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A case for asking "dumb" questions

DSC_0129.JPGLeah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, encouraged a packed room of EMHS employees, executive leaders, board members, and guests at the inaugural EMHS Quality Summit to start asking the “dumb” questions if we want to promote quality, safe care for our patients.

Leah was the summit’s keynote speaker and described her role at The Leapfrog Group with a quote from Peter Drucker, a well-known management consultant. “My greatest strength as a consultant,” Drucker once remarked, “is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”

“That’s me, that’s my whole career,” Leah professed. “I’m willing to accept that I am ignorant and ask some pretty dumb questions.” Those “dumb” questions, however, have yielded some extraordinary answers when she gets to the bottom of big issues like skyrocketing healthcare spending, or patient harm and deaths due to preventable hospital errors. She said when asking these questions, it’s important that we insist those answers are given in plain language—subject matter experts tend to speak in industry jargon.

As an advocate of hospital quality and transparency, The Leapfrog Group collects, analyzes, and disseminates self-reported and publicly available quality data into easy to understand ratings and reports. Leah argues transparency is the keystone to improved safety and quality in our national healthcare system—it's about asking the right questions and getting answers healthcare consumers need to make informed decisions about their care. 

At EMHS, we also believe in the power of transparency to affect positive change in quality and safety for our patients—that idea was the seed from which the Quality Summit grew. The summit, held at Wells Conference Center in Orono on May 15, was designed as an opportunity to showcase individuals and teams who are making real differences in care quality and safety. EMHS members submitted 66 nominations for the prestigious Quality Summit awards. From those, six finalists were chosen to present their quality initiatives and examples of leadership in hopes of taking home top honors and bragging rights in two award categories.

Iyad Sabbagh, MD, EMHS vice president and chief quality officer, officiated the Quality Summit and said, “When it comes to healthcare quality and safety, it’s important that we take the time to learn from the outstanding work we are doing across the system to advance quality for our patients.” Dr. Sabbagh went on to say that the annual event creates an opportunity to share ideas, network, and create a strong culture of safety within the system.

First place for the Excellence in Quality Leadership award went to VNA Home Health Hospice’s Kristine Rogers, Jessica St. Peter, and Leah Wright. The trio took top honors for their work in medication reconciliation. Sebasticook Valley Health’s Family Care Outpatient Pharmacy Collaborative took first place in the Quality Performance Excellence category.

Check out the nominees' presentations, photos, and more at

Below is a list of the top six nominees out of 66 submissions for the summit—congratulations to all!
2018 EMHS Quality Summit Award nominees
    Excellence in Quality Leadership:

  • 1st place: VNA’s Kristine Rogers, Jessica St. Peter, and Leah Wright
  • 2nd: EMMC’s Dr. Robert Hoffmann 
  • 3rd: Acadia’s Lindsay White and the occupational therapy team

 Quality Performance Excellence:

  • 1st place: SVH’s Family Care Outpatient Pharmacy Collaborative
  • 2nd place: Mercy’s Pressure Injury Prevention Team 
  • 3rd place: Inland’s inpatient team for its commitment to improving the patient and family experience.