Improvement partnerships (IPs) are a model for collaboration among public and private organizations that share interests in improving child health and the quality of health care delivered to children. Their partners typically include state public health and Medicaid agencies, the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and an academic health care organization or children's hospital. Most IPs also engage other partners, including a variety of public, private, and professional organizations and individuals. IPs lead and support measurement-based, systems-focused quality improvement (QI) efforts that primarily target primary care practices that care for children. Their projects are most often conducted as learning collaboratives that involve a team from each of 8 to 15 participating practices over 9 to 12 months. The improvement teams typically include a clinician, office manager, clinical staff (nurses or medical assistants), and, for some projects, a parent; the IPs provide the staff and local infrastructure. The projects target clinical topics, chosen because of their importance to public health, local clinicians, and funding agencies, including asthma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, developmental screening, obesity, mental health, medical home implementation, and several others. Over the past 13 years, 19 states have developed (and 5 are exploring developing) IPs. These organizations share similar aims and methods but differ substantially in leadership, structure, funding, and longevity. Their projects generally engage pediatric and family medicine practices ranging from solo private practices to community health centers to large corporate practices. The practices learn about the project topic and about QI, develop specific improvement strategies and aims that align with the project aims, perform iterative measures to evaluate and guide their improvements, and implement systems and processes to support and sustain those improvements. Since 2008, IPs have offered credit toward Part 4 of Maintenance of Certification for participants in some of their projects. To date, IPs have focused on achieving improvements in care delivery through individual projects. Rigorous measurement and evaluation of their efforts and impact will be essential to understanding, spreading, and sustaining state/regional child health care QI programs. We describe the origins, evolution to date, and hopes for the future of these partnerships and the National Improvement Partnership Network (NIPN), which was established to support existing and nurture new IPs.
Keywords: maternal and child health; preventive services; quality improvement.
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