• Collaborative Power

    Apr 21, 2010

    The healthcare organizations in this Leadership report are actively improving patient care and reducing costs.

    This is the Foreword of Leadership's Collaborating for Results report.

    Return to the full report.

    The irony is not lost on us. We publish a report promoting collaboration as key to improving quality and reducing costs in health care-after months of partisan division over health reform.

    Yet the incongruity provides reason for optimism. The lack of Congressional bipartisanship stands in direct contrast to what we discovered during interviews with providers. The healthcare organizations in this report are actively improving quality and reducing costs. Their leaders are rethinking how things are currently done and, in many instances, blowing up current approaches and painstakingly rebuilding from scratch-because it is the right thing to do for their patients.

    For instance, New Jersey-based Virtua is building one of the country's most comprehensive patient navigation programs. Specially trained navigators help patients manage diseases and coordinate care.

    In Texas, CHRISTUS Health is operating 35 school-based health centers, after a pilot clinic improved immunization rates and reduced ED visits among children with chronic diseases.

    Results are starting to come in for some of these transformational projects. For example, Everett Clinic physicians are now prescribing about 81 percent generic, thanks to prompts they receive via the clinic's electronic health record. The savings to payers over the past year: $35 million.

    The improvement projects under way require extraordinary levels of collaboration. For example a statewide team in Michigan-with representatives from hospitals, home care, physician practices, nursing facilities, and insurers-aims to reduce readmission rates across the state by 30 percent.

    At the end of the day, what brings healthcare stakeholders together-and drives them to find collaborative solutions-is their common mission. "We focus on the patient," says Judy Avie, vice president of process improvement and care design at St. John Providence Health System. "We focus on how we can alleviate the patient's pain or suffering. This naturally draws healthcare people together."

    This is not to say that collaboration is easy. The providers themselves point out the many and varied challenges-from engaging busy physicians to finding a profitable business model for alternative delivery approaches.

    And it would be naive to suggest that providers can revolutionize healthcare delivery on their own without complementary changes at the federal and state levels. For one, the current payment system needs further modifications to ensure that providers are rewarded-rather than financially penalized-for working together to manage patient care and improve efficiency.

    But it is heartening to see the power that providers do have-as displayed on the pages of this report-and the major results providers can attain when they cross department and organizational silos and work cooperatively.

    As Loraine Cusumano, RN, BSN, MSA, director, St. John Home Care, says: "When you are there to improve quality for the patient, healthcare providers pull up their sleeves and get to work. This is what we do. This is our soul."

    Catherine Jacobson, FHFMA, CPA
    2009-2010 Chair, HFMA
    Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning and Finance, CFO, and Treasurer
    Rush University Medical Center

    Richard L. Clarke, DHA, FHFMA
    President and CEO

    Next: Go to Section 1, Creating a Culture of Collaboration, of this Leadership report.