QIOs support patients in their efforts to lead healthier lives, communicate more effectively with their health care providers, and make informed decisions about the care they receive. QIOs also work to ensure that as primary stakeholders in the health care system, patients are engaged in the process of improving care.
QIOs offer materials designed to help patients manage chronic illnesses, raise awareness about risk factors for certain chronic diseases, and educate patients about healthy lifestyle choices.Working with national initiatives like Million Hearts®, which seeks to prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017, and Everyone With Diabetes Counts, which provides diabetes self-management education, QIOs act as a community-level conduit to share health information with patients and their families. Many QIO educational programs focus on reducing disparities in care for disadvantaged populations. In addition, QIO-led patient engagement activities have included coaching patients and families on how to avoid unnecessary hospital readmission.
Locally, QIOs partner with community organizations such as senior centers, faith-based organizations and other groups conducting outreach and education. QIOs place consumer representatives on their Boards of Directors and seek patient input through consumer advisory committees, beneficiary focus groups, and other avenues, in order to ensure that their work is always in patients’ best interests—which is just as important as engaging providers on the frontlines of care.
QIOs work on behalf of patients to address quality of care concerns. Each QIO maintains a statewide Medicare beneficiary help line for this purpose. Often, concerns can be resolved through a process called immediate advocacy. This process involves direct communication to the provider on behalf of the beneficiary, during which QIO staff works with the provider to clear up miscommunication or other concerns voiced by the patient or a family member.