CMS Leaders Laud Health Quality Progress, Urge Accelerated Improvement

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) kicked off its annual health care quality conference, QualityNet, in Baltimore on Dec. 2, 2014 by celebrating recent health care quality accomplishments and urging attendees to accelerate the pace of improvement.

Honorary guest speaker Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the 22nd secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), thanked Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs), Hospital Engagement Networks, providers and other stakeholders for helping improve patient safety. Citing data from a newly released report from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Burwell estimated that nearly 50,000 fewer Americans lost their lives between 2010 and 2013 due to a reduction in hospital-acquired conditions.

Just think for a moment about what saving even one life means to a family… a congregation… a community,” she said.

Burwell described the patient safety progress as a start” and asked health care stakeholders to help pick up the pace of progress. View Burwell's speech in its entirety here.

Seizing upon this call-to-action, Dr. Patrick Conway, M.D., MSc – CMS’ Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Quality and Chief Medical Officer – outlined some action items for QIOs and other health care stakeholders. These next steps included eliminating patient harm, testing new models of care coordination and delivery, supporting a learning health system and relentlessly pursuing improved health outcomes.

The QIO Program has a strong, rich history of improvement across this country,” Conway said. We’re taking it to the next level by pursuing the aims of better care, healthy people, healthy communities and more affordable care.”

Dr. Stephen Cha, M.D., MHSR – Chief Medical Officer at the Center for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) Services – told QualityNet attendees that the expansion of the Medicaid program is not enough” – that it’s necessary to build a foundation for improved quality and to change payment systems.

I see the opportunity to truly make things better for our Medicaid population,” Cha said.

Special guests Ciaran and Orlaith Staunton, parents and co-founders of The Rory Staunton Foundation, shared the heartbreaking story of their son Rory and his battle with sepsis. Their experience with the health care system was documented in a powerful video that emphasized the importance of quickly diagnosing and treating sepsis. The Stauntons urged conference attendees to return home and support the adoption of Rory’s Regulations, which require health care providers to develop and implement protocols to rapidly diagnose and treat sepsis infections.

Jean Moody-Williams, Deputy Director of CMS’ Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, closed the session by drawing parallels between CMS goals and the conference theme of Moving from Vision to Reality.” The reorganization of the CMS QIO Program was a vision at the last QualityNet and a reality today,” she said.