I've spent the last three days at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's 22nd annual quality forum in Orlando, a significant experience this year for these reasons.
First, it is the first IHI forum to be held since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Now, the realization that the way care is provided and paid for will undoubtedly change cataclysmically has sunk in for many providers. The bar has been lifted, and they may be nervous or invigorated by the idea, but they know they need to learn more.
That may be why a near-record number of almost 6,000 plus physicians, hospital chiefs, nursing executives and others responsible for quality and patient satisfaction attended from 44 countries.
Second, it is the first held without Don Berwick, MD, its co-founder, President and CEO. Berwick was appointed by President Obama to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which will in effect promulgate regulations that set forth many quality initiatives Berwick and his IHI colleagues conceptualized over the last 20 years. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, one of the keynote speakers said, Tuesday, "I had to go and apologize to IHI staff personally for stealing Don Berwick." But Berwick "is absolutely the right leader at this historic moment," in part because many of his ideas about improving care are now embedded in the new healthcare law.
Third, more than previous IHI forums, this one provided far more input from the patient perspective, and even included a morning devoted to Patient Activists and Partners in Quality and Safety. The idea was to empower activists to tell the healthcare system how it must change to lower cost, reduce waste, and improve their care without harm, and not mince words doing so. Many hospital chiefs say they are now preparing to put patients on their boards.