Introducing the Accelerated Practices (AP) Program: An Innovative Way to Help Health Systems Accelerate and Sustain Outcomes Improvement

We are excited to announce the launch of Health Catalyst University’s Accelerated Practices (AP) Program. This program has been uniquely designed by healthcare and quality improvement professionals with one goal in mind: to prepare healthcare teams to accelerate their own outcomes improvement. Such improvements are critical in an industry that faces a profound need for change with the move from fee-for-service to value-based care.

The Urgent Need for Healthcare Transformation

There is an unprecedented level of complexity overwhelming our healthcare systems and the people trying to practice within them. Far too many outcomes are inadequate. The level of harm patients experience when seeking healthcare services is not acceptable. Costs are out of control and waste is widespread.

There are many reasons for this, including competition for scarce resources; lack of permanent, integrated teams to follow through with initiatives; frustrated clinicians who don’t feel as though they have organizational support; and a lack of meaningful data-driven insights to improve care processes.

Because the current healthcare system was designed for a fee-for-service business model, it isn’t up to the task of delivering optimal care, reducing costs, and improving patient satisfaction. To move to a value-based care model, a significant transformation needs to occur. And occur quickly. It is time to accelerate outcomes improvement. Getting there requires an approach that will not only change the systems of care delivery but also change the culture.

Succesfully Tackling the Healthcare Challenges

Despite facing many challenges, some health systems have overcome the hurdles to realize significant gains in quality and cost outcomes. How? By giving caregivers the tools to gain the data-driven insights and training they need to lead change and implement quality improvement initiatives. Take, for example, Intermountain Healthcare. Back in the 1980s, the organization proved that quality improvement and change leadership principles could be used by data-driven teams to significantly improve care and reduce costs. Because the results were so successful, the organization implemented an Advanced Training Program in Healthcare Delivery Improvement (ATP) course in 1992.

Since the introduction of Intermountain’s ATP, many healthcare professionals with various backgrounds from around the world have graduated from the course. Yet because of the program’s success, there is now a lengthy waiting list to attend. As a result of the wait, other organizations have created their own ATP courses to fill the demand for this critical knowledge. But there still aren’t enough programs for everyone to attend even though change needs to happen now. That is why we’re offering an Accelerated Practices (AP) program modeled after the original ATP course—to provide more learning opportunities for those who need it.

What Is the AP Program?

The AP Program is a highly immersive, project-based learning experience that healthcare industry experts have spent a lot of time developing. The goal of the program is for participants to leave with the tools and knowledge they need to achieve significant improvements for their organizations. They will also learn how to communicate the need for change in this new value-based care environment by using data and proven leadership principles.

Team answer APA course participant raises the team’s answer to a presenter’s question.

Content for the program is primarily based on the teachings of Edward Deming and Ronald Heifetz. Deming was a scholar and teacher who is known for developing quality improvement theories and principles such as the Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) Cycle. Heifetz is the Founding Director of the Center for Public Leadership and is known for developing an adaptive leadership model.

Don’t expect a passive learning environment, though. Instead, participants will interact with other participants, mentors, and faculty. And because class size is limited to 40 students, participants will have many opportunities to learn from each other through discussions, interactive activities, and the assignment of a group outcomes improvement initiative.

balance feathers APParticipants balance feathers to learn about perspective during a presentation on the fundamentals of adaptive leadership.

Key Highlights of the AP Program

The AP Program will stretch participants’ left and right brains as they progress through the course. Some examples of what they’ll experience include:

Experienced and notable faculty and coaches:

Participants will interact with and learn from many experts during each session—from Health Catalyst faculty and coaches to notable guest faculty from other organizations. Faculty members are knowledgeable and respected experts in their field and will lead discussions and presentations. Coaches attend the entire course, so participants can interact with them at any time to ask questions. Coaches are also available between sessions through phone calls or email.

identify intervention strategies APA team works together to identify intervention strategies to solve the vexing problems facing their organizations.

Faculty serving as coaches will also provide guidance to a designated team of participants and facilitate small group meetings. This enables each participant to gain a deep understanding of the concepts taught. As participants work through various assignments with their coach, they will also learn how to apply their new knowledge to the real-world problems facing their organizations.

Participants will also learn from guest faculty. Examples of previous guest faculty include:

team coach APA team meets with their coach to discuss actual problems they are dealing with (e.g., reaching agreement on the best intervention or the most effective way to engage stakeholders) as they work on their improvement project.

Hands-on, experiential sessions:

Trying to learn new concepts without practice isn’t an effective way to learn. This is why our program includes many hands-on activities. Such activities are strategically place throughout each presentation and range from group discussions to team problem-solving activities to participant interaction with props to demonstrate specific principles.

A participant demonstrates the effects of focusing on physician outliers through the use of colored silly putty.

The participants themselves:

Participants come from all over the United State and have varied healthcare backgrounds. Because everyone has different experiences, the classroom becomes a lively forum for knowledge sharing.

Assignments and final project:

Some of the key advantages to attending the AP Program are the homework assignments and the completion of an outcomes improvement project. This work is done with a team, which gives particants a hands-on experience to apply what they’ve learned. For the final improvement project, teams are given tools to help them choose a problem that aligns with their senior management’s goals. This allows teams to provide a tangible return on investment to their AP Program sponsor.

Topics covered:

During the course, participants will learn about the following topics and tools:

  • Quality improvement methods and tools, such as the Plan-Do-Study-Act Cycle; problem statements; aim statements; fishbone and cause and effect diagrams; Lean methodology; and the Pareto principle
  • Adaptive leadership strategies for leading transformation and managing change
  • Quality improvement implementation strategy and how to quantify a return on investment
  • Data system design including data quality, information management, and data governance
  • Healthcare policypolitics
  • Evidence-based medicine and physician and staff engagement
  • Statistical design including variation analysis, run charts, and statistical process control charts
  • Protocol development, implementation, and testing
  • Clinical integration structure and governance models to sustain and spread improvement interventions


Graduation is a time for participants (and their sponsor) to celebrate all the work and learning that went into completion of the program. Graduation also means that participants have designed an improvement initiative they can take home to implement at their organization. Because this day represents the culmination of many months of hard work and newly gained actionable knowledge, graduates often proudly display their AP Program’s framed certificate next to, and sometimes above, other key academic achievements.

Course duration:

The AP Program includes a total of 10 in-person sessions that are spread over five months. This extended format provides teams with the time, tools, and instruction they need to generate meaningful outcomes through their own improvement initiative. The first nine sessions are dedicated to learning; the tenth session includes project presentations and a graduation ceremony and celebration.

Who Should Attend?

The course has been specifically designed for health professionals whose roles enable them to address the changes and challenges in the current healthcare environment. In specific, we recommend the following health professionals* because they’ll graduate with the knowledge of how to implement improvement initiatives at their organizion:

  • Physicians and clinicians
  • Clinical operations leaders
  • Quality improvement professionals
  • Senior leaders

We also recommend that teams come from the same organization and have a senior level sponsor. This provides the best way for organizations to realize immediate gains and a return on investment for the team’s attendance.

*This activity has been approved for AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™.

presenting solutions APParticipants present their solution to the entire class during an in-class activity.

A Quick Summary of the AP Program

The bottom line: healthcare needs to change because the current system doesn’t work. There isn’t a simple fix, but with the right tools, knowledge, engagement, and organizational support, health systems will be able to see significant gains in outcomes improvement. It’s already happening at places like Intermountain Healthcare, Texas Children’s Hospital, Crystal Run Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, Allina Health, and Stanford Health Care to name a few. This is why we’ve developed an AP Program—so other organizations can gain the knowledge and tools to survive and thrive in this new era of opportunity. Once participants finish the AP program, they’ll be able to:

  • Lead data-driven, team-based improvement initiatives
  • Improve effectiveness, efficiency, and safety outcomes
  • Improve clinical and nonclinical healthcare service delivery
  • Reduce waste and minimize inappropriate variation in processes
  • Become champions for local improvement education and change
  • Improve cost outcomes

For more information and to register for an upcoming course, visit

AP program 2015 A sample AP Program schedule

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