At the Quality Institute, we trace our roots to the New Jersey Health Care Payers Coalition, which purchased benefits for their union members and were frustrated over the lack of transparency on price and quality. Were they paying higher prices for care at hospitals with low quality? There was no way to know.
Coalition leaders feared they were spending too much money on health care that was not improving their members’ lives.
So, 25 years ago, the coalition created the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan member organization with a mission to advance health care quality and safety. Our early leaders were visionaries: David Knowlton, Judith Persichilli, Suzanne Miller, Andrea Aughenbaugh, Fred Jacobs, former Gov. Jim Florio, and many others. They knew change would come only when leaders from all areas of health care left their own interests at the door and worked together to make health care better for everyone.
In those early years, the Institute of Medicine broke the silence surrounding medical errors with a report that found 98,000 Americans die in hospitals each year because of preventable mistakes. Other national reports pointed to poor quality in our state. The urgency was real and drove the Quality Institute forward. Hospitals, health insurers, businesses, physicians, nurses, consumer groups, academics, lawmakers, and others joined our mission.
Today, we have more than 120 member organizations who work with us to improve health care for everyone.
I took over for David Knowlton, our founder and first CEO, in 2015. David was a mentor and I admired how he withstood fierce objections as the Quality Institute pushed for transparency around patient safety and pricing data. As Quality Institute CEO, David joined the board of The Leapfrog Group and was instrumental behind its creation of a simple letter grade to guide consumers to the safest hospitals.
The Quality Institute worked diligently to educate employers, hospitals, and consumers about the value of the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Survey. In 2019, our efforts paid off and, for the first time ever,100 percent of New Jersey hospitals participated in the voluntary survey, a remarkable achievement.
We knew early on where you live impacts your health and that local leaders and residents can make a difference. That’s why the Quality Institute created the Mayors Wellness Campaign in 2005. The Mayors Wellness Campaign (MWC) today reaches 422 New Jersey municipalities, empowering mayors with evidence-based tools, strategies, and technical support to champion health and wellness in their communities
For me, leading the Quality Institute and building on the legacy of our founders — most of them are still involved with us today — has been challenging and fulfilling. The Quality Institute’s mission spoke to me and enabled me to use the skills I learned earlier in my career both as an attorney representing individuals and businesses facing bankruptcy and when working for the state legislature on policy. To me, building consensus and listening to differing voices creates the foundation for achievable and meaningful solutions. I saw the Quality Institute working similarly and I admired their role in our state. That strategy of bringing everyone to the table remains essential to our work at the Quality Institute today.
Today I am proud to work with our board to expand the Quality Institute’s work. There is no shortage of areas that need attention. Our efforts have expanded with initiatives focused on maternal and child health, reproductive health, advancing integrated models of care, and affordability.
We know more today about how individuals’ lived environments impact their health, and we’ve expanded our policy work to address social determinants of health, systemic racism, and health inequities that harm people’s health.
Our organization has succeeded for 25 years not because we have all the answers, but because we bring together smart, committed people across organizations and sectors to work together. You can read about our history in a timeline we created to celebrate 25 years. We’ll celebrate September 15 and honor five Champions of Quality, people we’ve worked closely with us over the past quarter century to bring about positive change. Please join us. I know that I am humbled and honored to lead this organization into its second quarter century.