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Five Takeaways from the 26th IHI National Forum

By IHI Open School | Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Students present their work at the IHI Open School Chapter Congress.

Whew. The IHI Open School team is back in our Cambridge office after our biggest event of the year — the National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care.

Last week, more than 5,000 health leaders descended one of the world’s largest Marriott hotels, in Orlando, Florida, to teach and learn from each other. We heard from writer and surgeon Atul Gawande, MD; Good Morning America host and cancer survivor Robin Roberts; and Don Berwick, MD. For a few days, IHI staff abandoned our day jobs and donned our blue IHI polo shirts to answer attendees’ myriad questions and help them find their sessions.

Now that we’re back to our normal routines, those invigorating days in Orlando seem like a dream. But the issues we heard about are real. The Forum reminded us of all the work we health care improvers still have ahead of us. So let’s get to it! Here are five takeaways and action steps from the 26th National Forum:

  1. Improving health care is critical, but we can’t stop there. The IHI Open School, along with IHI, aims to create a culture of health. At the IHI Open School Chapter Congress, Dr. Don Berwick laid out a challenge for Open School students: Take part in the next phase of the Open School’s Improvement Change Agent Network (I-CAN) movement. We’re offering a new, eight-week course on leadership and community organizing that guides students to take action in their communities. Learn more and apply here.
  2. And” is the new “or.” Instead of choosing between improving quality or reducing costs, creating joy for patients or for staff, or thinking about health care or health, we can and must do both. IHI CEO Maureen Bisognano and Executive Vice President Derek Feeley illustrated this approach with a joint keynote to kick off the Forum.
  3. Students are amazing improvers! This year, students and trainees made up one out of every 10 Forum attendees, and they presented 123 storyboards, the largest number ever. Check out the great student work on the virtual storyboard tour here.
  4. Patients are people. Robin Roberts, a host of Good Morning America who survived breast cancer and a rare blood disorder, shared intimate moments from her experience as a patient. What mattered to her was finding a human connection with a team of caregivers. She felt restored by the hospital custodian who looked after her and the doctor who whispered a prayer under his surgical mask as he performed a procedure. How can you build relationships with your patients?
  5. Don Berwick is back. In a rousing closing keynote, Dr. Berwick described the injustices he saw while he was away from IHI on the campaign trail for governor of Massachusetts and called for health care providers to broaden their view of health. Why does our medical system spare no expense to save the life of a gunshot victims, but not invest in the job training or counseling required to save them from the bullet in the first place? Dr. Berwick laid out three action steps: 1) Reduce health care costs, so we can afford proven prevention programs. 2) Broaden our engagement to address issues like mass incarceration that are destroying the health of communities. 3) Vote.

As an organization dedicated to improvement, IHI works to make each year’s Forum better than the last. What did you take away from your Forum experience, and how can we better serve you next year? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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