Hospital Engagement Network

The goal is to reduce patient injuries and avoidable readmissions through coordinated quality improvement efforts. HENs first emerged in 2008 through Medicare Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs), which brought together hospitals in different regions to focus on reducing specific types of patient harm. Hospital Engagement Network

Hospital Engagement Network

The HEN model was expanded in 2011 by the initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Partnership for Patients.

HENs are important because they provide hospitals with a structured opportunity to collaborate, share best practices, and rapidly disseminate innovations to improve quality. By working together, HENs can address patient safety challenges and care transitions in ways that individual hospitals cannot.

Have you ever wondered how hospitals work together to improve patient care and safety?

Hospital Engagement Networks (HENs) play a critical role in quality improvement in hospitals and health systems. In this comprehensive guide, we cover everything you need to know about these important programs. Hospital Engagement Network

Get ready for a fascinating tour through the world of chickens! By the end, you will understand what HENs are, how they work, their impact on patient care, and what the future of these networks looks like. Let’s get started!

Important learning points

  • They originated in 2008 through Medicare QIOs and expanded nationwide through the Partnership for Patients initiative.
  • With HENs, hospitals can collaborate to improve quality and spread innovation faster.
  • Key areas of focus for HENs include preventable harm, transitions of care, and patient engagement.
  • HENs face challenges such as ensuring engagement and measuring impact, but remain a critical strategy for improving care.

Partnership for Patients

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This ambitious program aimed to dramatically reduce preventable injuries in hospitals and improve transitions of care.

The goals of the patient partnership include:

  • Reduce preventable hospital illnesses by 40%
  • Reduce hospital readmissions by 20% within 30 days
  • Saves up to 60,000 lives
  • Prevent millions of patient injuries

Moving forward, the Patient Partnership has provided funding to build hospital engagement networks across the country. These HENs were tasked with leading quality improvement efforts and helping hospitals implement best practices to achieve the partnership’s goals for patients.

In total, approximately 3,700 hospitals participated in the first round of HENs from 2011 to 2015. HENs were seen as a key driver of change in the Partnership for Patients, providing coordination and collaboration with hospitals across the country.

How HENs work

Hospital Engagement Networks bring together groups of hospitals to collaboratively improve healthcare quality and patient outcomes. But how exactly do they work?

HENs are structured as networks that can operate at the national, regional, state, or hospital level. They provide hospitals with a forum to collaborate on shared priorities through regular meetings, data monitoring, educational programs, site visits, and more.

A key focus of HENs is to facilitate collegial learning through structured partnerships. In these partnerships, hospitals share best practices and lessons learned to rapidly disseminate quality improvement innovations.

For example, a HEN partnership could bring together hospitals interested in reducing cases. Hospitals would share their efforts, tools, and experiences in implementing falls prevention programs. Struggling hospitals can get help and adopt validated practices from leaders.

HENs also promote the use of evidence-based nursing interventions to address preventable sources of patient harm. Some areas include:

  • Surgical complications
  • Hospital-associated infections
  • Side effects during childbirth
  • Readmissions
  • The patient falls
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Sepsis

This model of peer learning and structured collaboration enables HENs to address deep-rooted patient safety challenges that cannot be solved by hospitals alone.

Measures and data collection

Hospital Engagement Networks use a standard set of process and outcome measures to track hospitals’ progress in quality improvement. This data-driven approach enables hospitals to benchmark their results and focus their improvement efforts.

In the second phase of HENs from 2015-2018, hospitals reported measures such as:

  • Early electives
  • Sepsis management
  • The hospital falls with damage
  • 30-day readmissions

HENs collected this data to provide hospitals with feedback and support to help them achieve their goals. More than 1,400 hospitals participated in the second round of HEN.

The Medicare Beneficiary Quality Improvement Project (MBQIP) is now promoting the HEN model through state-level hospital partnerships with more than 2,500 hospitals. MBQIP networks continue to publicly report hospital performance data.

Involving patients in hospital safety

In addition to clinical outcomes, Hospital Engagement Networks also aim to improve patient engagement in hospital safety. Research shows that actively involving patients and families in the healthcare process can reduce preventable harm.

Strategies that HENs promote to support patient engagement include:

  • Open communication and hourly rounding of care staff
  • Bedside nurse reports
  • Learn about methods to confirm patient understanding
  • Advisory boards for patient families
  • Phone call after discharge

Provide direct feedback data to patients

Patients are also encouraged to participate in several HEN collaborations and share their stories and perspectives. This focus on patient activation provides an important voice to efforts to improve hospital safety outcomes.

Challenges for HENs

Although hospital engagement networks play an important role, they also face some major challenges:

Ensure consistent hospital participation: When participation is voluntary, not all hospitals may be fully involved in collaborative initiatives. Larger hospitals with more resources are sometimes more involved.

Measuring impact: Isolating the impact of HEN collaborations can be difficult because many factors influence hospital performance. Standard performance measures help, but don’t tell the whole story.

Sustainable funding: HENs require significant funding and staff to coordinate networks and learning collaborations. Some work with grants or temporary government funding.

Diffusion of innovation: Although HENs facilitate the exchange of best practices, it can still be challenging to fully standardize changes in different hospital contexts and settings.

Despite these difficulties, experts believe that hospital engagement networks provide value and should remain an important strategy for improving patient safety. The focus remains on engaging hospitals, showing results, and optimizing funding.

The Future of HEN

What does the future look like for Hospital Engagement Networks [HENs]?

Many believe that HEN will continue to emerge as a primary strategy for improving hospital quality:

  • More targeted partnerships: HENs can narrow focus to specific procedures, conditions, or high-risk regions.
  • Specialist networks: Networks of children’s hospitals, cancer centers, or other specialist hospitals can form targeted HENs.
  • Alternative models: Options such as accountable care networks, Medicaid partnerships, or private sector models may emerge.
  • New areas of focus: HENs can focus on new priorities such as behavioral health, opioid use, social determinants of health, and more.
  • Advanced analytics: Big data and artificial intelligence can improve measurement, benchmarking, and diffusion of innovations.

Although unknown, the HEN concept shows no signs of going away. Continuous development and adaptation will be critical to drive next-generation improvements.


Hospital engagement networks play a critical role in bringing hospitals together to improve patient safety, quality, and health outcomes.

Through partnerships, sharing best practices, and data-driven improvements, HENs enable hospitals to make progress on deep-rooted patient safety issues that would be impossible on their own.

Although challenges such as measuring efficacy remain, HENs have proven their worth. They will continue to adapt to drive innovations that provide patients with the safe, high-quality care we all deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is a Hospital Engagement Network (HEN)?

A: A Hospital Engagement Network is a network that develops learning partnerships for hospitals to implement changes and innovations necessary to achieve the partnership’s safety and care transition goals for patients.

Q: What is the Partnership for Patients initiative?

A: The Partnership for Patients initiative is a national initiative to improve patient safety and reduce health-related illnesses and hospital readmissions.

Q: How do HENs work?

A: HENs operate at the national, regional, state, or hospital level to develop learning partnerships for hospitals to implement evidence-based interventions.

Q: What other preventable injuries to patients do HENs treat?

A: HENs are expected to consider all other forms of preventable harm to patients in pursuit of public safety.

Q: What measures do HENs use to track hospitals’ quality improvement progress?

A: HENs use process and outcome measures appropriate for each focus area to track the hospital’s progress in quality improvement.

Q: How many hospitals are supported by HENs?

A: HENs support approximately 3,400 hospitals over 12 months.

Question: What does patient engagement mean in hospital safety?

A: Patient engagement in hospital safety includes strategies to support patient and family engagement in promoting safe care in the hospital.

Q: What strategies are in place to support patient and family engagement to promote safe care at the hospital?

A: Strategies include allowing patients and families to call on rapid response teams, interventions that explicitly include patient and family engagement, and the use of electronic medical records.

Q: What challenges do HENs face?

A: Challenges include predicting the level of patient and family engagement and emotional distress of patients and caregivers to ensure safety during hospitalization.

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