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Strengthening Trusted Care culture in Air Force medicine

The “Trusted Care” badge serves as a reminder for the entire U.S. Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) to provide exemplary patient-centered care at every level. In order to ensure the patient is placed at the center of their care, Trusted Care has teamed up with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to develop an effective training program. Training is aimed at fostering a culture of safety from front-line providers to senior leaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Jensen Stidham)

The “Trusted Care” badge serves as a reminder for the entire U.S. Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) to provide exemplary patient-centered care at every level. In order to ensure the patient is placed at the center of their care, Trusted Care has teamed up with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to develop an effective training program. Training is aimed at fostering a culture of safety from front-line providers to senior leaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by SSgt Jensen Stidham)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- On October 26th, 2017, over 130 leaders across various health care organizations gathered to listen to Col. Christian Lyons and Lt. Col. Michael Fea speak on Trusted Care’s aim of positioning the Air Force Medical Service as a high reliability organization. The 2017 Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) Leadership Alliance was an opportunity for the AFMS to discuss their partnership with IHI and the goal of fostering a Trusted Care culture.

The AFMS achieves a culture of Trusted Care by placing patients at the center of everything we do to enhance access, quality and safety. Their partnership with IHI aims to improve knowledge, understanding, and application of Trusted Care principles. Through IHI’s Open School program, AFMS is able to provide training to personnel at all levels, bringing Trusted Care principles to life.

“The goal is for Trusted Care to be more than just a program worked in isolation by our leadership,” said Lt. Col. Michael Fea, Deputy Chief of the AFMS Officer Force Development Division. “To improve patient care, every member of the AFMS, from our senior leaders to front-line providers and support staff, has to be problem-solvers every day.”

IHI Open School offers beginner and intermediate on-line classes in leadership engagement, culture of safety, continuous process improvement, and patient centeredness. They guide students through scenarios they might encounter in health care delivery, and outline steps to achieve the desired outcome. This helps students learn to apply Trusted Care principles in their everyday duties.

“The courses provide personal testimonies from people in the health care industry and share strategies, tips for success, and case studies of failure,” said Fea. “We incorporated IHI Open School modules in AFMS Basic Leadership Airman Skills Training and Intermediate Executive Skills courses to enhance training and experiential learning.”

The AFMS added IHI Open School modules to the BLAST program in January 2017, and they are already showing signs of success.

“The initial pilot program involved 42 students, from all seven AFMS Corps,” said Fea. “We targeted new flight commanders, flight chiefs, and flight-level medical directors for the courses. After completing the IHI modules, we found students were more informed and better equipped to ask engaging questions.”

Trusted Care IHI Learning Continuum
The U.S. Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) Trusted Care team has partnered with the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to create an effective training program for all healthcare providers at every level. Called the Open School, this program highlights real ways that providers can promote the Trusted Care principles when caring for patients. (Courtesy photo)

The IHI partnership is essential to Air Force MTFs becoming higher reliability organizations. In this process, the AFMS is working to address challenges that can get in the way of safe, patient-centered care. Examining how MTFs implement these concepts in real time helps in seeing if they align with the guidance and direction that Trusted Care wants to achieve.

More than 700 Airmen have already signed up for IHI Open School courses. To date, AFMS staff have completed over 3,500 courses and received 98 IHI Basic Certificates in Quality and Safety. 

“When it comes to creating a culture of safe, patient-centered care, we have caught up with the private sector,” said Fea. “In some areas we’ve even surpassed them. We find the most success when we drive these concepts home in the early stages of an Airman’s career development. That helps them build behaviors that improve quality, safety, and access to care.”