"Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much."

 —Helen Keller

As providers strive to manage care across the continuum, they are learning to recognize and respond to points where their care delivery intersects with that of other providers. Being able to partner with others to effectively connect patients with care offerings that optimize treatment reduces the total cost of care and improves the health of the patient population. However, the organizational shift required to truly coordinate care is significant. Strong leadership is critical to develop and apply the culture, technology, structure, and processes required to maximize care coordination.

Chronic conditions, because of their impact on population health and the associated financial implications, are a particular focus for coordination. Take chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as an example. This condition is typified by recurrent changes in symptoms that all too frequently send patients on avoidable ED visits. By creating partnerships that work to provide COPD patients with the tools to manage and stabilize symptoms, providers can minimize or even eliminate costly and unnecessary visits and treatments.

There are many examples of how partnerships across the continuum can create better results for all stakeholders—patients, providers, and insurers. As I wrote about in an earlier column, we at Baptist Health South Florida partnered with Florida Blue and Advanced Medical Specialties, a multisite oncology physician group, with the goal of curbing the sharply rising costs of cancer care while continually improving quality and coordination of care. By focusing on the avoidance of unnecessary ED visits, evidence-based treatment regimens, advanced care planning, and providing our caregivers with comprehensive and timely clinical information,the initial results show we have been successful in adding value and bending the cost curve.

Collaboration is key to the successful transformation of our healthcare industry. HFMA’s ongoing Value Project has found that across all cohorts, organizations are pursuing ways to establish partnerships that create value and improve patient outcomes. For example, Billings Clinic in Montana partnered with Blue Cross to help pay for value improvement initiatives at patient-centered medical homes, resulting in optimal treatment options for patients and long-term cost savings for the clinic.

Others have partnered directly with large, self-insured employers. Longmont United Hospital, a stand-alone hospital in Colorado, created a unique arrangement with a local self-funded school district to become a preferred provider. And Lowe’s, a national self-funded employer, has established an exclusive arrangement with the Cleveland Clinic, including a special travel benefit for employees, giving them further incentives to take advantage of Cleveland Clinic services. These arrangements reward coordinated care and excellent outcomes.

As HFMA’s Value Project research has made clear, different types of organizations face different challenges based on their size, functionality, and community. Yet the common thread among all organizations is the understanding that the implementation of a care coordination strategy is not an option—it has become a necessity. Strong leadership is called for to make the necessary changes that, although disruptive in the short-term, will be highly beneficial in the long-run. Build an inukshuk and show others the way! Leadership Matters!

Publication Date: Monday, April 01, 2013

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