On Oct. 20, 1958, the UF Teaching Hospital officially opened its doors to patients in the Gainesville community. Since then, it has evolved into a hospital system at the hub of UF Health, which is the Southeast’s most comprehensive academic health center, with campuses in Gainesville and Jacksonville.
During the past 60 years, we have been fortunate enough to open multiple specialty hospitals, primary care and specialty medical practices and expand our reach, providing highly specialized and complex care. There have been many changes since we first opened in 1958, but the one thing that has stayed consistent is our goal to provide the highest level of clinical care and the best possible patient experience. At UF Health, Quality is Job 1, and it will continue to be Job 1 for the next 60 years to come. We have continually seen clinical quality measures, such as infection rates, drop every year and our mortality rates are now among the lowest in the U.S. These and other indicators show that we are making great strides in improving patient safety.
My career with UF Health only encompasses 22 of those 60 years. I came here in 1996 as an intern, and what a different world that was. For physicians, paper was our way of life — we relied heavily on it. That is where we kept track of medications our patients were taking. Our pharmacy department had a computer system database with alerting capabilities to prevent dispensing errors, but there were no electronic alerts to prescribers or nurses. At the bedside, physicians and nurses relied upon the patient, a family member or a pharmacist to alert us about potential life-threatening allergies. There was very little clinical decision support to guide or change a prescribing decision. Medication administration records were handwritten. Rounds were the most important event where we were taught and guided how to change medications and potential side effects.
Today? We are lucky to have the technology we have to help guide medication safety and have processes in place to ensure the protection of our patients when prescribing medications.
It is important to reflect on the incredible progress UF Health has made since 1958 when it comes to patient safety and quality. Progress can be defined as a forward or onward movement. When looking back at single moments that had great impact on our system as a whole and how we have moved medicine forward, it is important to remember our quality and safety program’s namesake, Sebastian Ferrero. This experience led to a powerful demonstration of transparency by our hospital and college leadership. We were even more committed to changing safety systems for the better. Anybody who walks through the Sebastian Ferrero Atrium in the children’s hospital and passes by the “Tomorrow” sculpture should be reminded by this intentional symbol that a lot of important change came from what happened in one tragic event. We moved forward with a recommitment to safety and quality as we strive to ensure our patients are protected from harm.
Looking forward to the next 60 years — and beyond — we must be ready to face any future challenge and become top performers in quality and patient safety. We must proceed as innovators of safe and consistent quality care. Focusing on the patient experience with not only innovation, but also standardization of best practice, will help us achieve these goals.
We must recognize quality and patient safety as essential components to a hospital’s reputation in conjunction with great service and even greater people. Ultimately and rightly, we are judged by the quality care we provide.
Thank you for your commitment to quality and safety at UF Health.