Accelerating Change Today (A.C.T.) – For America’s Health

NCHC Writer
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What is it?

A.C.T. – For America’s Health is an initiative that aims to improve the quality of health care in the United States through:

  • Building public awareness of the need for quality improvement.
  • Identifying exemplary “best practices” in health care – innovations that are yielding better patient outcomes; increasing access to timely medical care; lowering costs; making the health system easier to use; and reducing medical errors and inappropriate/unnecessary care.
  • Accelerating the spread of best practices throughout the health system.
  • Changing the culture of medicine to nurture a greater focus on best practices and “evidence-based” care.

Who’s doing it?

The initiative is a collaborative effort of the National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). The NCHC is a non-profit, non-partisan education and information group based in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1990 and is comprised of some 90 organizations. These include corporations, unions, physician and other health provider groups, academic health centers, consumer and religious groups. NCHC members will help facilitate the initiative.

The IHI is an independent, non-profit education and research organization based in Boston, Mass. It was founded in 1991 with the goal of bringing health care leaders and organizations together to improve health care. IHI sponsors a wide array of educational forums for medical professionals and health care administrators. The co-founder and president, Donald M. Berwick, M.D., is one of the nation’s leading authorities on heath care quality.

What’s the time frame?

The ACT initiative was launched in September 1998. An education campaign to raise awareness of the need for quality improvement in health care began in October, 1998 and is on-going. In 1999, IHI and NCHC have assembled two teams of leading experts to identify best practices in two areas – care at the end of life and reducing medical errors. Two reports compiling representative examples of exemplary care in each area will be published in early 2000.

What, more specifically, does it involve?

The reports will be widely disseminated to hospitals, doctors’ and nurses’ groups, managed care plans, health insurers, the media, key business and consumer groups, employee benefit managers, employer purchasing groups, federal and state government health agencies, and NCHC members. They will be posted on both the NCHC and IHI websites, and in the future on other web sites.

The Coalition will also use its members’ communications channels to disseminate the reports and other data on best practices and evidence based medicine. IHI will disseminate the reports at its numerous training forums and symposia.

NCHC will join IHI in 2000 in sponsoring periodic forums on best practices in health care, aimed at a broad audience.

A media campaign will put before journalists a steady stream of information on the quality problem and the need for more broad-based solutions.Why this initiative and why now?

While the U.S. health care system has unquestionable strengths and is known world-wide as the spawning ground for countless medical advancements and breakthroughs, it is also plagued with quality problems. Avoidable medical errors are on the rise. Some treatments, medical procedures, and medicines are vastly overused while others go underutilized. There is also a wide variation in care from one geographical area to another without medical justification. Health experts agree the system is fragmented and inefficient. And Americans are increasingly concerned about the quality of care they get or have access to.

These problems are receiving increased attention. Both the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a presidential blue ribbon panel recently concluded that quality improvement in health care must become one of the nation’s highest public policy priorities.

A.C.T – For America’s Health seeks to build national momentum toward significant health system change that improves the quality of care. It seeks to accelerate the adoption by health professionals of proven best practices and the abandonment of practices that are unproven or even harmful. The initiative is unique in seeking to identify best practices in medicine that warrant broader attention from those who pay for and consume health care services – businesses, government and consumers. It is unique in seeking to create a grassroots movement for quality improvement. And it is a unique collaboration among national organizations (NCHC, IHI, and NCHC members), which have the capacity for broad impact through media outreach and direct communications to health care professionals and consumers.