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Triple Aim is simple. Its goals, as outlined by the Institutes for Healthcare Improvement, an independent not-for-profit organization and a leading innovator in healthcare improvement, are to establish a three-part framework for optimizing the performance of health systems, including mental and behavioral healthcare. The three dimensions that IHI's system tackles simultaneously are also straightforward.

♦ Improving the patient experience quality and satisfaction
♦ Improving the health of populations, in the community and on a larger scale
♦ Reducing the per capita cost of healthcare.

Attention to transitions in care, a dedicated team of healthcare providers and behavior and mental health software can help communities reach these goals. But how does the Triple Aim system work, and is it right for your community?

Are you a good fit for Triple Aim?
Figuring out whether your community is ready for Triple Aim isn't as simple as taking a test, but the IHI does provide a questionnaire that can help you better gauge your preparedness. This tool asks questions about where your organization's focus lies and whether current improvement projects in your community already align with Triple Aim goals, among other topics. Upon completion, it will give you and your community a readiness score and suggest ways to build on that. These include building motivation within your community to pursue one or more of the three branches of Triple Aim and staying connected to vital sources of information.

In order to really gauge your community readiness, however, you'll need to sit down with other organization, facility or hospital members and discuss current and future initiatives. This means creating a line of communication between CEO, senior executives, clinicians and quality control experts.

Triple Aim in action
IHI's Triple Aim approach is ambitious despite its simplicity, so the organization suggests a systematic approach to change in your community. This can help communities make progress toward all three goals simultaneously. Much of Triple Aim's suggested approach comes from pilot testing with over 100 organizations around the world.

According to IHI, five of the essential components needed to reach the three goals of Triple Aim are a focus on individuals and families, the redesign of primary care services and structures, population health management, a cost control platform and system integration and execution. These feed into a continuum of care composed of healthcare, public health and social services.

A variety of communities that have undergone transformation thanks to Triple Aim are noted on the IHI site. These success stories don't just provide a positive glimpse inside healthcare reform, they're road maps for communities that are considering the IHI's initiative themselves. You can read about programs that took off in New York City, Minnesota, Michigan or Maryland, some of which may have comparable patient populations to your own.

Why now?
IHI cited the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service's National Healthcare Expenditure Projections 2010-2020 report, noting that the U.S. healthcare system isn't only the most costly in the world, it's likely to grow considerably over the coming decade. Because humans are living longer but chronic health problems are on the rise, medical and social services are more complex and stressed than ever before.

This is especially true for the mental and behavioral health communities, where all providers may not be eligible for incentive payments under the Health Information Technology For Economic Clinical Health Act. Without this economic stimulus, these providers- including outpatient services, psychiatric care facilities and other mental health communities – need to find innovative ways to pursue healthcare reform that leads to a healthier patient population and reduces cost.

This is all the more urgent when an estimated 26 percent of Americans over 18 are living with a mental health disorder, 46 percent of whom will deal with that condition over their lifetimes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Co-morbidity for other health conditions is also high among patients with serious mental illness, and this is accompanied by a reduced life expectancy of anywhere from 8 to 17 years.

One of the solutions for behavioral and mental healthcare communities may be Triple Aim. This system, alongside mental health EHR software and other coordinated care initiatives could help communities reach their cost, patient satisfaction and healthcare goals.