Two influential, Boston area organizations focused on health care improvement announced plans to merge.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement said that it will combine forces with the National Patient Safety Foundation, effective on May 1. Together, they’ll share the IHI name, though its patient-safety-focused products will be branded as “NPSF at the IHI,” leaders of the two organizations said.

Echoing comments he made to H&HN in December, IHI President and CEO Derek Feeley said Friday that he believes the patient safety movement is in need of reinvention. That shift would mean moving away from the piecemeal, project-based methods of today, toward a more systems-based approach to safety, said Feeley, who will serve as chief executive of the combined organization.

“We believe that patient safety is at a real inflection point and it’s in need of a reboot. This is an opportunity to do that,” Feeley said in an interview Friday. “We believe that, working together, we can much more effectively engage the health care community, make an impact on key leaders and policymakers and better serve patients and families.”

Tejal Gandhi, M.D. — the president and CEO of NPSF who will serve as chief clinical and safety officer at IHI — agreed with those sentiments. The marriage of the two groups made perfect sense, following conversations about ways to collaborate the started about a year ago. The IHI and NPSF have little overlap, and the two leaders said that they don’t anticipate any layoffs to their 150 and 20 staff members, respectively.

“We’ve been doing this now for a while, 20 years or so,” Gandhi said. “And it’s a good time to really say, ‘How do we re-energize, not get complacent, but really, as Derek says, reboot and think about, OK, we’ve made progress on particular issues like infections or medication safety, but how do we really improve the whole system in order to accelerate our progress?”

The IHI and NPSF also plan to continue offering both of their prominent quality and patient safety conferences — NPSF's Patient Safety Congress in the spring and IHI's National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care in December. Down the line, the two will eventually co-locate in a shared office space somewhere in the Boston area where they are both based, Feeley added, after the IHI’s current lease in Cambridge, Mass., expires.

As part of the merger announcement — and coinciding with National Patient Safety Awareness Week, which started Sunday and runs through March 18 — the NPSF also released a public health call to action to respond to the current state of preventable adverse events in health care. That would involve six steps, NPSF said in the announcement:

  1. Define the problem and set national goals
  2. Coordinate activities across multiple sectors to ensure widespread adoption and evaluation
  3. Inform, educate and empower the community
  4. Effectively measure and monitor progress at all levels
  5. Identify causes and interventions that work
  6. Educate and train

As part of this call to action, the IHI notes that it is making a “significant” new investment into safety programs. They plan to combine together any existing safety efforts between the two orgs, and will continue such NPSF programs as the Lucian Leape Institute and Certified Professional in Patient Safety credentialing, according to a press release. “The opportunity to extend the reach of the two organizations by coming together is significant, and we’re excited to work with all of the excellent folks at NPSF,” Feeley said.