CAMBRIDGE -- Southeastern Med announced today that it has agreed to participate in the Hospital Engagement Network (HEN) led by VHA Inc., the national health care network.

As part of its Partnership for Patients initiative, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) selected the VHA as an HEN to work with hospital organizations to develop and conduct training activities and learning networks, and provide technical support to help organizations improve their clinical performance.

CMS/CMMI named 26 Hospital Engagement Networks to comprise a nationwide public-private collaboration focused on reducing preventable harm by 40 percent and preventable readmissions by 20 percent in the next three years.

CMS/CMMI will fund the Hospital Engagement Networks with $218 million available under the Affordable Care Act.

"We want to do everything possible to ensure that all of our patients continue to receive the very best hospital care and the very best outcomes possible," said Ray Chorey, CEO and president of Southeastern Med. "Our participation in this Hospital Engagement Network is one way we can be confident that we will improve patient safety, achieve those objectives and provide the highest quality care."

By participating in VHA's Hospital Engagement Network, Southeastern Med joins hundreds of other hospitals around the country that will leverage VHA's industry-leading clinical quality improvement tools and demonstrated expertise in creating and supporting peer-to-peer learning networks.

Hospitals today need to improve quality and patient safety or face the risk of incurring financial penalties imposed by the CMS. Achieving the objectives of the Partnership for Patients would save more than 60,000 lives annually, decrease hospital injuries by 1.8 million and allow more than 1.6 million patients to recover from illness without suffering from preventable complications requiring re-hospitalization.

Chorey said Southeastern Med will begin working with VHA in January to develop the timetable and other requirements of the work needed to address the patient safety domains on which they will focus.

Next, VHA will utilize its Rapid Adoption Networks (RAN), the company's proprietary framework to help address the most pressing needs - in this case, reducing hospital-acquired conditions and preventable readmissions -- and provide Southeastern Med the skills to rapidly realize practice changes within their organization.

This step-by-step methodology focuses on identifying and understanding specific obstacles to achieving improvements, as well as how to surmount them.

"For nearly 35 years, VHA has successfully designed, developed and implemented many clinical improvement collaboratives," said Colleen Risk, VHA's executive vice president, member networks. "Our participation in the Partnership for Patients initiative allows the company to put this expertise to critical use as it works, industry-wide, to achieve the Partnership's ambitious safety objectives."

Chorey added, "We look forward to participating with VHA in this historic initiative and appreciate the leadership and support from CMS and CMMI to help hospitals nationwide continually improve the care we give our patients."