Recent reports on hospitals' success in improving quality show how harnessing the power of partnership can lead to dramatic improvements.

The Comprehensive Unit-based Safety Program, led by the American Hospital Association's Health Research & Educational Trust with support from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, has reduced central line-associated blood stream infections in adult intensive care units by 40 percent over four years, saving more than 500 lives and $34 million in health care costs.

At CUSP's heart is a simple concept: trust the wisdom of your front-line clinicians. It uses a culturally driven approach, a checklist of evidence-based safety practices, staff training and other tools to prevent and reduce infections. CUSP has been implemented in more than 1,100 hospitals, and the project has helped participating hospitals to reduce the rate of CLABSI nationally to 1.1 per 1,000 central line days in 2012 from 1.9 in 2009, according to AHRQ.

The field also demonstrated dramatic improvement in the Joint Commission's latest annual report on quality. While the number of reported measures has grown significantly over the years, hospitals have improved on every measure tracked two years or longer. In fact, for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care safety, hospitals consistently are delivering every critical aspect of care measured more than 96 percent of the time.

These results are a powerful example of hospitals' commitment to reducing infections, and a reminder of what we can accomplish by working together. Quality is everyone's job, and every board member must play a role. But too frequently, trustees without clinical degrees feel out of their depth. That's why the AHA's Center for Healthcare Governance created its Quality Curriculum for Trustees, designed to enhance their abilities to make the clear connections between their work in the boardroom and the performance of their organization, the well-being of patients and the community, and to provide the tools they need to drive improvement. Learn more at www.americangovernance.com.

Kimberly McNally, R.N., M.N. (kamcnally@att.net), is COG chair and a trustee of Harborview Medical Center/UW Medicine in Seattle.