Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services


Situation / Challenge

Created by statute in 1982, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) Program is one of the largest federal programs dedicated to improving health quality at the community level. By law, the mission of the QIO Program is to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, economy, and quality of services delivered to Medicare beneficiaries.

In 2006, the Program drew public scrutiny as a result of an Institute of Medicine report questioning its value. Since 2009, Sage has worked as both a prime and subcontractor to improve perceptions of the QIO Program and to serve as the hub of all national-level communications for internal and external audiences.

Upon becoming prime contractor for the QIO Program’s Program Collaboration Center-Integrated Communications (PCC-IC) in 2014, Sage was tasked with the following:

  • To ensure the development, execution and maintenance of communications and branding strategies for the QIO Program

  • To develop a variety of traditional and digital communications products

  • To establish and maintain the digital presence for the QIO Program

  • To provide technical assistance and support to individual QIO communication efforts

  • To provide oversight, logistical, and communications support for the annual CMS Quality Conference

  • To ensure that all reports and publications follow official standards for plain writing and cultural and linguistic appropriateness

Our Strategic Approach

To ensure continual and proactive support to all QIO Program communications activities, Sage annually conducts formal market research to maintain an ongoing understanding of perceptions and challenges. We analyze and assess the research findings and provide CMS with recommendations in the form of an annual brand strategy and biannual national communications plans. Working closely with CMS and our subcontractor team, we develop and implement actionable tasks over the course of each year.

Our research-based approach to QIO Program communications results in the development of defensible and well-planned products and programs that address real needs and resonate with stakeholders.


In 2011, we conducted a baseline survey to benchmark stakeholder perceptions about the Program. A fall 2016 tracking survey revealed that three-quarters of respondents were familiar with the CMS QIO Program, up from three-fifths in 2011. It also reflected that association of the QIO Program with certain brand attributes had grown since 2011.

Healthcare stakeholders’ increased familiarity with the QIO Program may be partially attributable to Sage’s successful LinkedIn Executive program for two QIO Program executives, our strong readership for the monthly QIO Program e-newsletter, and our media and stakeholder outreach strategies in publicizing the annual QIO Program Progress Report. We also have been praised for our work in supporting the yearly CMS Quality Conference, which has drawn record numbers of attendees in recent years.