Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012
This Week's News
Timing is right for AMA's focus on improving health outcomes
Editor's note: This is the second of three Special Features in a series about the AMA's strategic focus areas.
With a national focus on better care, healthy people and healthy communities and affordable care, the AMA's focus on improving health outcomes couldn't come at a better time.
The national effort comes in the form of the National Strategy for Quality Improvement in Health Care, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which calls for focusing on three aims: improving the overall quality of care, improving the health of the U.S. population and reducing the cost of quality care.
In support of this national strategy, the AMA aspires to demonstrate improvements in clinical and patient-reported outcomes while ensuring health equity, reducing unwarranted variation in care, advancing quality and safety, and contributing to the appropriate use of finite health care resources.
National data show room for better health outcomes for all Americans, so the time is right for the AMA and the nation's physicians to lead the charge on efforts to enhance patient health.
"Improvements … will be accelerated by physician leadership," said Karen Kmetik, the AMA's group vice president of health outcomes, to physicians during an education session at the Interim Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates. "These efforts will not be successful without your leadership."
Improving health outcomes is one of the AMA's three strategic focus areas, along with accelerating change in medical education and enhancing professional satisfaction and practice sustainability by shaping delivery and payment models. Through this focus area, the AMA will identify a set of outcomes that would potentially make a great impact on the U.S. population, then set a course of innovation and action to develop, enhance and implement strategies aimed at reducing the disease and cost burden associated with these conditions.
The AMA's vision and strategy includes:
- Selecting a set of topics and clinical and patient-reported outcomes for a national dashboard.
- Setting national goals for improvement in these outcomes.
- Discovering effective strategies for improving selected outcomes through existing research and/or working with leading practice sites.
- Validating, as needed, the identified leading practices/improvement strategies.
- Engaging physicians/care teams and disseminating findings to drive adoption through tools, education and communications.
- Tracking population-level outcomes on a national dashboard to evaluate their impact on national productivity and health care costs.
Collaborating with others focused on improving health outcomes will be a key to success. At the Interim Meeting, Kmetik stressed the importance of thinking nationally but acting locally by connecting with practice sites, communities, patients, data stewards, public health groups, governmental agencies and other experts.
"The AMA is not standing alone in this," she said. "Many individuals and organizations have impressive initiatives under way. It's really about partnership, partnership and partnership."
Among those partners is Hawaii Pacific Health, a four-hospital health system that is the Aloha State's largest health care provider. In recent years, Hawaii Pacific Health has made great improvements in patient outcomes once it began measuring and analyzing its data. For instance, measuring data led the staff to minimize a certain kind of infection in the intensive-care unit from occurring weekly to now just once a year.
"In the absence of data, it is easy to assume clinical quality," said Melinda Ashton, MD, Hawaii Pacific Health's vice president of quality, speaking to physicians during the Interim Meeting.
Dr. Ashton added that Hawaii Pacific Health now has only two targets for patient outcomes: 100 percent and zero occurrences. "We don't achieve 100 percent every time," she said, "but we absolutely shoot for it because that's the right thing to do."
Watch for more details about the AMA's work on this important area of health care as the new year unfolds.
Also, view last week's Special Feature about accelerating change in medical education. Next week's AMA Wire will feature the AMA's focus on enhancing professional satisfaction and practice sustainability by shaping delivery and payment models.