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Koko Okano Named 2023 National Champion of Quality

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) has named Koko Okano, Quality Improvement and Research Analyst for the Florida Health Care Association (FHCA), as the 2023 recipient of the Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award. Okano is recognized for her national contributions to quality improvement in long term and post-acute care.

"Koko’s expertise and passion have been pivotal in guiding members towards achieving their quality goals, and her influence extends far beyond her role," said Mark Parkinson, AHCA/NCAL President and CEO. “She truly lives to help others on their quality journey, and that is incredibly inspiring."

“Florida's success in the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award program would not be at the caliber it is today without the support of Koko, who has dedicated her career to promoting the journey of the process, the value of the program and the important role that both play in helping our members improve the quality care they deliver,” said Emmett Reed, FHCA Chief Executive Officer.” We are thrilled that she is receiving this well-deserved honor.”

Okana’s dedication for excellence and approach to quality improvement has touched the lives of countless individuals in the sector. Okano joined FHCA over 20 years ago as an assistant in the quality department and worked tirelessly to learn as much as she could. When AHCA/NCAL launched its Baldrige-based National Quality Award Program, which recognizes long term and post -acute care providers that meet progressively rigorous standards of performance, Okano was tapped to lead the effort at FHCA.

Okano strategized from the ground up and dedicated countless hours to researching and learning about Baldrige processes and criteria. She has developed and led countless training, presentations, and workshops to educate FHCA members about the criteria. She has empowered leaders to enhance their operating systems and processes, ultimately translating into improved resident and staff outcomes. 

Under Okano’s leadership, Florida providers have been recognized at every award level of the program, with 80 Bronze, 44 Silver, and two at the prestigious Gold, the final of three distinctions that takes years to achieve.

"Koko's dedication to quality improvement is unwavering, and her impact on our sector as a whole is immeasurable," said Mary Ousley, AHCA Quality Cabinet Co-Chair and namesake of the award. "She has the incredible ability to integrate the principles of the Baldrige Criteria into day-to-day operations and best of all is able to explain it in a way that everyone can understand. Her passion for excellence and helping others has resulted in remarkable outcomes and transformed the way providers in Florida and the rest of the nation approach quality care."

Okano is also a recognized leader at the national level. She has served as an AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Examiner for twelve years, working her way up to serving as a Master Examiner. In that role, she has reviewed hundreds of silver and gold applications, participated in Site Visits, and served as a national trainer and educator on the criteria. She has also served on the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Board and AHCA’s Quality Improvement Committee. Highly regarded as a catalyst for Florida’s quality achievement success, she has assisted several states in their proposals and implementation of the National Quality Award program as part of state Value-Based Payment incentives.

Each year, AHCA/NCAL presents the Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award to an individual that has made significant national contributions to advancing quality performance in long term and post-acute care. Recipients display leadership in the development, promotion, and implementation of quality improvement initiatives that have resulted in measurable outcomes.

In 2011, the Friend of Quality Award was renamed the Mary K. Ousley Champion of Quality Award to honor the ongoing legacy and commitment to quality care demonstrated by its namesake, Mary Ousley, a licensed nursing center administrator and nurse who has dedicated her life to quality improvement programs in long term and post-acute care.

Okano will be formally presented the award during Delivering Solutions 23, the AHCA/NCAL Convention & Expo, October 1-4, 2023, in Denver, Colorado.

August 14, 2023

Kristen Knapp, APR
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