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IHI's Top 12 Picks from 2019

By Mike Briddon | Tuesday, December 10, 2019


There’s no shortage of ideas coming your way. As you read that first sentence, two or three emails may have just forced their way into your overcrowded in-box. So how do you know which ideas are worth your time? Which ones will leave some sort of an imprint (even a very small one) on you?

This is our annual effort to help you cut through the clutter.

Now, that doesn’t mean we share clutter with you! On the contrary, we strive to be thoughtful and helpful with every email, blog post, video, publication, and audio program we produce and send your way. Some, though, hold a special place as our favorites and, more importantly, your favorites.

Without further ado, here, in no particular order, are IHI’s top 12 picks from 2019:

  1. You were loud and clear this year that practical tools and toolkits were a welcome addition to your work. The new Patient Safety Toolkit includes tools to help improve teamwork and communication; identify and address root causes of errors; and build reliable systems. Each of the nine tools includes a short description, instructions, an example, and a template to assist with implementation.
  2. Speaking of tools, money has, as usual, been gaining headlines in the health care space. This year, the IHI Leadership Alliance published new resources designed to help with cost reduction. The “Trillion Dollar Checkbook” and a “Call to Action,” lay out ways to reduce health care waste that could enable “writing a check back to the American people” — that is, decrease wasteful spending to return the savings to support essential services and community needs. The Alliance Waste Workgroup aims to systematically and proactively identify and eliminate 50 percent of non-value-added waste in the US health care system by 2025.
  3. While we’re on the topic of the Triple Aim, we’ve been energized to see so many organizations around the world taking on the challenges of simultaneously addressing population health, improving the patient experience, and reducing costs. Consequently, it should be no surprise that the year's most popular new blog post was from IHI President and CEO Derek Feeley's Line of Sight column on what he calls "The Five Ps of Triple Aim Transformation."
  4. The Triple Aim was also a popular topic on IHI's YouTube channel. In a video that got more than 10,000 views, Rishi Manchanda, Founder and CEO of HealthBegins, tells us a story to answer the question, "Can you achieve the Triple Aim without addressing the social determinants of health?"
  5. The forward-thinking approach — moving upstream to deal with the problems we face every day — resonated at Tampa General Hospital. There, guided by help from blogger and head of IHI’s North America Region, Jennifer Lenoci-Edwards, the focus is on quality planning — spending less time dealing with problems as they arise and more time strategically preparing to avoid them. Read more in Tired of Firefighting? Adopt a Quality Strategy


  6. How to build a culture of safety were themes running through much of the year's most popular content. Clinicians from around the world shared how building their quality improvement capability helped them work with their teams more effectively, see their work differently, and cultivate more joy in work. One described how asking patients about herbal medications helps keep them safer. One asserted that running more effective and psychologically safe meetings is reducing burnout. For one team, building a culture of safety means being willing to ask those working most closely with patients for brutally honest feedback. This frontline engagement led to dramatic reductions in VAP.
  7. No conversation about culture is complete — or really, can even start — without equity. The Pursuing Equity initiative ended this year and IHI published a range of new equity resources synthesizing the experiences and learning from the eight participating teams from across the US. These include an equity assessment tool and five guides that provide examples of improvements tested, lessons learned, challenges and mitigation strategies, and tools and resources.
  8. Equity was a thread we weaved into much of IHI’s work this year, including Derek Feeley’s urge to readers to avoid waiting to feel comfortable when talking about race and racism. In it, Feeley asked, "As leaders, we can’t eliminate all the contributors to inequities experienced by our patients and staff, but shouldn’t we do all we can to influence the factors that are in our control?" Members of the IHI Leadership Alliance and others have taken that question to heart. During a WIHI on promoting equity in the health care workforce, Leadership Alliance members from Bellin Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Medical Center talked about the significant impact addressing workplace inequities can have on the health of the communities in which their institutions reside.
  9. Another of WIHI’s most popular episodes was about making childbirth safer and eliminating birth inequities. The show, Black Women and Maternal Care: Redesigning for Safety, Dignity, and Respect, introduced many listeners to IHI's Better Maternal Outcomes Network (supported by Merck for Mothers), which is co-designing ways to improve health outcomes by delivering safe, equitable, respectful care of women and their babies.
  10. Understanding “what matters” has long had a role in much of IHI’s work. To learn more about its roots, we went straight to the source. As a co-author of the influential article that first urged clinicians to ask, “What matters to you?” as well as “What is the matter?” Susan Edgman-Levitan has marveled at how this concept has spread around the world. She also knows that many people are still unconvinced of its power. In a popular interview, she shares her tips on how to counter skepticism about putting “What Matters” into practice.
  11. Speaking of simple and meaningful questions, Do We Make QI Too Complicated? When IHI Executive Director Karen Baldoza asked this over the summer, the question must have resonated with many because her perspective on the past, present, and future of building improvement capability became one of the most popular blog posts of the year.
  12. And finally, looking to the future we all face: IHI’s work on age-friendly care — focused on the "4Ms" of Mobility, Mentation, Medications, and What Matters to older adults — maximizes value for patients, caregivers, and the overall system. An IHI report on the business case for age-friendly care outlines the financial returns possible for organizations providing optimal care for older adults. The report includes two return on investment (ROI) calculators that allow teams in different settings to collect and analyze their data.

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