Community partnerships key to future of care delivery, experts say

Henry Ford Health System
Henry Ford Health System is paving the future of the system through community partnerships, its CEO said at a panel discussion on Wednesday. (Henry Ford Health System)

WASHINGTON—In an increasingly competitive environment, the healthcare system needs to evolve to better meet the needs of communities, experts said.

"We need to start thinking about how we are going to build the healthcare system of the future,” Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association (AHA), said in his opening remarks at a panel discussion on the subject on Wednesday morning. 

Pollack said part of that evolution is the AHA value initiative, which focuses on four areas: designing and redesigning delivery, managing risk, quality improvement and operational improvement, all in an effort to advance affordable healthcare and promote value within communities.

Pollack also noted that the system of the future is led by innovation, which is a key player in creating affordable, comprehensive care. 

The panel was moderated by Ken Kaufman, managing director at Kaufman Hall, and featured Elliot Joseph, CEO of Hartford Healthcare; Wright Lassiter III, CEO of Henry Ford Health System; and Janice Nevin, M.D., CEO of Christiana Care Health System.

So, what can hospitals and health systems do to stay competitive? Look for partnerships outside the hospital walls, the panelists said.

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Lassiter pointed out that the role of the hospital is changing as ambulatory care is moving away from inpatient care settings, creating competing models of care. Beyond clinical entities, Joseph named the real competitor as “relationships,” as providers and systems battle to form relationships with consumers.  

And the only way for any large or small healthcare system to truly compete is to form partnerships. Lassiter talked about several partnerships that the Henry Ford Health System has forged, such as ConnectedCare with General Motors, which helps GM address the health and wellness of its employees. 

Nevin said that Christiana Care Health System uses an investment in data to compete. The company’s platform includes feedback from various states with real-time clinical experiences via AI and machine learning.

“We have a predictive analytics engine that can sort out who is at risk in the moment, so we can send out alerts to clinicians,” she said. But in order to accomplish the comprehensive care, the systems needs partners in the community. 

In addition, the discussion revealed great concern about the role of the physician both today and in the future. All three panelists agreed that the current environment makes it hard for physicians to provide care and that we need to be mindful that most clinicians have patients’ well-being in mind. Nevin said the system needs to create the right structures to bring physicians in, give them an opportunity to lead, and respect their perspective in order to keep them engaged.

While there is a lot of talk around physician burnout, Nevin said the system needs to address the problem earlier, before burnout, and much of that can be done with technology. For example, Christiana uses Google Glass as a digital scribe for physicians, letting them spend more time interacting with patients and less time on paperwork. 

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Although physicians are being forced to change sooner if not later, so will the rest of the healthcare workforce. But Lassiter warned that it is a double-edged sword, as many hospitals are the largest employer in a community. Therefore, deploying technology and cutting or changing the role of that large workforce will come with considerable community pushback. 

Joseph chimed in that he cannot predict what the workforce will look like, but he tells his human resource department to look for employees that are ready to “strap in.” Nevin and Lassiter agreed that healthcare workers of the future will need to be amenable to change as the industry continues to morph.