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BMC Wins the $100,000 Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation

Boston – Sept. 13, 2013 – Boston Medical Center (BMC) is the recipient of the 2013 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation for its pioneering work to ease patients’ transitions from hospital to their homes after being discharged. Awarded by the Drucker Institute, a social enterprise based at Claremont Graduate University, BMC was chosen among a pool of 864 applications from 49 states and the District of Columbia to receive the $100,000 award.

Patient interacting with Louise

In 2003 under the Reengineering the Discharge Process initiative, physicians at BMC, in collaboration with Boston University School of Medicine, developed and tested what components are necessary for a high-quality hospital discharge. This lead to the creation of an avatar named “Louise,” a virtual patient advocate, who helps hospital staff to administer the components.  In addition to “Louise,” they created an individualized spiral-bound color-coded booklet that is given to patients to take home. The booklet, which is highly accessible to patients with limited health literacy, lays out just what people need to know in order to prepare them for the days between their discharge and their first outpatient visit —a period, studies show, when poor communication and inadequate information often trigger new medical problems, re-admissions to the hospital, increased costs and gaps in health and safety. Specifically, the booklet lists medications, provides a color-coded calendar of upcoming appointments and tests, contains an illustrated description of the discharge diagnosis and explains what to do if a problem arises.

“Among the things that most impressed the judges was the effectiveness of the discharge booklet,” said Rick Wartzman, the executive director of the Drucker Institute. “One of Peter Drucker’s core principles was that ‘innovations have to be handled by ordinary human beings. . . . Anything too clever, whether in design or execution, is almost bound to fail.’ Boston Medical Center has captured this idea perfectly with the simple elegance of its innovation and its impressive results.”

A randomized control trial, performed in 2009 with 749 patients, found a 30% lower rate of hospital utilization in the RED intervention group compared with usual care within 30 days of discharge. One readmission or emergency department visit was prevented for every seven participants receiving the intervention. What’s more, costs among the RED intervention group were nearly 34% lower as compared with usual care.

The Drucker Award judges also took note of how Boston Medical Center’s innovation is spreading. So far, RED is being replicated at more than 300 hospitals nationwide. And the system is being cited as a model under the Affordable Care Act, which is aiming to reduce hospital readmissions.

“Project RED is an example of the innovative work we do here to provide safe, effective care to the whole patient,” said Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center. “We are extremely proud of the Project RED team, led by Brian Jack, and pleased to see them honored with the Drucker Award for this creative approach to decreasing hospital readmissions.”

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