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IHS Office of Quality Focuses on Patient-Centered, Safe Health Care

by Susan Anderson, Management Analyst/Improvement Advisor, Improving Patient Care Program

This week, IHS recognizes National Health Care Quality Week. The IHS Office of Quality aims to ensure that American Indian and Alaska Native people receive the highest quality, patient-centered, safe, and reliable health care through the IHS health care programs. We focus on the strategic importance of quality and continuous improvement, and commitment to performance excellence.

The Office of Quality has developed new capabilities to support quality and patient safety through the work of three divisions: the Division of Quality Assurance, the Division of Patient Safety and Clinical Risk Management, and the Division of Innovation and Improvement. These capabilities are in addition to the longstanding Improving Patient Care Program, which works with IHS, tribal and urban Indian facilities to build capacity for quality improvement.

The Division of Quality Assurance promotes and sustains compliance with federal regulations and accreditation organizations, manages accreditation and certification survey reports, and promotes accreditation service coordination.

The division continues to work with Joint Commission Resources, the Office of Quality, and IHS Area Offices on assisting with accreditation readiness. There were 54 successful accreditation surveys completed in Fiscal Year 2022. Credentialing standardization is also a priority and the Office of Quality manages the training of the software system and monitors processes and system changes for improvements.

The Division of Patient Safety and Clinical Risk Management provides support, consultation, and training throughout the agency on issues that impact the safety and quality of health care delivery. The division also assists with metrics for monitoring and assists the agency, tribes, and urban Indian organizations to meet accreditation standards, CMS regulations, and relevant professional standards related to patient safety.

Their work includes collaborating with PATH Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  to report health care-acquired infection data to the National Healthcare Safety Network, creating an IHS-wide patient safety dashboard to support a standardized oversight report for IHS Areas and leadership, and collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to support Infection Control Assessment and Response to improve infection control practices. 

The Division of Innovation and Improvement includes programs to increase quality improvement capacity across the Indian health system and to identify and implement new models of care. There are 29 trained healthcare improvement professionals who implement quality improvement efforts for the agency. 

Their efforts include coordinating quality improvement resources through a web portal and launching an Improving Patient Care learning tab focusing on social determinants of health. In 2021-2022, IHS funded six innovation projects, where selected sites developed and implemented quality improvement innovation initiatives that resulted in measurable improvement in care and outcomes for the population served. Funded project teams use the quality improvement model to develop, test, and implement changes that lead to improvement. All teams have created detailed change packages that are available and ready to be duplicated for other sites to use.

The Office of Quality is committed to improving quality and safety across the Indian health system. Our dedicated staff ensure that work related to the quality of IHS health care programs is fully integrated across all levels of the agency and that we are engaged with other Department of Health and Human Services Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving  agencies and external partners, including states and other federal agencies.

Susan Anderson, Management Analyst/Improvement Advisor, Improving Patient Care Program

Susan Anderson, MPA, BA, is a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. As a management analyst and improvement advisor for the Improving Patient Care Program, she identifies best practices and how to adopt them, while conducting analytical and evaluative studies for the program. Anderson also serves as the contracting officer representative II for the DII program.

For any questions related to IHS Office of Quality programs, please contact Susan Anderson.