The Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative Receives Grant to Create Online Network of Health Professional Activists

Updated on July 10, 2016

The Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) has been awarded a four-year, $950,000 grant from the DSF Charitable Foundation to create an online network of physicians and other health professionals who want to advance health reform, patient safety, and quality improvement. The Health Activists Network will leverage the capabilities of Tomorrow’s HealthCareTM, an online platform created by PRHI to facilitate learning, communication, collaboration, and engagement for communities of interest among health professionals.

The DSF Charitable Foundation grant will match investments made in the Health Activists Network by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), PRHI’s parent organization.

“PRHI has been working with all of the critical community stakeholders for 20 years to advance patient safety,” says Karen Wolk Feinstein, PhD, president and CEO of PRHI and JHF. “Every person who goes for health care should get best-practice medicine, reliably and safely. Sadly, this is often not the case. For example, a recent study in The BMJ (“Medical error—the third leading cause of death in the U.S.”) estimates that the number of patients in the United States who die from preventable medical errors could exceed 250,000 annually. Our healthcare costs in the U.S. also exceed those of all other affluent nations by double, but our population health lags behind them in almost every indicator.

“We have concluded,” Dr. Feinstein continues, “that it is hard—if not impossible—to change healthcare practices from the outside. It is essential to enlist the participation of all interested doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others in reforms, starting locally but moving nationally to create a powerful network of activists. That is how practices at the point of care will change—when that change is championed by the people we trust most.”

Established in 2000, the DSF Charitable Foundation seeks to promote excellence in health, human services, and education, and to create or sustain models that benefit southwestern Pennsylvania and can be scaled to drive improvements across the country.

Previously, the DSF Charitable Foundation provided critical, early support to help create

Tomorrow’s HealthCareTM. In addition to the new Health Activists Network, Tomorrow’s HealthCareTM is currently being used by 2,300 health professionals in a variety of settings, including multi-state quality improvement initiatives, regional learning collaboratives, physician practices, skilled nursing facilities, and hospitals.

The Health Activists Network on Tomorrow’s HealthCareTM has educational and engagement components. It aims to cover topics that are inadequately addressed in traditional medical and health professions education, organize virtual book clubs on works that catalyze change in health care, and offer an interactive speakers’ series with those who have led high-impact public health and clinical transformations. The Health Activists Network will support two-way engagement through blogs and forums where participants can discuss topics such as recent health policy developments, payment reforms, and disruptive technology solutions to healthcare problems.

The initial users of the Health Activists Network on Tomorrow’s HealthCareTM will include alumni of JHF’s fellowship, internship, and Champions programs. Since 2001, JHF has engaged more than 750 multidisciplinary graduate students in health-related fellowships and internships, and has worked to enhance the knowledge and skills of healthcare providers in the field (including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, EMS personnel, and medical assistants) through its Champions programs. In 2017, JHF will launch an Activist Champions program, which will prepare local health professionals to develop campaigns to accelerate patient safety and clinical quality.

To further grow the Health Activists Network, PRHI and JHF will conduct outreach to organized university students and groups with a similar purpose, both locally and nationally. PRHI and JHF will engage partners through its leadership roles in statewide and national organizations, including the Pennsylvania Health Funders Collaborative (a network of 40 health foundations from across the commonwealth that work at the intersection of philanthropy and health policy) and the Network for Regional Health Improvement (an alliance of 35 regional health improvement collaboratives from across the country).

Founded in 1997 as an operating arm of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative (PRHI) is one of the nation’s first regional collaboratives of medical, business, and civic leaders organized to address healthcare safety and quality improvement as a social and business imperative. PRHI has guided efforts to drastically reduce hospital-acquired infections, bolster the healthcare workforce, and transform care delivery and payment through demonstration projects that smooth the transition for patients between medical and community settings and integrate physical and behavioral health care. PRHI is a founding member and plays a leadership role in the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI), a consortium of 30-plus multi‐stakeholder organizations across the U.S. that serves as a key resource for healthcare policy decisions.

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