Quality Pays — and Person Centered Care is a Path to Quality!

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Matt Younger, CEO, Northwest Health Services, Inc.; Former Administrator of the Section for Long-Term Care Regulation, Missouri DHSS; Member of your Pioneer Network Education Committee

One thing we’ve learned in health care in the last several years is that investing time and resources inQuality Improvement (QAPI) efforts pays. It can increase profitability, as well as avert legal fees and regulatory penalties. That much is understood.

Many times when we think of QAPI, however, we think of things like Root Cause Analysis, SBAR forms and PDSA cycles — and it’s true that Quality Improvement is all of those things, but it’s also expert coaching and consultation, it’s leadership development, and it’s expansion of less-traditional — but equally effective — tools.

Among those tools is the Artifacts of Culture Change, developed by Karen Schoeneman, formerly of CMS,and Carmen Bowman of Edu-Catering, Inc., with financial support from theCommonwealth Fund. You can  access it for free on the Pioneer Network website, but did you know you can also find it on the Agency for HealthcareResearch and Quality (AHRQ – a sister agency of CMS) website, alongside checklists to help prevent wrong-site surgery and physician tool sets for e-prescribing,and other more traditional measures? The Artifacts tool lets you objectively assess how person-centered your environment and your organizational practices are right now. See how you measure up against other homes across the country and even help find efficiencies and calculate the dollars you may save by employing them.

No one can say what the future holds for long-term care economically, but we know that person-centered models of care help create more responsive and adaptable organizations – the types that are best-equipped to respond to whatever challenges lie ahead. It also attracts discerning customers, who are willing to pay more for better care. In other words, culture change makes business sense.

I make this point because in many healthcare settings, people are regarded only as data points for the purposes of QAPI. Leaders in long-term care today are embracing person-centered care models and re-establishing the importance of humanity (the person) in nursing and medicine. It’s truly one of the most exciting times to work in health and wellness-related sectors. Thanks to the persistent efforts of Pioneer Network to continue to integrate quality of care and quality of life,the most innovative development in healthcare in the next decade could be the realization of the power of human caring.

There are two popular aphorisms of management that illustrate the value of investing in QAPI,”The goals we accomplish are the ones we measure,” and “the future doesn’t happen on its own, but rather is created by our actions.”When our profession commits resources to QAPI, we ought to first be measuring things that matter, like the quality of the lives of real people who need our help.  We can help ensure a brighter future for healthcare by committing to measuring and improving quality of life.

When we’re talking about Quality Improvement and Process Improvement (and we should be talking more about them), don’t forget this: In our line of work, we’re never just talking about data. We’re talking about aging, dignity, quality of life and what it means to be a person. It’s one of our greatest responsibilities to ensure that the dialogue is thoughtful.