Utah health care provider truly world class

By Shahab Saeed

On the list of overused phrases, "world class" is near the top. Which begs the question: When is "world class" actually world class? I found an answer – halfway around the globe.

I Med Tower
This article was originally posted as an Opt-ed with the Salt Lake Tribune

Three weeks ago, I was in Doha, Qatar, to deliver a presentation on leadership at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Middle East Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare. The conference brought together 3,000 people from the medical field – doctors, nurses, administrators and staff – to talk about ways to improve healthcare throughout the Middle East. And while my remarks were well-received, that was not the highlight of my time at the conference.

Instead, the most memorable event came midway through comments by Dr. Abdullah Al-Ansari, a surgeon and deputy chief of medical academic and research affairs for surgical services, who was introducing one the speakers. As I was sitting in the audience with representatives from about 70 nations around the globe, Dr. Al-Ansari named the three healthcare providers he believes are the best in the world. One of the three was Intermountain Healthcare.

The mention of Utah’s own Intermountain was a great source of pride and joy not only because I serve as an Intermountain trustee, but because sitting in a conference center on the Arabian Peninsula I didn’t really expect many to know where Salt Lake City was located, let alone be familiar with Intermountain’s leadership role in the broader healthcare universe.

Clearly, Intermountain Healthcare’s reputation for quality and life-improving outcomes is a secret no longer. Nor is its ability to deliver these outstanding outcomes at costs among the lowest in the nation. The Utah Legislature, in a citation honoring Intermountain this year, estimated a remarkable 40 percent reduction in U.S. Medicare expenditures if other hospitals nationwide delivered healthcare the way Intermountain does. It was gratifying to see our legislature recognize all of Intermountain professionals for their unwavering commitment to "Extraordinary Care in All Its dimensions."

That pursuit of excellence is embodied in Intermountain’s Institute for Health Care Delivery Research, which has been working toward the mission of improving quality in healthcare since 1990. Over 5,000 professionals from around the world have come to Salt Lake over the years to complete its Advanced Training Program. I met a number of them in Doha. When I introduced myself, they would say: "You are Brent’s people." "Yes I am," was my response.

They were referring to Dr. Brent James, Intermountain’s Chief Quality Officer. For many years now, health professionals in the United States have been aware of Dr. James and Intermountain’s institute. In a 2009 New York Times story, the CEO of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was quoted as saying for anybody interested in improving the quality of health care, the Institute’s Advanced Training Program is "the equivalent of Harvard."

But back to my original point: To a person, the leaders at Intermountain with whom I have shared my story from Doha first say, "Thank you," followed immediately by words like, "We have a lot more room to improve." Evidently, the people behind world-class organizations are humble and never lose sight of their mission to continuously improve.

We Utahns are truly fortunate to have this world-class group of caring professionals looking after our health and well-being.

I think my use of "world class" in this instance is utterly appropriate.