Nine things to know as Partnership for Patients faces its next permutation

June 4, 2018 / By Kristine Daynes

HHS is adapting yet again of one of its most widespread quality initiatives, called Partnership for Patients. Will it be more of the same or a whole new game? HHS has not released full information beyond giving notice of possible contract changes, which would affect over 4,000 hospitals. But already the networks, member hospitals and community partners are anticipating how they may have to stretch to meet ongoing improvement targets.

Here are nine things to keep in mind about the Partnership for Patients initiative and tips for how organizations can prepare for the imminent transition:

1. HHS launched the Partnership for Patients initiative in 2011, contracting with local, regional and national nonprofit organizations to facilitate improvements in the quality of hospital care.

2. The first vehicles for the program were Hospital Engagement Networks (HENs). In September 2016, CMS transitioned HENs into the Hospital Improvement Innovation Network program (HIIN), The program involves more than 4,000 short-term acute-care hospitals for a 24-month base period and a 12-month option year.

3. Recently CMS proposed to “upgrade” the same entities into a new version of the program called Network of Quality Improvement and Innovation Contractors (NQIIC), which could be underway by mid-2019.

4. The largest HIIN is managed by the American Hospital Association’s Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) and contains almost 1,700 hospitals with support from 32 state hospital associations.

5. HIIN program priorities for 2017 and 2018 are to reduce core areas of overall inpatient harm, such as adverse drug events and urinary tract infections, by 20 percent and all-cause 30-day readmissions.

6. The HIIN program is based on tenets of education and coordinated effort among hospitals to disseminate “well-tested, evidence-based, and measured best practices” that improve patient care.

7. Participants in the HEN and HIIN programs benefit from technical support for data collection and reporting, evidence-based practices to reduce avoidable complications, education resources, peer-to-peer networking, and better communication among hospitals and providers to reduce readmissions.

8. Networks are required to track and monitor hospital progress toward operational and quality improvement goals, including estimates of cost savings and the return on investment linked to their activities. The measures do not have to be risk adjusted.

9. HIIN reports on the progress since 2016 have not been made public. HHS has stated that the HENs “made significant progress in keeping patients safe – an estimated 2.1 million fewer patients harmed, 87,000 lives saved, and nearly $20 billion in cost-savings from 2010 to 2014.”

As with any continuous improvement, the Partnership for Patients program is challenged to keep up progress year after. David Wetherelt, business development director at 3M, consults with hospital associations and hospitals who are involved with HIINs. He notes that the networks have tracked improvement activities using static data and a combination of raw outcomes and process measures. It will become harder to achieve ongoing incremental results, especially with lagging data.

Wetherelt encourages organizations to adopt technology that provides relevant information at a patient level with alerts while the patient is still in the hospital. To be most useful, the information must include risk-adjusted outcomes measures and real-time data. This level of sophistication would allow HIINs and hospitals to prioritize patient groups and service areas where they can make measurable improvements.

Kristine Daynes is senior product manager at 3M Health Information Systems.

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