Spotlight: Practicing Absolute Safety at EvergreenHealth

Palazzo-Ettore-MD-CMO-EvergreenHealth-Kirkland-WA.jpgEvergreenHealth Chief Medical and Quality Officer Dr. Ettore Palazzo shares how the health system, along with patients and families, support a culture of safety, now and always.

As your partner in health, EvergreenHealth embraces our responsibility to be experts in delivering safe care – it’s part of our organizational culture and one of the many ways in which we live our values.

Dr. Ettore Palazzo leads clinical quality and safety at EvergreenHealth, overseeing risk management, surgical services, pharmacy and medical staff services. Dr. Palazzo joined EvergreenHealth in 2003 and served as an internal medicine hospitalist physician before becoming Quality Medical Director, and later expanding his quality work as the system’s Chief Medical and Quality Officer.

While Dr. Palazzo and others specialize in leading safety initiatives for the organization, everyone at EvergreenHealth is equally responsible for ensuring that safe care is delivered in every moment.

“At EvergreenHealth, Absolute Safety means providing care in a thoughtful environment that undoubtedly represents our collective effort to prevent and reduce errors and risk throughout the delivery of health care. It means that every physician, provider and staff member make a personal commitment to upholding the highest standards for safety in every moment of your experience at EvergreenHealth by relying on our systems and each other to prevent unnecessary harm.” – Dr. Ettore Palazzo

Q: What does safety in healthcare mean?
A: The terms “safe” and “safety” are used frequently in the health care industry. At EvergreenHealth, keeping patients safe starts with basic safety initiatives, like ensuring our waiting areas are kept impeccably clean, that patients seeking care are properly triaged, that standard systems are in place for accurate EMR documentation, and the staff and providers caring for you are properly educated and fit to provide you with the best possible care. All of these things are immensely important, though safety goes beyond the basic protocols you might expect. Safety also includes more complex initiatives, like ensuring patients receive the right level of care at the right time.

Q: How is EvergreenHealth investing in safety?
Our Staff
Safety lives everywhere at EvergreenHealth, from our CEO’s office to every patient exam room. It involves providers who work on the frontlines with our patients and countless teams and individuals who work behind the scenes. Every single person at EvergreenHealth is responsible for safety, which is why we work to ensure everyone on our team has the education, tools and commitment to help ensure safety is upheld without exception. By investing in the right individuals, we are investing in the safety and health of our patients. As health care professionals, we are trained to be experts and near-perfect in delivering safe care. Yet we also know that we are imperfect as human beings – which is why we rely upon tools like teamwork, systems and standard processes to ensure everyone’s safety. Regardless of each individual’s role in the organization, we all remain focused on this shared responsibility and continually look for ways to improve upon our high standards of care.

Our Technology
Our teams behind-the-scenes are dedicated to adopting and refining the systems, technologies and protocols that keep us focused on the latest developments in safety initiatives and prevention procedures, including our SafelinQ program. SafelinQ is a digital tool that allows any staff member at any time to report a safety event—which can be an outright safety event, such as a patient fall or staff injury, or something that may not have resulted in a safety incident, but could have. We call these safety events a “near miss,” and believe they are just as important to bring forward to help ensure a similar safety event does not occur in the future. All staff are encouraged to bring forth safety concerns, big or small, at any time. Each is followed up with an in-depth root-cause analysis to help inform even safer policies and workflows. Our culture of safety has helped make this program a success, in that we don’t see SafeLinQ submissions as negative or punitive—we view them as an opportunity to learn and provide even safer care.

Our 24/7 Community Nurse Navigator & Healthline
Part of providing safe care is ensuring patients are receiving the right care at the right time. Our 24/7 Nurse Navigator & Healthline works with patients to understand their symptoms and guide them through next steps for proper care, which often, involves identifying the right level of care—whether it’s scheduling a primary care visit, or finding an urgent or emergency care location near them, based on their personalized health needs. Identifying when symptoms warrant the need of a professional provider with the right level of expertise and urgency helps ensure our community has a resource to find the guidance and care they need, day or night.

Q: How is safety measured?
A: Safety is measured in numerous ways through qualitative and quantitative data, though clinical outcomes are most often used as an industry standard for understanding just how safe a health care system is. Healthgrades and other third-party organizations provides patients with information about how the clinical outcomes and safety of a health care system compares to others across the nation.

We are proud that our unwavering diligence to sustain an environment of absolute safety has helped us achieve recognition as a Healthgrades Top 50 hospital, as well as the recipient of an “A” rating for outstanding patient safety from The Leapfrog Group. The Leapfrog Group is a leading independent watchdog organization on hospital quality and safety. This is the third consecutive year that EvergreenHealth has been awarded an “A” as part of its annual Fall review. Semi-annually, Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Grade report scores more than 2,600 hospitals, assessing how well they keep patients safe from errors, accidents and infections. EvergreenHealth is one of only 18 hospitals in Washington to achieve an “A” rating this fall.

Q: How has EvergreenHealth maintained its commitment to safety throughout the response to COVID-19?
A: Ensuring our patients’ safety is an ongoing and constant pursuit, and it has served as a central part of our history of service, and certainly as we’ve responded to COVID-19. When the virus reached our community, we were ready to respond because of the strength of our systems and protocols – things we practice and adhere to throughout the course of all patient care. Now, many months into the pandemic safety continues to be vitally important – from the way we meticulously don and doff our personal protective equipment (PPE), to our standard screening procedures for everyone entering any of our EvergreenHealth locations, our commitment to absolute safety leads us in our response.

Visit to learn more about our environments of care during COVID-19 and what you can expect at an appointment.

Q: What role do patients and families play in EvergreenHealth’s culture of safety?
A: Patients are the most important member of the health care team. When patients participate in all decisions about their treatment, they help make their care as safe as possible by being informed and involved in their care. We encourage patients and families to play active roles by asking questions about their general health or condition – in fact, research shows that patients who are engaged in decisions about their own health care are more likely to get better faster. We invite you to take part in our commitment to absolute safety. We welcome your questions and encourage you to ask your provider about our commitment to safety in caring for you and everyone we serve.