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A New Era for Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety

Aug 15, 2023
Jesi Wang

Jesi Wang

By: Jesi Wang, MetaStar President & CEO

MetaStar is celebrating 50 years of dedication, partnership, and progress in effecting positive change in health and healthcare. We enthusiastically look forward to a new era in healthcare quality and patient safety, while recognizing our journey toward optimal health for all is ongoing.

In 1999, the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) released a landmark report: To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System. It shed light on a sobering reality: Preventable medical errors were contributing to tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year.

The research called out staggering systemic failings, including fractured communication, inadequate training, and a lack of standardization in medical practices. Further, it pointed to a need to fashion a “culture of safety” based on transparency, the ability to report errors without fear of retribution, and, perhaps most important, learning from mistakes.

Since that report, significant improvements have occurred, thanks to the dedication of healthcare organizations and professionals. This includes the widespread adoption of electronic health records (EHRs); improvements in medication safety; implementation of learning systems and error reporting; fostering cultures of safety; and advances in telemedicine and remote patient monitoring. Yet there is more to be done.

As we look to the future of quality and patient safety, six key opportunities exist to further effect change and improve the lives of the individuals and communities we serve:

1. Better engage patients as true partners.

We need to prioritize active engagement in decision-making, while fostering collaborative relationships between healthcare providers and patients, to ensure care is tailored to individual needs and preferences for improved health outcomes and overall well-being.

A best practice example is the Moving Forward Coalition, a trailblazing group of more than 120 individuals and organizations focused on nursing home reform that routinely calls on groups of nursing home residents to identify problems and propose solutions.

2. Harness the power of clinical data to improve decision-making and health outcomes.

Emphasizing interoperability between healthcare providers and communities will facilitate seamless exchange of information, enabling comprehensive patient profiles and a holistic approach to care. We must acquire better data rather than just more data to advance patient outcomes and introduce efficiencies in healthcare processes. We need to think creatively about better ways to analyze, gather, share, present, and use data so the focus is on improved healthcare outcomes and not only data capture and measurement.

There are solutions such as the Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network’s (WISHIN) Pulse, a patient-centric, longitudinal community health record that enhances clinical decision-making and empowers community providers to communicate, collaborate, coordinate, and provide whole-person care. WISHIN can help remove health information exchange or access-related barriers and impact health outcomes at both the individual and community levels.

3. Address health equity and the social factors influencing health.

By implementing targeted interventions that address disparities in access to healthcare, education, housing, and nutrition, we can address the broader system that shapes an individual’s health. Promoting policy changes and community-based initiatives that enable all individuals to achieve optimal health outcomes regardless of social circumstances is critical.

While studying substance use mortality in Dane County, the MetaStar team uncovered a stunning disparity between African American and White residents. While deaths occurred at a rate of 26 per 100,000 among Whites, Blacks faced mortality rates at nearly four times that level (96 per 100,000). Armed with this data, MetaStar met with individuals with lived experience to understand systemic gaps while designing cohesive and comprehensive large-scale improvement strategies. MetaStar will continue to braid wisdom with those most affected to amplify their voices and identify collaborative solutions.

4. Facilitate collaborative care and comprehensive coordination.

We will focus on addressing individuals’ holistic needs by designing, implementing, and evaluating programs that seamlessly coordinate healthcare providers with other settings of support, such as community organizations. By fostering information exchange, collaborative planning, and aligned measurement, we can establish a patient-centered system to ensure care and support are not only accessible and coordinated but aligned with an individual’s preferences, meeting them where they are on their healthcare journey.

One way MetaStar is supporting this work is by partnering with Sauk County Partnership for Prevention to strengthen and expand substance use disorder/opioid use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery services to enhance rural residents’ ability to access treatment and move toward recovery. Partners are working across the health system, public health, and community to address root causes and to face such issues head-on.

5. Better support for older adults.

With our current population trends, supporting and empowering older adults will be critical to patient safety and healthcare quality improvement. With the expansion of home and community-based services (HCBS) efforts, older adults and people with disabilities will receive necessary assistance while remaining in their homes or living in community settings. This means new ways of thinking of quality in non-traditional settings, such as assisted living facilities and home-based care.

MetaStar continues to support long-term care facilities through assessment of quality standards, support with reporting needs, and creating a continuous quality improvement culture to help identify and address safety issues proactively, creating safer and more effective care environments for aging adults in all settings.

6. Amplify feedback, communication, and transparency.

MetaStar considers this, along with oversight and accountability, to be critical to a quality health system. Transparently sharing outcomes, safety data, and quality metrics not only fosters accountability but also builds trust among care settings and patients. By creating a culture that values open communication and learning from errors, healthcare providers can proactively address challenges, implement best practices, and consistently elevate the safety and quality of care. These initiatives ultimately result in improved health outcomes and patient satisfaction.

As an External Quality Review Organization and HEDIS Licensed Organization, MetaStar actively engages with healthcare providers, payers, beneficiaries, and stakeholders to gather valuable feedback that informs health and healthcare programs. Our commitment to feedback, communication, and transparency is evident in our comprehensive reporting, auditing, and validation services. Not only do these processes identify opportunities for improvement in health and healthcare, they also provide valid and reliable data that strengthens trust and guides effective decision making.

The familiar adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” rings true as we consider the development of a flawless healthcare system. Just as it took time to shape the great city, achieving a near-perfect health system will take time. Still, progress made to date has been significant and highly encouraging, the outlook for the future is even brighter, and MetaStar stands poised to play a key leadership role in guiding positive change in health and healthcare. We are excited to collaborate with you in shaping this future.


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