Navigating Healthcare Quality for Trustees

Posted on December 17, 2018

MHA Rounds: Sam. R Watson As I speak with our membership, I often hear of discomfort among trustees with their responsibility to oversee quality within their organizations. This is particularly true as the healthcare industry continues to consolidate and complexity increases beyond acute care to include post-acute care and ambulatory services.

For the past two years, I have been working with The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) as part of a 34-person expert panel, examining the state of healthcare board governance of quality and identifying areas for improvement. With 80,000 active health system trustees in the United States, it was clear to our panel that research and guidance on the issue would be beneficial.

Through our work, the IHI recently released Framework for Effective Board Governance of Health System Quality, a white paper that provides trustees with guidance on how to navigate the complex world of healthcare quality. In addition, there is a companion assessment tool that helps board members understand the opportunities available to heighten efforts in oversight of quality.

Many boards have progressed significantly in the realm of safety, which is one of the six aims for healthcare improvement identified in the Institute of Medicine’s Crossing the Quality Chasm. The remaining five aims include the need for healthcare to be timely, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centered.

The IHI’s white paper and assessment tool draw on an array of resources, such as governance, quality and leadership experts, to guide trustees as they address their governance role in quality oversight.

The white paper’s recommendations include language simplification to allow lay board members to focus primarily on the processes and activities rather than jargon.

An important element is the need for trustees to continue to broaden the governance view from hospital-centric to all the venues in which their health system provides care. As they consider the delivery of quality care, trustees must understand how their system can create value and meet the needs of its community. Lastly, trustees must understand the role of governance in the development of a culture that supports and promotes quality.

The MHA has long sought to support its members with the Excellence in Governance Fellowship. The program is designed to bolster the knowledge and competencies of board members. Graduates from the program consistently complement the value that the fellowship has returned to their organizations. The Framework for Effective Board Governance of Health System Quality is yet another important resource for boards to increase their competency in the complex and evolving world of healthcare. 

I encourage anyone interested in learning more about the MHA resources available to trustees to contact me.

Sam R. Watson, MSA, CPPS, is the Senior Vice President of Field Engagement at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.


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  • Navigating Healthcare Quality for Trustees

Tags: Excellence in Governance Fellowship, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Sam R. Watson, Board Governance, Healthcare Quality

Posted in: MHA Rounds

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