In January, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) selected 73 professionals as the initial set of advisors for its Innovation Center (http://innovations.cms.gov/). The advisors include 37 physicians, as well as some nurses and health administrators. Each advisor will receive six months of intensive training in quality-improvement (QI) methods and health systems research in order to deepen skills that could help drive improvements in patient care across the system.
Each of the 920 applicants named a project they wanted to pursue at their home institution; many already are involved in quality activities, says Fran Griffin, the program coordinator. CMS hopes that advisors will become “change agents” and mentors to others within their organizations and communities, she adds. “But we are clear that we are not funding research. We want people to come and be educated, and we want to know if they are learning these skills and applying what they learn in real time,” Griffin says.
Advisors will participate in four in-person meetings, the first of which was held in January, as well as four conference calls or webinars each month. The Innovation Center aims to eventually bring 200 advisors on board, with a second cycle of applications and selections expected later this spring.Funded by the Affordable Care Act, the program provides a stipend of up to $20,000 to the advisor’s institution to free up 10 hours a week for training and to complete their projects. Of the initial set of advisors, at least two are hospitalists: Stephen Liu, MD, MPH, FACPM, of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover, N.H., and Jason Stein, MD, SFHM, director of the clinical research program at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta. Topics pursued by the advisors include unnecessary hospital readmissions, improving care transitions, chronic disease management, and the development of medical homes outside the hospital.
Dr. Liu’s proposed project is to re-engineer and improve geriatric inpatient stays to help preserve patients’ functional status. “Overall, I had a great experience at the first meeting of the advisors,” Dr. Liu says. “It was great to discuss the challenges and opportunities for improvement at each of the different settings represented, and to learn that many of the challenges are similar to those we face in the inpatient setting, such as communication with primary-care providers, transitions of care, and avoiding complications from hospitalizations.”
For more information or to receive email updates, visit www.innovations.cms.gov/initiatives.