N.Y. expert now Lifespan’s top quality officer


Dr. Mary Reich Cooper has joined Lifespan as vice president and chief quality officer, a newly created role. Prior to joining Lifespan, Cooper served as chief quality officer at the New York Presbyterian Hospital for six years; she also served as director of quality improvement in the department of medicine at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. She is a nationally known leader and innovator in quality improvement. She earned her M.D. at Temple University and also has a J.D. from Pace University School of Law.
PBN: How familiar are you with quality initiatives in Rhode Island, and what do you believe local health care leaders could learn the New York Regional Quality Initiative you founded?
COOPER: I think that the New York Regional Quality Initiative could learn from Rhode Island’s health initiatives. Here the equivalent is an institute called Rhode Island Quality Institute, and it has undertaken some on interesting and important collaborations, such as overseeing the ICU Collaborative and supporting the statewide standardization of electronic health records, which is the first in the nation.

PBN: You’ll be working for Lifespan, not a specific hospital. How is quality work different at the system level than on an institutional level?
COOPER: On an institutional level, quality is focused primarily on external requirements at the federal, state and local levels, which includes requirements from accreditation organizations. … The role of chief quality officer involves a strategic look at quality across the entire Lifespan organization. It also looks at how can we improve care in our community by looking specifically at disease management and continuum of care, … and given all the good things done at Lifespan and in the Rhode Island health care system, how do we ensure that the message gets out to the rest of the country? It’s also incorporating issues and concepts of quality and safety into physician training.

PBN: How does your legal background affect your approach to health care quality?
COOPER: In our training as physicians, we are taught to drive towards a solution. … In law, you are trained to look at a problem and craft different solutions from different perspectives. … I don’t look at any quality issue without thinking of it from a legal perspective, such as the issues of malpractice, liability for the company, president, or current statutory authority for any particular decision. This is a fundamental aspect of my perspective. •

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