In the fall of 2011, IHI Open School Chapter Leaders in South Dakota successfully integrated a few IHI Open School online courses into a multidisciplinary anatomy course within the University of South Dakota (USD) Sanford School of Medicine as a pilot project. After that, they worked with the Department of Internal Medicine at the school to offer some of the courses to third-year medical students. From there, the Chapter Leaders worked with the USD Health Sciences program, making the IHI Open School Basic Certificate in Quality & Safety – 16 online courses in quality improvement and patient safety – a requirement for all majors. Then, they started working with various schools around the state – and various programs at those schools, including medicine, nursing, and social work – to integrate some of the courses.
And yet, they’re not satisfied with their progress. Satisfaction will come only when the Chapter achieves a first in the IHI Open School network: the adoption of IHI Open School courses by every health professions school in a state.
“From our perspective, it’s a totally unique and outstanding opportunity,” says Wendell W. Hoffman, MD, a patient safety officer with Sanford Health and Faculty Advisor to the South Dakota Chapter. “Show us another integrated form of education out there that deals with interdisciplinary learning taught by the best faculty in the world, is constantly updated, and aligns with other curriculum guidelines already in place. There is none.”
The IHI Open School offers 19 courses on topics including quality improvement, patient safety, leadership, population health, and patient-and-family-centered care. Courses are available for free to students, residents, and faculty and for a small fee to health professionals. Each online module takes about one to two hours to complete. More than 100 schools and organizations around the world have already integrated some or all of the IHI Open School courses into their training or curricula.
Ryan Miller, a third-year medical student and a leader of the South Dakota Chapter since 2011, wants to increase that number by spreading the IHI Open School courses to all major universities and colleges in South Dakota and the three main health systems where students train. This year, he’s targeting eight schools in the state, which educate students in nursing, pharmacy, medicine, health sciences, physical therapy, occupational therapy, health services administration, social work, respiratory care, and health information management programs.
“We want to be the first regional collaborative, numbering into the thousands, that significantly hardwires these courses into the curriculum,” he says. “Our ultimate goal is that nearly every student beginning a health professions program in South Dakota will be speaking the same language.”
Miller and his Chapter Leaders brainstormed ways to meet their goal, and decided the best approach would be to start at the top. The Chapter created something called the “Dean’s Forum,” a biannual meeting where deans from schools across South Dakota join Chapter Leaders in a discussion about curricula needs and improvements.
Since the first meeting, the deans have been very enthusiastic about the rationale for the IHI Open School modules, as well as this type of forum, Hoffman says. Attendance has been impressive. Much of the discussion at the forums has centered on course integration within the individual schools.
“Faculty buy that the content of the IHI Open School courses has been well crafted and unique, but their challenge is to figure out the best way to use them in their curricula,” says Hoffman. “It has been our privilege to help facilitate these conversations.”
During the last several months, more programs have been discussing where in their curriculum to place IHI Open School courses. Sanford School of Medicine is determining the details for implementation into a new curriculum beginning in the fall of 2013. In addition, one of the major South Dakota health systems offered 150 scholarships for staff to take the courses, which will likely provide natural teachers of quality for future curricular efforts, Miller says. Going forward, schools will be encouraged to use the IHI Open School courses as the primary content for quality and safety, and to develop more hands-on opportunities, including interdisciplinary quality improvement projects and simulation.
It’s a model Miller and Hoffman hope other states will adopt in the future.
“The IHI Open School courses are an overwhelming case for what can actually change our health care system,” says Hoffman. “With our initiative, maybe little, old South Dakota can offer something to the world.”