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The Breakthrough Series College

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What Is a Collaborative?

A Breakthrough Series Collaborative is a focused (6- to 18-month) improvement project that brings together teams from hospitals or clinics or schools or agencies seeking improvement in a focused topic area towards a common aim. Since inventing the BTS Collaborative methodology, IHI had led Collaboratives around the world on a wide range of topics with thousands of participating teams. Optimal collaboratives range in size from 10 to 100 organizational teams. 

What is the Breakthrough Series College?


The Breakthrough Series (BTS) College, created by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) is a powerful three-day program designed to help you adapt proven methods to spread outstanding improvements across your organization using the Collaborative methodology. In fact, you can gain the insights and strategies you need to prepare for Collaborative start-up — within six months.   

After this program, participants will be able to:

  • Operate a successful Collaborative improvement project
  • Increase your ability to teach and use the Model for Improvement, an improvement strategy used in the Breakthrough Series (BTS)​

Over the two decades that this program has been offered, it has helped health care, social services, education, public health, and other types of organizations make profound and lasting changes that have been spread throughout organizations, across systems, through cities and towns, and even among countries. 

This program has helped organizations run collaboratives on topics including (but not limited to):​

  • Improving organ donation consent rates
  • Reducing complications from ventilators and central lines
  • Improving the patient experience
  • Improving access in primary care
  • Reducing unplanned readmissions
  • Improving access to domestic violence services​
  • Improving childhood literacy
  • Improving chronic care (asthma, congestive heart failure, diabetes, hypertension)
  • Improving care for children in foster care
Read a blog post​ from past BTS College faculty member, Maire Schall, about the BTS methodology and applications outside of health care.

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Topics of Focus

This program will cover topics critical to running a successful Collaborative, including: 
  • Collaborative overview and set-up
  • Topic selection
  • Model for Improvement: Overview and methods for teaching
  • Developing the technical content 
  • Preparing for the Collaborative 
  • Learning Sessions and Action Periods
  • Evaluation and dissemination

Attendee Take-Aways

Of note, participants in past BTS College programs  have stressed the need for organizations to send two or more people to the College, to optimize learning about the Collaborative structure and roles. Participants will select either a Director or Improvement Advisor track when not attending general plenary sessions. Over the course of the Breakthrough Series College, participants will:

  • ​Become prepared for either a Director or Improvement Advisor role at your organization within a BTS Collaborative
  • Learn how to become a change leader within your organization 
  • Connect with peers who are also preparing to run BTS Collaboratives 
  • Have 1:1 coaching opportunity with faculty