HSSC finding strength in numbers

Several years ago, major hospital systems in South Carolina had a problem with infection rates that were more prevalent than those of other high-quality teaching health systems.

Finding a solution was proving elusive until Health Sciences South Carolina and its collaborating partner, the S.C. Hospital Association, brought all of the players together.

"We said, 'Let's solve this together.' And we did," said Jay Moskowitz, who just retired as USC’s Endowed Chair for Healthcare Quality and president and CEO of HSSC, a research consortium whose members include the state's three research universities and seven major teaching health systems.

After comparing notes and researching new technologies and methodologies, the hospitals were able to lower their infection rates .

"We put together all of our critical mass and conducted solid research to solve the problem, then shared the information with smaller hospitals outside of HSSC," Moskowitz said. "We, as an organization, don't provide the care, but we make it better."

Health Sciences South Carolina was created in 2007 with the goal of leveraging the strengths of the state’s research universities — USC, Clemson and MUSC — and improving outcomes through South Carolina’s major health systems. Since then, the consortium has been successful in garnering numerous grants to find evidence-based strategies to improve health care for Palmetto State residents.

"What’s innovative about the HSSC model is the research component," Moskowitz said. "We're pursuing knowledge as continuous learning centers to improve human health. For example, we evaluate new technology from an evidence-based approach. Sometimes the new technology is more expensive but it’s not better; sometimes it's much better, but you have to do the comparative effectiveness research to know for sure."

One of HSSC's most recent initiatives is the Clinical Data Warehouse, which gathers patient data (removing information that identifies individual patients) to analyze best practices in a number of health care scenarios. Data from some 25 million patient encounters will be used to consider better protocols for treating surgical complications and outcomes, community-acquired pneumonia in children and post-cardiac arrest care.

"Data is extremely valuable — we can see what works and what doesn’t work. With a retrospective review of data we can use predictive analytics to help support clinical decisions. This is the next direction for HSSC and for the nation as a whole," Moskowitz said. With Moskowitz’s retirement, new leadership for HSSC is on the horizon.

"I was quite happy in my previous careers at the National Institutes of Health, Wake Forest University and Penn State, but when I saw this opportunity in South Carolina, I was thrilled," he said. "It turned out to be not only something that I really enjoyed doing but also a great way to foster innovative practices and advance our state."

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