AHA offers blueprint for hospital-community partnerships

As the transition from a fee-for-service model to a value-based system continues to build momentum, it will largely be up to hospital leaders to chart a new course forward. To aid in this effort, a new report from the American Hospital Association (AHA) outlines how health system executives, boards and their communities can work together to improve the quality of care.

The report, "Leadership Toolkit for Redefining the H: Engaging Trustees and Communities," is the product of two AHA committees--one that hosted events in 2014 to collaborate with community partners, and another that conducted a survey of 949 CEOs and 629 trustees to gauge how well hospital and health system governance practices are prepared for a changing healthcare environment.

"The Redefining the H report is incredibly valuable not only in terms of articulating a shared set of principles, but offering a toolkit for community conversations," AHA Chairman Jonathan Perlin said in a podcast regarding the report. "Triple Aim [better care, better health and lower costs] and 'Redefining the H' are demonstrative of the link between the immediate advocacy agenda for hospitals in terms of their current mission requirements and their collective aspirations in terms of defining a healthier future."

In its "leadership toolkit," the report offers some of the following recommendations for hospital and health system leaders in their efforts to engage the community:

Drive policy that supports collaboration. Hospitals and the community must work together to incentivize partnerships that get consumers more involved in the system and in their own care, according to the AHA.

Engage in broad-based, ongoing dialogue. "Move outside the hospital's comfort zone to listen to voices and perspectives that often go unheard in general hospital meetings and planning sessions," the report states, later providing guidance for how to host "Community Conversation" events.

Use community health need assessments as a planning tool. Hospitals should not just conduct these surveys because they are required, but should use them as a blueprint for how multiple stakeholders can work together to improve population health.

Consider a holistic approach. In the future, the emblematic blue "H" should bring to mind "health" instead of "hospital," according to the report, noting that reimbursement systems also must change to incentivize keeping patients healthy and out of the hospital.

Hospital leaders can be agents of change by also pursuing "high-performance governance practices" such as building a board-CEO co-leadership partnership; establishing a foundation of trust and effective communication; and defining a clear path for transformation, according to the report.

This is not the first AHA report to emphasize the importance of hospital-community collaboration. The organization released a guide in 2013 for small and rural hospitals to further their efforts to develop effective population health management partnerships, FierceHealthcare previously reported. And in December, the AHA released a comprehensive report that examined best practices from successful health partnerships around the country.

To learn more:
- check out the report
- listen to the podcast

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