Health Cover Stories

Patients First: SLUCare Physician Group

Health care quality improvement might sound like a common buzzword now, but it’s actually a daily guiding principle for SLUCare Physician Group. It’s also of deep personal concern if you or a loved one is a patient receiving care.

SLUCare Cardiovascular Services at University Tower in Richmond Heights recently received a prestigious designation from an important evaluator of health care quality, the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) in Washington, D.C. The department successfully completed the NCQA Recognition Program, showing that it values high-quality health care delivery and advanced clinical care. It’s the only cardiovascular practice in the St. Louis metro area to be given the honor, and only the second in the entire state. It’s also the first SLUCare practice to receive the designation, which must be renewed every three years. There are different levels of recognition, and SLUCare scored well enough to achieve the highest, Level 3.

So what does NCQA recognition mean for patients and families? “It shows them that first and foremost, we are patient-centered,” says Beth Page, RN, MSN, executive director of clinical quality and population health. “It tells them that we look carefully at each patient from the moment they come in, evaluate their needs, and make sure there is timely communication with referring doctors and families. Patients are more educated these days and are looking for reassurance of this kind. If you are considering two different physicians, and one has NCQA recognition but the other doesn’t, you’ll likely go with the one who does.”

The process of gaining NCQA recognition is lengthy, but it’s an important effort because it shows patients that SLUCare puts their best interests first, according to Page. She spent many months working to compile and submit the required care quality data along with clinical site manager Jeanne Lawo, RN, MSN, and Katie Sniffen, clinical coordinator for Saint Louis University’s Center for Interprofessional Education and Research. Dr. Michael Lim, director of the Cardiovascular Center, was instrumental in the process as well. The team had to provide data in six areas, including care access and communication and measuring and improving performance.

When the team members learned they had received the recognition, they were understandably excited, Lawo says. “We were proud and thrilled to share the news with our colleagues,” she notes. “We are planning a celebration to commemorate it, putting the NCQA seal on our materials, and educating the public about why it’s important. We think it really demonstrates the high level of care we provide patients.”

Sniffen says SLUCare administration is proud of the accomplishment, too, and considers it a stepping stone for other departments to earn the designation. Now that she and her colleagues are familiar with the program, they will help other SLUCare practices prepare their own submissions. Sniffen says the team carefully documented the application process and created analysis tools and timelines to make it easier for other departments.

Lim says it’s important to make NCQA recognition a system-wide effort because of the message it sends to patients and families. “There is no higher goal in health care than to provide the best care to all patients,” he notes. “This designation recognizes our commitment to quality.”

SLUCare Cardiovascular Services is headquartered at University Tower in Richmond Heights and provides complete cardiovascular care for patients. It is the only cardiovascular practice in the St. Louis metro area to earn patient-centered specialty practice recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Pictured on the cover: cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Dawn Hui and SLUCare‘s NCQA accreditation team—Katie Sniffen, Beth Page, Cheryl O’Shea and Jeanne Lawo—with a patient. For more information, call 314.977.6051 or visit

Cover design by Allie Bronsky
Cover photo courtesy of SLUCare Physician Group

Pictured above: SLUCare electrophysiologist Dr. Ali Mehdirad with a patient.