Though the Santa Ynez Valley is small, it is made mighty by residents such as Solvang's Sheila Thompson, registered nurse and Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality.

Thompson was recently awarded the National Association of Healthcare Quality's (NAHQ) prestigious Luc R. Pelletier Healthcare Quality Award, and was chosen from 7,500 active members worldwide.

Each year since 2008, the NAHQ, a leading organization for healthcare quality management professionals, has recognized a single member who develops a performance improvement program or initiative that directly impacts the quality of healthcare for a defined group of patients and improves organizational performance. 

Thompson, an 18-year employee of CenCal Health, a local public agency that has provided comprehensive health coverage to nearly 180,000 residents of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties since 1983, was honored at NAHQ's annual conference in Minneapolis. 

“The success of our Performance Improvement Project illustrates the potential for a health plan to realize a powerful impact on the health and well-being of the communities we serve. To this end, through collaboration with our provider partners, we remain committed to the continuous pursuit of performance excellence,” said Thompson.

According to CenCal Health spokesperson, Sheri Mobley, Thompson and her team collaborated with providers at a local federally qualified health center to increase the rate of diabetic retinal eye exams for patients enrolled in Medicaid. By implementing systemic efficiencies and developing a member outreach process to support retinopathy screening, the center experienced an improvement of 30 percentage points over the previous year.

Additionally, Mobley reports that CenCal Health’s overall rate for diabetic retinopathy screening in San Luis Obispo county increased by 11 percentage points, ranking in the top 10 percent of Medicaid plans nationally.

Comprehensive diabetes care is a priority for CenCal Health, considering the prevalence of diabetes in adult Californians in conjunction with ethnicity, education and family income levels, according to CenCal Health's website. Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness among adults aged 20-74 years in the United States. 

“I am deeply honored to have been selected as the 2018 recipient of the Luc R. Pelletier Healthcare Quality Award on behalf of my organization, CenCal Health,” Thompson said.

For more information, visit cencalhealth.org.

This report was compiled by Lisa André. You can reach her at landre@leecentralcoastnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @LAndréSYVNews  

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