Last August, 71 percent of front line caregivers at the University of Mississippi Medical Center were observed complying with the established hand hygiene routine, a 17 percent increase from the previous year. Today, UMMC reports a 76 percent compliance rate.

But the 2016 year-end goal was no less than 80 percent.

UMMC models a hand washing routine after the Targeted Solutions Tool, an innovative application that guides healthcare organizations to overcome barriers within their facilities.

According to Targeted Solutions Tool data, implementation of certain strategies such as hand hygiene can prevent at least 130 different hospital acquired infections, the mortality rate will decrease and the hospital will save at least $2.3 million in direct medical costs.

Three months ago, Dr. Michael Henderson, chief medical officer at UMMC, told Mississippi Today that the medical center received a F-rating in 2015 by The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit independent organization that reports annual hospital safety scores for adult and pediatric general acute-care hospitals in the United States.

An alarmingly high number of hospital acquired infections were reported at UMMC’s neonatal intensive care nursery in 2015 prior to the Leapfrog report.

Since then, the center has taken a high reliability approach involving patients and employees. In 2017, more engagement is expected from the governing board.

“We all know the Leapfrog story. They look at patient safety and new metrics, but some oversight and some expectation from the board is important as well,” Henderson told the Institutions of Higher Learning health affairs committee on Wednesday.

“The leadership helps set the metrics and provides the support.  Engaging leadership of the board is important because healthcare keeps changing. We all have to remain up to speed with it,” Henderson said.

Two areas that did not increase in quality were the 30-day re-admittance rate and the hospital acquired infection rate. Disappointed, Henderson charged UMMC to do “the work” in order to make the significant progress needed to improve patient quality.

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Ashley F. G. Norwood, a native of Jackson, earned a bachelor's degree in English from Jackson State University and a master’s degree from the Meek School of Journalism at the University of Mississippi. Norwood, who specializes in multimedia journalism, has been recognized nationally for her documentary film the fly in the buttermilk, which covers the history, perceptions and principles of black Greek-lettered organizations at the University of Mississippi.