UW News

June 25, 2009

Hall Health wins Qualis Health Award of Excellence

By Steve Butler
News & Community Relations

Doing more with less seems to be the mantra of the day, and few in health care do that as well as the Hall Health Primary Care Center on the UW campus.

The clinic was honored earlier this month with the Qualis Health Award of Excellence in the category of “Doing More and Better with Less: Improving Efficiency and Effectiveness.” As one of seven health care organizations statewide to win an award of excellence, Hall Health was recognized for a new approach to treating patients with sore throats.

In a typical year, the clinic logs 45,000 visits — about 2,000 of which are for sore throats. Given that many patients are students with limited resources, doing more and better with less is important in all aspects of care.

“While the management of sore throats may seem like old news, one way to improve quality and often reduce costs is to look at common things from a different angle,” said Dr. David C. Dugdale, an internal medicine physician, School of Medicine faculty member and director of Hall Health.

Based on a set of recommendations issued by the Washington State Department of Health in 2007, the project team replaced throat cultures and double testing with new guidelines that detail when to do rapid strep antigen testing and, much less often, throat cultures. New guidelines were also established to standardize the initiation of antibiotic therapy and to make penicillin the drug of first choice for treating strep throat.

During a six-month evaluation period from July to December 2008, guideline use was associated with a reduced number of diagnostic tests per case, as well as a lower cost of diagnostic testing and treatment per case. It also had significant positive impacts on treatment utilization, such as antibiotic prescriptions. Equally important, the patients managed according to the guideline made fewer return visits.

In announcing the award, Qualis Health, a nonprofit health care quality improvement organization headquartered in Seattle, praised the winners for making significant contributions to health care through innovative, measurable improvements in care. The award winners also included Harborview Medical Center for a project using health information technology to reduce hospital-acquired pressure ulcers.

Hall Health serves nearly 30,000 students each year, along with faculty, staff and the general public. Services are offered in three primary care clinics (primary care, family health and women’s health) and four specialty care clinics (mental health, physical therapy, sports medicine and travel).

As an outpatient clinic for UW Medicine, the mission of Hall Health is to provide patients with high quality patient-centered health care. Providers are board-certified physicians and nurse practitioners, who hold faculty appointments at the UW School of Medicine. Of special value to busy patients is that same-day access to appointments is possible for about 80 percent of requests.

“For the clinic’s providers, the combination of high-patient volumes and excellent analytical technology through the electronic medical record makes Hall Health a vibrant and exciting place for quality improvement,” Dugdale said. In addition to the sore throat project, quality initiatives are under way in the areas of urinary tract infections, prevention of flu and pneumonia, breast and colon cancer screening, diabetes and vaccinations.

Looking ahead, Dugdale sees an opportunity to serve even more people from the University and general public when a planned renovation of the current facility is completed in 2011. In the meantime, he is pleased that thousands of current UW students and patients will continue to benefit from the focus on effectiveness and efficiency that is the hallmark of Hall Health.