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On Sept. 16-17 the Board of Directors of the prestigious Massachusetts-based Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) will be in Salt Lake City for meetings at Intermountain Healthcare. IHI is renowned for its leadership around the world in improving health care systems, yet its visit is one of many examples of health care leaders who travel to Utah to learn more about how the state provides effective and efficient care for patients.

Utah is particularly well-known for its medical research, based in part on Intermountain's pioneering role in developing electronic medical records and on more than 40 years of data that have been collected, covering more than 90 billion entries. That resource has made it possible for Intermountain to study care delivery on an expansive scale, to identify best medical practices, and to spread those best practices so that patients across the country and around the world can benefit.

The focal point of that research and education is the Intermountain Institute for Health Care Delivery Research, which was founded 24 years ago. It offers clinical quality training programs that attract health care leaders from around the world to Utah. More than 5,000 senior health care executives — physicians, nurses and administrators — have completed the 20-day Advanced Training Program in Clinical Practice Improvement (ATP), or the nine-day short version of the same course.

Utah is increasingly renowned for the quality and value of its health care. For instance, a study released this summer ranked Utah among the top two states in the nation for health care value. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Utah also has the lowest per capita health care costs in the nation. That comes from adding Utahns' good general health habits to the benchmark efficiency shown by Utah's health care delivery systems. The two reports underscore the high value of health care in Utah at a time when the nation is struggling to achieve such value more broadly.

Despite the fact that the overall U.S. health care system is often compared unfavorably with European systems, an increasing number of European health officials are attending the Intermountain courses and seeking to develop partnerships with the Institute.

The French national health care system, for instance, has created a collaboration with Intermountain with three goals in mind: first, to create a similar institute in France to study and promote best practices; second, to create their own version of the ATP and implement it nationally; and third, to engage in joint learning opportunities, including joint clinical research leading to scientific publications. A similar collaboration has emerged with the Swedish national health system, which has sent health officials to attend the ATP course. The Swiss system has recently expressed similar interests.

IHI is leading improvement initiatives around the world, focusing on such topics as patient safety; quality, cost, and value; and, improvement capability.

In that context, IHI recently announced the creation of the "Leadership Alliance," of which Intermountain Healthcare is a founding member. The Alliance brings together leading health care systems in the U.S. and abroad to focus on delivering superior clinical results and high value today while simultaneously developing innovative new models of the future.

That challenge reflects the commitment of Intermountain Healthcare — working to provide the best possible care and value now, while drawing on our wealth of data to generate innovative solutions for tomorrow. We're pleased to host the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and share some of the success achieved by Utah.

Brent C. James, M.D., is chief quality officer at Intermountain Healthcare and a member of the board of directors of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.