January 22, 2020
Boston Medical Center Gets $100K as Nonprofit Innovator

September 21, 2013 — Boston Medical Center, a nonprofit located in the South End neighborhood of Boston, has been named the 2013 winner of a national prize for nonprofit innovation, which carries a $100,000 award, for its work in easing patients’ transitions from hospital to home, an innovation being emulated by hospitals nationwide.

The 496-bed Boston Medical Center (BMC) won the 2013 Peter F. Drucker Award for Nonprofit Innovation, given each fall by the Drucker Institute to a nonprofit that best demonstrates “change that creates a new dimension of performance,” a definition of innovation developed by the internationally famous management consultant.

The Institute said it received a record 864 applications this year from nonprofits in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

Under its Reengineering the Discharge Process initiative, launched in 2003 and known as Project RED, a BMC developed and tested 11 mutually reinforcing components that define a high-quality hospital discharge. The system uses high-tech tools and low technology in the form of an individualized, spiral-bound color booklet.

The booklet explains what people need to know 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.

Kate Walsh, BMC president and CEO, said, “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.”

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. The system also is being cited as a model under the Affordable Care Act, which is aiming to reduce hospital readmissions.

Wartzman said that in applying for the Drucker Award, which has been given annually since 1991, nonprofits learn about Drucker’s key principles of innovation. A survey of those completing this year’s application found that 93% said they now had a better understanding of how their program was innovative, and 84% said the application had prompted them to explore additional opportunities for innovation in their work.

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