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“Three Key Takeaways from The 2016 IHI National Forum"

February 6, 2017


By Paul DeChant, MD, MBA, Senior Advisor

The IHI National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care held its 28th annual conference last month, bringing together nearly 6,000 health care professionals from around the world to discuss the goal of improving the quality and value of health care. The four day event had numerous opportunities and activities aimed at furthering this mission, including fascinating speakers, networking events, mini-courses, engaging discussion sessions, and more, but there were three key takeaways for me:

Joy in Work was a big topic, as was the inverse – Burnout. A number of sessions focused on this, including “High Engagement and Low Burnout: Solutions for your workplace," which I presented along with Dr. Diane Shannon – my co-author of Preventing Physician Burnout: Curing the Chaos and Returning Joy to the Practice of Medicine – and Dr. Steve Swensen from the Mayo Clinic. In our session, we described the human and organizational costs of burnout, and discussed the changes in management and leadership that can solve for it. As explained in our book, a disengaged clinician raises the chances of poor quality, poor patient experience, and even harm to the patient, and we know that 54% of physicians report symptoms of burnout. Solutions lie in the sweet spot where increasing engagement and satisfaction also reduce burnout. With over 300 session attendees, we found there was a keen interest in this issue and creating a plan to reduce burnout and increase joy in their own workplace. Dr. Abraham Verghese of Stanford also gave a plenary session emphasizing the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and the need to redesign care to support the physician focusing on the patient.

Team care is an approach in which a physician's office workflow is redesigned, providing more support staff to the physician, primarily by having RNs, LVNs, or Medical Assistants participate in many activities that are currently done only by the physician. As care has gotten more complex, almost all of the complexity has been absorbed into the doctor's work, resulting in it taking many more hours for physicians to complete all of their tasks. As physicians learn to empower their staff members to do more things - manage phone requests, take basic histories, record the doctor-patient interaction into the progress note, pend orders in the record for the doctor to confirm - physicians spend less time on the keyboard and more focused on their patients. Everybody wins!

Patient empowerment is growing in importance. Dr. Don Berwick is always inspiring and he gave a great talk about empowering patients, including remarkable approaches of patients administering their own dialysis. If we are going to improve care, reduce the burden of disease, and manage the cost, patient empowerment will be key.

The IHI Forum stands as a great resource and think-tank for the health care community to continually improve and effect real change in the quality and safety of care. You can find out more about the IHI Forum, along with keynote recordings and session overviews, here.

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