Since 2006, Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program grantees in Alabama have been meeting to share ideas on how to ensure optimal health for people living with HIV. The Regional Group initially included Part C and D grantees, but over time was expanded to also include Part B providers. Members now represent organizations providing services across the entire state-all 67 counties.
The group's priorities currently focus on 1) viral load suppression; 2) retention in care; and 3) engaging new patients in care-the same measures used in the NQC's in+care Campaign. In addition, the group is focusing on no show rates. With no show rates, members collect data on the percentage of patients who were a no show for at least one HIV-specific medical visit. This priority grew out of research conducted at the University of Alabama, Birmingham's 1917
A retrospective data analysis conducted by the clinic showed that patients who missed visits within the first year after initiating treatment for HIV were at higher risk of not being virally suppressed than patients who attended all scheduled appointments
At quarterly meetings, members analyze data and look for trends across organizations.
"Each organization shares their data so we can see their progress," says co-chair Ashley Tarrant from Medical AIDS Outreach of Alabama. "The stars-those who are being really successful-discuss their best practices. But we also make sure that everyone is included in the discussion."
Efforts are made to ensure that as many members as possible attend the meetings in person. Most meetings are held in Birmingham, which is most convenient for the largest number of members. There is a conference line for those that cannot attend in person.
"We enjoy the fellowship with each other," says Ashley. "There is a core group of members who really value participation in the group and make it a priority. We are peer-led and no one person is in charge. Everyone is invested."
The interaction is enriched by the multidisciplinary group of participants. While the quality manager from each organization attends the meetings, organizations often send additional staff members.
"There are case managers, physicians, nurses, and even pharmacists. We also have representatives from the state health department and researchers," says co-chair Mary Rozier Hachen from Thrive Alabama. "The background of members varies so we get many different perspectives in our discussions."
The Regional Group has benefited from NQC coaching over the years. The coach has worked with member organizations on a one-on-one basis and also led a workshop for multiple organizations.
"The technical assistance we received helped the group hone our focus and purpose," says Mary. "It really allowed us to take our quality management to the next level.
The group's work is documenting the efforts of its members as they work toward the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS). For example, aggregate data indicate 78 percent success in achieving the retention in care measure. The NHAS goal is 80 percent. In terms of viral suppression, members are also making progress in achieving the NHAS goal of 80 percent.