UCHealth’s Oncology Service line recently earned official certification as a Quality Oncology Program from the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI) – a prestigious recognition that demonstrates a commitment to excellence and ongoing quality improvement.
The recognition also is a milestone for UCHealth because it represents one of the first system-wide certifications, a testament to integrate hospitals and services lines under one brand – UCHealth.
Achieving QOPI certification wasn’t easy. Dozens of UCHealth employees from many disciplines – providers, pharmacists, patient educators, nursing staff and others – worked on the initiative.
“This was a very committed group,’’ said Emma Bootle, project manager for the Oncology Service Line. “It was great to be part of this group and remarkable how well everyone worked together. It takes a lot of effort to apply for this.’’
Dr. Tom Purcell, system director of Oncology Services for UCHealth and Associate Director of Clinical Affairs for the University of Colorado Cancer Center, galvanized the effort to apply. Purcell was instrumental in helping the team navigate the application process.
A core team, which included Bootle, Kathy Brown, a system quality specialist; Leslie Dunlop, manager of clinical operations for Oncology Services at Memorial Hospital; Christian Eastlake, nursing team lead for oncology at Memorial; Leigh E. Gates, quality assurance manager at University of Colorado Hospital; Kate Jeffers, ambulatory oncology clinical pharmacy specialist; Candy Pruett, clinical director for UCHealth Northern Colorado; and Amy B. Walde oncology quality analyst with UCH, spearheaded the effort.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology’s QOPI is an oncologist-led, practice-based quality assessment program designed to promote excellence in cancer care by helping practices create a culture of self-examination and improvement, according to the organization’s website.
QOPI provides a standard methodology, robust library of quality metrics for oncology, and a collection tool to reliably and routinely assess care, inform quality improvement activities, and demonstrate quality to patients and external stakeholders.
Early adopters of QOPI are well-positioned to meet external reporting requirements for payers and the government and participate in new payment models focused on quality, according to the QOPI website.
Jeffers said key members and physician champions from each UCHealth region evaluated the certification criteria, then conducted a gap analysis of the QOPI standards.
“From there, we came together as a group and went through the gap analysis together and we began to ask, ‘Does northern Colorado have something in place that will help us meet this standard that we could implement across the system. Or, is there anything that we need to build from scratch?’ ’’
The fact-finding phase, Jeffers said, took many weeks but it helped identify a starting point, where the most work was needed, etc. From there, work groups and sub-committees were formed to address each need.
One of the big challenges was to show that cancer services across UCHealth provided consistent and uniform care across the system.
“For example, each region had its own chemotherapy policy. Each policy was a little different, in some respects, and because of that we had to come together as a group to develop a system-side policy. We presented that to all of the key stakeholders and worked to make it a system policy. That group alone consisted of about 20 people, and we had four or five meetings which lasted about eight hours. Those meetings were followed by plenty of work, so there was plenty of manpower involved.’’
The gap analysis also showed that to meet some of the QOPI standards, UCHealth had to create process and protocols.
“We asked, ‘How do we want this to look? What can we do? Where are gaps going to be and how can we begin to fill those gaps?’ One of the big initiatives that we rolled out involved oral cancer medications. … That was a huge initiative that we are still working through and trying to optimize to do the best that we can for our patients. The whole purpose of this is for patient safety, and to try to better care for our patients.’’
In trying to achieve QOPI certification, the team learned how to integrate across the system.
“That was exciting for us. We were not looking at, ‘well, for Colorado Springs, we want this. Our goal was to determine how to make this work for different practice settings. It was a huge challenge, but it was a lot of fun,’’ Jeffers said.
Jeffers said that employees across the regions got to know each other and built significant professional relationships that will help improve care for patients.
“All of us have formed such tight bonds from that experience,’’ she said. “Just recently this week, I had a call from someone in the metro-Denver region who said, ‘I just want to get your opinion on this.’ That’s something that really wouldn’t have happened had we not pursued this certification. It’s helped our service line come a long way in integrating and acting like a system.’’