The Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organizations (QIN-QIOs) faced the challenges of a global pandemic during the inaugural year of NQIIC with grit and perseverance, and strategically created agile systems to support providers and beneficiaries who needed it most. Transparent, data-driven strategy will drive outcomes in the next four years of projects designed to lead rapid, large-scale change in the health care system.
New quality improvement programs now join the QIN-QIOs to address health care challenges and reduce disparities among underserved populations in other local care settings: within hospitals, among opioid prescribers and within the Indian Health Service. Now all NQIICs will work together to achieve the following goals:
The Hospital Quality Improvement Contractor (HQIC) program supports small, rural and critical access hospitals and those that care for the vulnerable and underserved. HQICs also receive assistance with pandemic response and emergency preparedness.
The American Indian/Alaska Native Healthcare Quality Initiative (AIHQI) supports 25 small, rural and critical access hospitals and those that care for the vulnerable and underserved through the Indian Health Service.
SUPPORT Act Section 6052 supports the CMS-led initiative, required in the SAS 6052 (PL 115-271), to provide technical assistance to qualified providers to help reduce high-risk opioid prescribing behaviors, thereby contributing to combatting the opioid epidemic.
There will be a continuous focus on mitigating COVID-19 and developing safety tactics to protect our nation’s most vulnerable. After the end of the Annual Report year, safe and effective vaccines were approved, and distribution is underway, beginning with health care workers, nursing home residents and senior citizens. Until vaccine production is increased and vaccines are widely available and adopted nationally, the pandemic presents an ongoing risk to all beneficiaries, particularly those living in nursing homes. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and elevated infection prevention measures will continue to be essential. Social distancing measures will have a profound long-term effect on health and on the provision of health care, and the prolonged isolation experienced by many beneficiaries and their families will necessitate clear provider strategies to promote patient and family engagement, behavioral health, chronic disease self-management, patient safety and care transitions.
Using what was learned from nursing home trainings, CMS and NQIICs will partner, collaborate and innovate to respond to local conditions and to provide support to health care providers in every care setting. The 2021 CMS Quality Conference theme is Healthcare Innovation During a Time of Disruption and will bring together 5,000 thought leaders across the health care spectrum to explore how patients, advocates, providers, researchers and champions in quality improvement can develop and spread solutions to address key health care challenges created from disruption. The conference aims to advance the Administration’s rapidly-evolving quality agenda.
The lessons learned from the pandemic about nimble, data-driven, real-time strategies will continue to drive the proactive quality improvement leadership work of CMS and QIN-QIOs to benefit the delivery of care far beyond this crisis, paving the way for innovative pathways to exceptional care.