09:22 AM

Better Care for Today; a Better Healthcare System for Tomorrow

Guest blog post by Cindy Hannon, DentaQuest Institute Quality Improvement Manager

I just had an inspiring experience at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) 23rd Annual Forum. Over 6,000 participants (yes 6,000!) converged on Orlando, Florida to focus on quality in healthcare. Over the last year, I have been working with DentaQuest Institute partners on three Quality Improvement projects in dental care – Dental Sealants for Adolescents, Early Childhood Caries (ECC), and Elimination of Dental Disease.

I wanted to attend this year’s IHI Forum because the DentaQuest Institute is gearing up for an exciting 2012 with a strong focus on quality and a prevention-focused, disease management model of care. There is a lot to be learned from the work of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. Its successes are lessons in the kind of change management that facilitates improvements within a care system. Time and again, people that I met in sessions and around the conference said they were so happy to have people involved in dentistry at the quality table.

Maureen Bisognano, President and CEO of IHI started the two-day forum reminding us of our purpose -- we are capable of “making better care for today and a better healthcare system for tomorrow.”

With Quality Improvement, we are “acting for the individual but learning for the population.” Stories of patients and their families are important tools: “Stories,” Maureen reminded us “are first personal, then they become public, and then collective, and lastly, they become political.” There is a connecting thread: we help the individual and what we learn supports improvement for others. A compelling patient story helps grab attention today and builds the will for change. Our patient encounters help us understand the situation (patient, disease and environment) and devise better solutions. Data help us make the case to move change through the system. Quality improvement, at its core, is applying reliable new knowledge (science-based evidence) with a goal of better outcomes.

On the plane returning to Massachusetts, I sat in my seat tired but full of energy. Charlie Homer, MD, MPH, President of the National Initiative for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) and a national leader in improving the quality of healthcare for children, was on the same flight. Jane Taylor, EdD, an Improvement Advisor for IHI, was also on the flight. I was just a few rows behind them. It occurred to me –dentistry may be behind medicine in this quality improvement work, but we are all on the same flight, headed for the same destination… better health outcomes. And, I am thinking about the stories we will have to tell.