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Idaho State University

ISU Family Medicine Staff Recognized Nationally For Quality Improvement Curriculum

March 12, 2019 - POCATELLO, ID

Innovative initiatives surrounding quality improvement within the Family Medicine Residency (FMR) program at Idaho State University (ISU) are making an impact throughout the country. Leaders there have been recognized on the national stage for their accomplishments in creating a curriculum for quality improvement.

Coaches at ISU Family Medicine who have been trained by the nation’s leading experts in quality improvement are now passing their knowledge on to resident physicians and faculty. Their purpose is to get resident physicians thinking about ways to improve healthcare, across a wide variety of mediums. The residents work individually or in teams to design projects and conduct research that shows Family Medicine leadership and the American Council of Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) ways to improve systems, clinical efficiency, decrease healthcare costs, illness, injury, and disease prevention, and improve patient outcomes. Past projects have included medication reconciliation to avoid medication errors, screening for children to make sure they are meeting their developmental milestones, teaching residents to speak Spanish in order to better care for underserved populations, and many more.

"Because most medical schools aren’t typically training physicians to keep quality improvement at top of mind, this initiative was developed over time by leaders at ISU’s Family Medicine program,” says Kelli Christensen, M.D., associate program director and patient safety officer. Dr. Christensen goes on to explain, “Based on surveys and feedback from residents, we have been updating the curriculum as we go and now feel that we have created a near perfect curriculum.”

Christensen and her team, including Kathleen Johnson RN/BSN, quality improvement coach fellow and Loni Chacon, RN, clinical research coordinator, are now taking their curriculum on the road. The group presented at the Institution for Healthcare Improvement National Forum in December in Orlando, Florida. This group reached out to ISU based on past presentations and asked for their curriculum. Thousands of people, based both nationally and internationally, attended this conference including physicians, hospital administrators, providers in behavioral health, pharmacy, and other residency programs. Christensen says, “Because the curriculum is so versatile, our quality improvement methodology can be translated well into other industries. Leaders from other fields unrelated to health, such as education, attended our presentations and trainings at the national conference.”

Additionally, the group has been invited to present their curriculum at a conference for the Society for Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) in Toronto in March. This will consist of a slightly different take on quality improvement than what many are accustomed to. Because it can take time to train staff properly, Christensen, Johnson and Chacon want to focus on showing how programs can implement quality improvement processes cost effectively. Residencies are required to teach quality improvement, yet medical schools have not always prepared faculty or resident physicians in this area. FMR has found that hiring a registered nurse, specifically to teach quality improvement, yields the best outcomes and is more cost efficient. Johnson explains, “Many programs have physicians and/or pharmacists teaching quality improvement, but it works better to have RN’s who are specifically trained teaching the curriculum, ideally with one particularly trained faculty that also is in tune with ACGME rules.”

What do residents gain by choosing ISU Family Medicine Residency? “Quality improvement initiatives are vital for residents here at ISU Family Medicine because hospitals, like St. Alphonsus and St. Luke’s are in need of a workforce who understands and is able to carry out quality improvement training. Many healthcare workers are measured not only on their performance but also their skills that contribute to quality improvement. If hospitals and clinics are able to hire people who already have a foundation and knowledge of those skills, they are deemed valuable and the hospitals will save money if they aren’t spending as much on the training and patient outcomes,” Christensen says.