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Data-Powered Surgical Improvements

Since 2015, MUSC Health has been partnering with hospitals across the state to harness the power of data and collaboration to reduce complications and errors in some of the most common surgical procedures.

Initially funded with the support of the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation and later The Duke Endowment, and formed in collaboration with SCHA, Health Sciences South Carolina, MUSC, and BCBSSC, the SC Surgical Quality Collaborative makes use of near-real-time reporting of clinical data, metric dashboards, and other benchmark data to identify improvement opportunities and best practices. Using abstracted data from 25 random general surgery cases over an eight-day cycle, participating hospitals can drill down into every aspect of a patient’s care.   Because all participating hospitals are working on the same procedures and using the same type of data and metrics, they can effectively collaborate and support each other in this work.

“This is a way to give physicians and hospital tools they can utilize to improve patient care, and a methodology to share best practices, overcome hurdles and shorten the quality improvement cycle so we can all get better faster,” explains MUSC’s Dr. Mark Lockett, MD, who also serves as the surgical lead for the SC SQC. “Our goal is to provide the most highly reliable, evidence-based, patient-centered surgical care at the lowest cost in the nation.”

Key to these efforts is the communication and collaboration between the hospitals. The software platform the SCSQC allows for Facebook-like sharing of different papers, protocols best practices, and can serve as a library of information.  Lockett credits the quarterly face-to-face meetings with ensuring different hospitals support each other.

“It’s important to reach out and see how other hospitals and physicians do things, because there’s not one way to do something,” echoes Rachel Adams, RN, MSN, CPN, the RN Clinical Data Abstractor for the SQC at MUSC Health. “The whole collaborative aspect of it is a huge reward for any hospital coming in to [the SQC].”

Adams says MUSC has seen marked improvements in enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS), where MUSC launched a new recovery plan, surgical site infection (SSI) reduction, and in the use of PCAs (post-controlled analgesia) following colorectal surgeries. The latter is an important effort to curb opioid use and potential addiction for patients. SQC data has been responsible, in part, for a new protocol that has almost eliminated PCA use following colorectal surgery.

Through the data abstraction process, each hospital can produce numerous reports and dashboards for analysis, all of which gets presented and examined at the Collaborative’s quarterly meetings.

“A lot of useful information is being exchanged and helps other hospitals to improve in these meetings,” Adam explains. “There’s been a lot of reach out to hospitals that have similar kinds of projects and are working on the same thing.”

“It’s very much a great collaborative to work together and to improve outcomes not only at your own hospital, but to help the other hospitals as well.”

Dr. Lockett says something similar, emphasizing that, for all of the powerful data and metrics that the SC SQC provides, its working together that makes the difference.

“Buy-in and relationships are critical—that’s why we call it a collaborative,” he says. “The data alone is not enough.”

Participating hospitals in the SC SQC include McLeod Health, MUSC Health, Prisma Health Baptist Easley, KershawHealth, The Regional Medical Center – Orangeburg and Tidelands Health. 

For more information on the SC SQC, including how to join, contact Diana Zona at