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Four Views on Health Care Improvement from the West Coast Conference

By IHI Open School | Wednesday, June 17, 2015

This April, the intrepid improvers of the IHI Open School’s West Coast Region held their first-ever conference, drawing about 160 students, professionals, and community members to Portland, OR. Student organizers from the IHI Open School Chapter of Portland State University and Oregon State Health and Science University, in collaboration with the West Coast Region, welcomed speakers from across the country to share their diverse experiences in health improvement, leadership, safety, system redesign, and Chapter development. Chapter Leaders Rebekah Bally, MPH candidate, Cally Kamiya, MPH, and Kelsey Priest, MPH, a medical student, shared these highlights from what they learned from the four keynote speakers at the conference. (Stay tuned to this blog to read an upcoming post on what they learned from planning a conference.)

  1. Winston Wong, Kaiser Permanente: "When you design systems with an equity lens, everyone benefits." To kick off the two-day conference, Dr. Wong, MD, MS, medical director for Kaiser Permanente Community Benefit, underscored the importance of integrating equity into discussions related to health and well-being. He challenged the audience to move from leaving equity as an afterthought to making it a topic integrated into all aspects of decision-making. Dr. Wong’s presentation set the stage for conversations about equity throughout the duration of the West Coast Conference. 
  2. Monte Roulier, Community Initiatives: "Health is not an intervention. It is a product of our society and communities." Roulier, MPH, president of Community Initiatives, an organization that works nationwide with communities working to improve health, well-being, and quality of life, shared his perspective on the importance of interprofessional collaboration. He emphasized the power of stories in bringing people with diverse goals into a shared strategy, and challenged the audience to be opportunistic and experimental in the current health care environment. He encouraged conference attendees to understand health beyond the scope of health care delivery. 
  3. Mary Foley, family caregiver: "I was comfortable in the hospital setting but...I still needed the experts to explain to me in easy to understand terms what was going to happen next.” Foley, RN, PhD, described her experience of being a caregiver to her partner through her journey with cancer. Though both experienced in the field (nursing/teaching and health care administration respectively) Dr. Foley described how it felt to be on the other side of the care equation. She told us how she took action to keep her partner safe during the dangerous times of treatment. Each time before her partner was admitted, Dr. Foley would re-clean the hospital room, staining her clothes with chemical cleaners. She would put up a picture of her partner from healthier times to remind the care team of her partner's health and youthful spirit. Their story reminded us of the importance of including family on the care team. 
  4. Neel Shah, Costs of Care: "There are three problems with the average American medical bill. First, 10 seconds is probably the longest we [providers] have ever looked at one. Second, most of the costs are arbitrarily determined. And last, about one-third of the items can be taken out.” Shah, MD, MPP, founder of Costs of Care, closed out our conference with an image of an average American medical bill — totaling almost $40,000. He then explained why medical expenditures in the United States are so high, and asked participants to work in groups to develop innovative solutions that might help reduce the costs of care.

Interested in hearing more from our tremendous speakers? Their talks are available online


The West Coast Conference was made possible by the generous support of the IHI Open School, the PSU & OHSU IHI Open School Chapter, the OHSU Office of the Provost, the PSU Speakers Board, FamilyCare Health, Mark O. Hatfield School of Government, Portland State University, OHSU School of Nursing, OHSU School of Medicine, OHSU All Hill Council, the Oregon Patient Safety Commission, and more than 30 student and faculty volunteers.

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