Get Started: How You Can Improve the Lives of Frail Elders and their Families Today

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By Janice Lynch Schuster

During two days of sessions at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s 13th International Summit, I was struck by repeated messages from plenary speakers and learning lab leaders. No matter the particulars of their presentation, each riffed in one way or another on the fact that we can all act now to change and improve health care so that we obtain better care, better outcomes, and lower costs. More than that, each pointed to the unique convergence of social, political, and health care factors that have set us up to get it right this time, to improve care for patients and their loved ones, to create a better environment for health care providers, and to imagine and implement a system in which health and health care are seen as human rights.

In his keynote address, former CMS Administrator and IHI founder Don Berwick, MD, left the audience with five principles on which to base change. In a nutshell: Put the patient first. Protect the disadvantaged. Start at scale—think big and act big. Return the money—drive waste out of the system and return that money to the community. And act locally.

In the spirit of acting locally, Altarum’s Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness has developed two guides that we hope will help you to apply Dr. Berwick’s five principles to your work. The first of these is our “Get Started” guide (http://medicaring.org/action-guides/get-started/) to help activist service providers and community leaders imagine, design, and implement community-based systems to improve care transitions. The second of these, “The Agitator’s Guide,” (http://medicaring.org/action-guides/agitators-guide/) offers specific things you can do—RIGHT NOW—to improve the lives of frail elders in your community. Both documents embody the principles Dr. Berwick outlined, and give you an opportunity to test out the improvement mantra: What can you do by Tuesday?

If you test these ideas, we’d like to hear about and report your experiences, insights, and progress. Send a note to (info@medicaring.org).

Key Words:  IHI, Don Berwick, Agitator’s Guide, local improvement

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