A new report from the National Quality Forum is calling on various stakeholders from the healthcare industry to use forward momentum to work toward better patient experience and health equity.
The Care We Need: Driving Better Health Outcomes for People and Communities, written by the National Quality Task Force, specifically sets out to drive a more coordinated approach to patient care. The report hinges on the idea of patient safety, quality outcomes, and patient-centered care.
“Twenty years ago, a new understanding of avoidable harm mobilized the modern quality movement and launched a series of initiatives to improve the safety and quality of the U.S. healthcare system.” Shantanu Agrawal, MD, MPhil, president and CEO of the National Quality Forum and Task Force co-chair, said in an emailed statement.
“Today, COVID-19 and our persistent drive for better health outcomes again call for broad actions to achieve consistent, high quality care for everyone. This report outlines how we can work together to build on our progress, strengths, and the lessons from this pandemic so that every person, everywhere, every time – especially the most vulnerable – can count on high quality care.”
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The publication of To Err is Human 20 years ago sparked an industry movement toward quality measurement. In response to astronomical patient safety issues and avoidable death, the industry worked to establish quality indicators that would constitute valuable care.
Since then, the industry has taken steps forward in patient safety, including reduced fall rates, fewer hospital-acquired conditions, and a lower rate of preventable deaths.
“These results proved that measuring quality is possible and can have a real impact saving lives. These early efforts also mobilized the quality community to establish a culture that values and expects safe, patient-centered care,” the Task Force wrote in the report, which was obtained via email.
“Healthcare leaders and systems across the country embrace processes, programs, and improvement priorities designed to consider care and outcomes from the perspective of the patient.”
But there is still work to do. Medical errors remain the third-leading cause of death, killing 250,000 people in the US annually, NQF reported. Medicine is likewise still defined by medical errors, health inequity, clinician burnout, and high healthcare spending.
At the same time, patients remain on the outside of care, with limited transparency and education limiting shared decision-making.
This is largely because healthcare is still plagued with fragmentation, the report authors contended.
“Most concerning is the lack of an aligned vision and a set of shared priorities to achieve this goal,” the Task Force said. “Together, we can build on 20 years of concerted effort and progress to make care safe, appropriate, and high value for all people—especially the most vulnerable.”
The report outlines five strategic objectives rooted in healthcare quality, safety, value, and experience:
- Ensuring appropriate and safe patient access to care
- Implementing seamless and reliable data flow
- Paying for person-centered care and healthy communities
- Supporting activated consumers
- Achieving actionable transparency
To that end, NQF also outlined five foundational areas for change. Creating a national patient identifier to overcome patient matching challenges while standardizing quality data lead the way. The Task Force also advocated adopting alternative payment models rooted in population health.
Efforts should additionally focus on reducing health disparities and creating standardized data and interventions for the social determinants of health. Better patient education requirements could better inform and engage patients, boosting shared decision-making and looping the patient into care.
Efforts that will accelerate care quality reform would include improving technology frameworks and lean on virtual and innovative care delivery tools to expand high-value care settings.
Addressing national licensure may make it easier for patients to access care anywhere, while driving cultural competency and establishing a workforce focused on safety may engender patient trust.
Finally, NQF proposed creating an evidence base of exemplar performers to make it easier for others to replicate.
These recommendations hinge on the idea that healthcare is interconnected, and that the push for wellness care rests not on one single healthcare player, but on the entire system.
“Whether it’s the nation’s opioid epidemic, mental health crisis, coronavirus, or any chronic disease, our healthcare system needs to respond as one coordinated system of care,” said Susan Frampton, PhD, president of Planetree International and NQF Board Member. “We need all stakeholders—from policy makers to providers, payers, employers, and all leaders who have a role in shaping the safety, quality and value of our healthcare system—to play their part by acting on these recommendations to drive better outcomes for every person and the nation as a whole.”
And to that end, stronger community health is also critical.
“In addition to those traditionally involved in healthcare improvement efforts, we must recognize the essential role of patients, their families and community members, and find meaningful ways to bring them into the circle going forward,” Frampton concluded.
Source: PatientEngagement HIT