Opinion

Going for the Triple Aim

How do you keep three balls in the air at one time? Ask America’s hospitals. Hospitals have a unified vision: a society of healthy communities, where all individuals reach their highest potential for health. Making that vision a reality, and keeping their doors open to serve their communities, requires hard work that America’s hospitals are ready to undertake.

Many forces—including an aging population, the proliferation of expensive new health and information technologies, the rising price tags of everything from drugs, medical devices and supplies to labor, and the escalating cost of compliance with cumbersome and duplicative regulations—complicate, but never weaken, hospitals’ commitment to provide care.

Hospitals are transforming their culture, using collaborative efforts that cross traditional clinical boundaries. To make improvements needed to meet that commitment, hospitals are pursuing the “Triple Aim,” a framework developed by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement that calls for simultaneously improving the individual experience of care, improving the health of populations, and reducing the per capita cost. How adeptly hospitals keep these three balls in the air holds great promise for the future of American health care.

Although achieving the “Triple Aim” presents enormous challenges, hospitals have enthusiastically embraced it. Hospitals are transforming their culture, using collaborative efforts that cross traditional clinical boundaries. They are aggressively sharing information with one another about what works and what doesn’t, and consistently using proven protocols to improve the quality of care.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, hospitals achieved a 9 percent drop in hospital-acquired conditions like adverse drug events, falls and infections in 2011 and 2012. They also sharply reduced costly readmissions.

Growth in both health care spending and hospital prices has slowed. Hospitals are using new information technologies to track their own performance, avoid duplication in services and identify ways to improve the overall health of the populations and communities they serve. They are also taking important steps to better engage patients and their families, physicians and the community.

Hospitals recognize that keeping their doors open every hour of every day, even in disasters, means keeping their minds open too. Every day, they are employing new and better ways to deliver care that achieve better outcomes for patients. And every day they are making progress in making communities healthier and bending the cost curve.

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