Walking around downtown Washington on the afternoon of the final presidential debate, a visitor might sense the type of atmosphere that typically precedes game seven of the World Series. Waiters in bars, lobbyists, congressional aidesand journalists, naturallyasked one another excitedly where theyd be watching the debate, and there were more than a few mentions of debate parties.
The upcoming election forms the basis for a range of discussions going on in the nations capital these days, and healthcare is at the forefront. While the candidates debated their healthcare plans, the National Quality Forum held its annual policy conference and discussed its own ideas for healthcare reform.
Reform of the countrys health delivery system has really been under way for the past 10 years and the industry deserves acknowledgment for its impressive steps in establishing public reporting and payment alignment strategies, said Janet Corrigan, president and chief executive officer of the NQF. Its important to recognize that we have made progress. But with meager quality improvement levels and healthcare costs continuing to spiral upward, achieving value will require bold moves, she added.
The quality organization, formed as a public-private partnership, develops standards programs in various areas of care. The process and performance measures it endorses send the message that following certain evidence-based practices will result in higher quality of care.
The next area of delivery the NQF seems to be tackling is care coordination. Providers have begun to eye episodes of care and medical homes as the way to better manage patients with chronic illness or ensure an efficient hospital stay and lower readmission rates. Quality improvement has occurred in silos of healthcare; now its time to connect the dots, she said. Weve got to develop organizational structures that support an integrated delivery system, she said.
The NQF believes a common set of building blocks will help us get there. Corrigan explained five initiatives the forum supports: a national center for effectiveness research; a national strategy and reliable support for performance measures; a payment system to reward high-value care; recognition of healthcare organizations that achieve integration and coordination; and development of a comprehensive approach to population health.
But in throwing its support behind those initiatives, the NQF is not waiting for the government to start running with the ball. The National Priorities Partnership, established earlier this year by the quality forum, has identified six high-impact areas on which it will focus to develop improvement goals, according to Margaret OKane, president of the National Committee for Quality Assurance and co-chairwoman of the National Priorities Partnership. She shares that role with Donald Berwick, president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
The partnership consists of 28 organizations, including the NQF, representing a cross section of the healthcare industry, including providers, insurers, large group purchasers, consumers, accreditors and federal health agencies. The partners agree to endorse performance measurement and public reporting standards, work collaboratively and advocate for the selected priorities. In November the partnership expects to announce its finalized goals, which were first proposed in July.
The need for health improvement and the relevancy of reform brought the organizations to the table, OKane said during her presentation. I think the urgency of this agenda really helped us come together.
The high-impact areas in which the goals will focus are: patient and family engagement; population health; safety; care coordination; palliative care; and medical overuse. The partnership will hold a policy roundtable on Nov. 17 in Washington to announce the goals approved during todays NQF board meeting.
Reporter Jean DerGurahian reports on quality of care and patient safety. She covers regional healthcare business news in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi.