Ascension's Dr. Richard Fogel: Putting quality first

Ascension's commitment to consistently improving the quality and safety of the care we deliver is part of the fabric of our healing ministry. It's who we are. It's what we do. And it's what we've done for decades. A recent New York Times article has attempted to call that commitment into question. 

As someone who has dedicated more than 30 years to Ascension, now serving as Chief Clinical Officer for our 19-state faith-based healthcare organization, I want to set the record straight. And as a practicing staff cardiologist and electrophysiologist who recognizes the criticality of listening and reliable data, I want to share the facts and context that were largely misconstrued by The Times.

Facts don't lie. Through putting our patients and providers first; finding innovative solutions for staffing; and maintaining our consistent, system-led approach to quality and safety, we remained consistently strong during the pandemic in terms of our clinical outcomes: 

  • The fact is our risk-adjusted in-hospital mortality rate over the past 12 months is 15 percent better than the national comparator group.
  • The fact is our system-wide risk-adjusted readmission rate is 6 percent lower (better) than the national average.
  • The fact is central line associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) over the past 12 months, a measure of acute care quality, are 21 percent lower than the 2021 national performance reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • The fact is our catheter associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), another indicator of quality, are 32 percent lower than the national performance over the same period. Our rate actually improved during the pandemic.
  • And the fact is our pressure ulcer complication rates have been well below the national average and are currently 36 percent below the national average rate.

These facts only scratch the surface and serve as examples of the myriad quality and safety outcomes our clinicians achieve every day.

These figures attest to the quality and safety of the care provided by our providers; yet they also speak to our multidisciplinary approach and the interdependent bond shared by our nursing colleagues and support staff as we work together to deliver the right care at the right place at the right time. Our successful outcomes speak volumes about the quality care our nurses and nursing support professionals deliver day in and day out. We are so proud of them and their dedication. 

As another way to document excellence, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Star Program benchmarks performance across five domains of quality, safety and patient experience. It's the most sophisticated and comprehensive integrated measure of hospital quality in the United States. Ascension hospitals perform better than other hospitals nationally on average, with fewer 1- and 2-star facilities and more 3- and 4-star facilities than the national average. Ascension also has one of the top performing healthcare facilities in the United States, the Ascension St. Vincent Heart Center in Indianapolis, where I happen to be privileged to serve on staff.

I must admit, it's not only our impressive outcomes that has kept me at Ascension all these years. The reason I continue my calling at Ascension, and why people should continue to come to us for care, ties back to our Mission. Our Mission — our reason behind what we do and why we do it with the utmost care — is all about delivering personalized, compassionate, coordinated care to those who need it most. At Ascension, we touch those whom others may disregard; we meet the marginalized; we are present in the pain of illness and poverty. It's what we're called to do. And that's a fact. 

Click here to read and a much more thorough description of our quality, safety and commitment to our caregivers.   

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