The recurring theme of the conference was engagement across the board – with patients, with the health care team, and with other health systems. Lanie Abbott from Eastern Maine Health System summed it up best when she explained, “Health care is a team sport.” And we saw support of this idea over and over again.
Talk with Patients to empower them with skills and knowledge to execute care, establish a collaborate spirit and set expectations. It is the surest way to reach the best outcomes, patient satisfaction and advocacy for your health care organization. Beyond care conversations, remember that every interaction, every conversation matters. We heard from Jim Rattray about how Middlesex Hospital has color-coded uniforms, having asked patients for feedback and hearing that the number one complaint was that patients were often unsure who they were talking to in the hospital, because everyone was dressed the same. When we think of patients as partners, a new landscape of possibilities opens.
We heard from Marie Watteau of the American Hospital Association that the number one reason patients don’t engage in their own care and with care providers is that they don’t know where to start. Social media has created more opportunity, but still only 814/5,000 hospitals are currently using social media. A panel of patients later reinforced this with their incredible, personal stories about how they turned to the power of online communities to learn about, cope with, and connect to fellow patients of rare or chronic medical conditions. We thank them for sharing their stories and are inspired by their courage and bravery.
Talk with the Health Care Team to create shared expectations and understanding among care teams and patients. This involves helping them understand that everyone has a caregiving role to play at all levels of the organization all the time. Show them their role and get excited about making an impact, one teammate at a time.
Speakers also emphasized the importance of engaging the health care teams in decision-making processes. Sean Tracy shared his case study for rebranding a large physician group and advised the audience to circle back with physicians and staff early and often in order to demonstrate that their time spent providing input was valuable and useful. This has been our experience as well, and is a powerful way to build committed, inspired internal brand advocates.
Talk with other Health Systems to best care for populations outside hospital walls – That’s where the real magic is happening. Bringing providers together encourages real engagement in and commitment to population health. Lanie Abbot described how Eastern Maine Health System’s sophisticated ACO, Beacon Health, brings together area competitors for the greater good of the populations they care for. She said building relationships is key to success.
We know this can be challenging, as Watteau of the AHA pointed out, little ROI can be demonstrated in population health initiatives, and systems are still leery of working with competitors. However, finding new ways to care for our populations will reduce hospital admissions, raise satisfaction and loyalty, and is ultimately necessary (and positive!) in the age of accountable care.
We see the theme of engagement as one that is gaining momentum in the age of accountable care. Everyone is important (and accountable) with a role to play. After all, there is no “I” in team.