Four years ago, Geraint Martin, CEO of Counties Manukau District Health Board (CMDHB) in Auckland, New Zealand, had a vision. He wanted to maximize improvement in the health system by supporting learning and innovation across the district and bringing together a variety of health-related services under one roof.
"Working with people who are willing to push the limits and do things differently is really exciting."
Meanwhile, almost 9,000 miles away, IHI was developing a new concept called Quality and Innovation Centers (QICs) to help innovative organizations play a leadership role, similar to that of IHI, in advancing quality and safety in their regions. QICs would develop the capability to offer professional development programming and improvement expertise, convene key stakeholders, spread best practices, conduct evaluation and data analysis, and undertake R&D for innovation.
CMDHB’s aspirations and IHI’s new QIC strategy dovetailed perfectly. The result is Ko Awatea, a new learning center in Auckland that opened in June 2011 — a partnership between IHI and CMDHB to establish a QIC for the region. According to Dr. Jonathon Gray, Ko Awatea Director and a former IHI Fellow, the name means “dawning of the first light” in Maori and reflects the resolve “to capture the opportunity of that moment at the beginning of a new day, just as the first light appears and perhaps anything is possible.”
Ko Awatea, attached to a hospital, features 25 classrooms, a library, and an innovation space. Former IHI Senior Vice President Penny Carver describes it as “a warm, engaging environment that stimulates conversations, networking, and learning.” About 300 students come through the center each day to attend professional development programs, modeled after IHI’s, for executives, frontline improvement teams, and managers. Inspired by IHI’s Campaigns, Ko Awatea is running several campaigns of its own, the most ambitious of which is Saving 20,000 Bed Days with the goal to reduce hospital bed days by 5 percent.
Students from the Auckland community at the Ko Awatea learning center
According to Tanya Maloney, Ko Awatea’s General Manager, “The learning opportunities for us, being able to partner with IHI, are fantastic. Working with people who are willing to push the limits and do things differently is really exciting.” They also benefit from IHI’s expertise grounded in longstanding experience. “There’s the excitement of doing new things,” says Maloney, “and having the solid methodology.”