical to success, it is clinical information technology. The EHR, which makes information accessible to all the caregivers real-time and provides rules and decision support to clinicians as they're making decisions, is a very powerful tool in ensuring patient safety and quality."

"As technology and medicine continue to evolve, so will Northwestern Memorial Hospital," says Harrison. "While we're extremely proud of this award and the progress it symbolizes, we know this recognition is a milestone on a journey and our goal is for Northwestern Memorial to continue to be at the forefront in our industry for quality initiatives."

Harrison will accept the award on March 10, 2005, at a dinner and reception at NCQHC's annual conference in Washington, D.C.


About Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Northwestern Memorial Hospital is one of the country's premier academic medical centers and is the primary teaching hospital of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. Northwestern Memorial and its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry have 744 beds and more than 1,200 affiliated physicians and 5,000 employees. Providing state-of-the-art care, Northwestern Memorial Hospital is recognized for its outstanding clinical and surgical advancements in such areas as cardiothoracic and vascular care, gastroenterology, neurology and neurosurgery, oncology, organ and bone marrow transplantation, and women's health.

Northwestern Memorial was ranked as the nation's 5th best hospital by the 2002 Consumer Checkbook survey of the nation's physicians and is listed in the majority of specialties in this year's US News & World Report's issue of "America's Best Hospitals." The hospital is also cited as one of the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" by Working Mother magazine and has been chosen by Chicagoans year after year as their "most preferred hospital" in National Research Corporation's annual survey.

About The National Committee for Quality Health Care
NCQHC is an independent, national, 501(c)3 organization dedicated to ensuring that quality is the cornerstone of health care delivery for all. With a unique membership comprised of the top thought-leaders from all sectors of the quality healthcare industry, NCQHC provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and expertise, and works to build constructive cross-industry solutions to the complex challenges of quality health care delivery. Additional information on NCQHC, its activities and membership, can be found at

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