BH TIG Week: Learning from Learning Collaboratives: Part I Implementation by Shari Hutchison

Hello! I am Shari Hutchison, MS, PMP, Project Director at Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, UPMC Insurance Services (Community Care). Many organizations struggle to maintain evidence-based and best practices after training because the skills learned during training are not reinforced, there is staff turnover, or trainees go back to old ways that are more familiar. At Community Care, we’ve successfully implemented the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s Breakthrough Series Learning Collaborative Model to help sustain and grow new interventions. If you’ve participated in a training initiative that you think fell flat, give this model a try!

One of the factors that makes a Learning Collaborative unique is reliance on data to drive quality improvement. Each Learning Collaborative establishes 1-2 process aims that focus on activities to solidify the new practice as well as 1-2 outcome aims that focus on results that are expected when the new practice is used routinely. Examples of process aims include referral rates, screening rates, percent of clinicians trained who are providing the service, and use of resources. Examples of outcome aims include decreased readmission rates, high staff ratings of confidence in service delivery, and the percent of healthcare service consumers with changed behavior.

Each month, participants of the Learning Collaborative collect data and meet internally within quality improvement teams to assess and test changes needed to reach goals using a specific “Plan, Do, Study, Act” format. Multiple organizations participate in each Learning Collaborative. These groups are brought together monthly on a call so that successes and challenges can be shared across teams in brag-and-steal sessions so that participants learn from each other within their organization and across multiple organizations. Over the course of 12-months, small improvements made each month lead to true culture change at an organization with enough time and effort placed to build capacity for sustainability and growth of the new practice.

We have used the Learning Collaborative model to build capacity and enhance care in several areas including shared decision making, physical health coordination for individuals with mental illness, trauma-informed care, and transformation of residential treatment services for youth, among many other areas.

Rad Resource:

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement has many videos on quality improvement and online courses, as well as more information on the Breakthrough Series Learning Collaborative Model. Check out their website here:

Lessons Learned:

  1. Create an easy to follow Excel Workbook for Learning Collaborative participants so that everyone is collecting the same information in the same way.
  2. Feedback from participants of our Learning Collaboratives stresses the importance of organizational buy-in. Make sure to do the preparations before launch to motivate leadership.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Behavioral Health (BH) TIG Week with our colleagues in Behavioral Health Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our BH TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “BH TIG Week: Learning from Learning Collaboratives: Part I Implementation by Shari Hutchison”

  1. There was so much information in this that I didn’t realize I had. I think the process that is used is a very good process that really helps especially when working with other collaborators.

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