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Process improvement expert to 59th MDW: ‘You’re leading the way’

By Staff Sgt. Jerilyn Quintanilla | 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs | Jan. 21, 2017


An internationally known expert in the field of clinical quality improvement was impressed with the 59th Medical Wing’s work toward becoming a high reliability organization (HRO) during a Jan. 11 visit to the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center.


Dr. Brent James, Chief Quality Officer at Intermountain Healthcare and Executive Director, Institute for Health Care Delivery Research, spent a day at the 59th Medical Wing to learn about the wing’s Gateway Performance System and Gateway Academy, two engines driving the Wing’s evolution into an HRO.


“I believe very deeply in your system and your mission. You are the first and only organization in the military, that I am aware of, that has implemented this type of program,” said James, who is also a Visiting Lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health.


“I value my time here because I know you’re leading the way. Well done! I look forward to hearing of future successes; I predict there will be many,” he added.


Launched Nov. 17, 2014, the Gateway Academy is an evidence-based curriculum designed to teach innovative problem-solving techniques, inspire Airmen to challenge the status quo and teach leadership skills that foster empowerment, trust and respect. Gateway Academy attendance is open to all wing staff and required for all leadership positions and recent ‘exportable’ courses have been designed to bring this rigorous education to other segments of the Air Force and Department of Defense.


Looking to industry leaders helps the wing learn from the best and build on their successes.


“Dr. James is considered one of the 100 most influential people in health care, and his work is the inspiration for what we are doing in the 59th Medical Wing. Our program is modeled on what Dr. James built and successfully led at Intermountain Healthcare for the last 30 years. We are fortunate to have Dr. James here as an advisor and consultant,” said Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Bart Iddins, 59th MDW commander.


In fact, this is not Dr. James’ first visit. He initially came out to the 59th Medical Wing on June 22, 2015, to advise the organization as to how to launch the Wing’s Performance Improvement journey. Just over a year later, members of the wing briefed James on the wing’s progress, to include the founding of the Gateway Academy, the Gateway Performance System Management Model, cost and value data collection, and the successes that have resulted from this integrated effort.


Afterward, James fielded questions from the audience and shared a few lessons learned, including management behaviors, the importance of clinical practice guidelines, and leadership ideals that have helped him along the way.


James had high praise for the 59th MDW’s Gateway Academy and the wing’s active approach to improving health care processes and delivering quality patient-centered care.


“At the heart of it, the problems you face are exactly the same as what we face at Intermountain. With the course I teach, I think of it as loading up my staff’s tool box with problem-solving methods so they can use it in the future when facing an issue,” James said. “We have one rule, like a commandment, ‘Thou shall not get in the way of clinical productivity.’”