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Leveraging design and technology to transform the health experience | April 5-6, 2016 | Boston, MA

How Health Systems are Building 'Ecosystems' of Care


by David Weldon

Hospitals and healthcare centers are creating networks comprised of the collaborations of providers, physicians, payers and patients.

If you’re not familiar with the term ‘ecosystem of care’, you’re not alone. Although the term is not new, it isn’t used very often.

Still, the concept is very much alive in healthcare and a large number of hospitals and healthcare centers are creating just that – ecosystems comprised of the collaborations of providers, physicians, payers and patients – all toward the goal of increasing the patient experience while decreasing the cost to provide that care.

As much as cost savings and operational efficiency are a big part of this trend, it is patient satisfaction that is at the heart of the effort, said Amy Cueva, founder of the design agency Mad*Pow.

“We are doing research to understand the real needs of the patient,” she said. “What are they facing and what is their health journey? What are their obstacles? What are their struggles? With that information we work with the businesses to figure out how to better deliver care to the people that they serve,” Cueva said.

Collaboration is key

Look anywhere around the country and you will see examples of hospitals and health systems joining forces in such ecosystems. These are not mergers; they are partnerships.

In one of the newest deals, five health systems in Maryland recently formed a new ownership organization to govern their combined 10 hospitals.

“By joining together in the Advanced Health Collaborative, we plan to harness the collective strengths of our members, putting them in a stronger position to advance common interests and goals, including providing higher quality care with greater cost efficiency,” said Robb Cohen, who will serve as the group’s chief executive.

It’s a similar tale, but on a much larger scale, at the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative.

“We basically include all hospitals and all physicians in our state as members if you will,” said Tom Evans, president and CEO at the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative. “It’s based on the premise of the healthcare stakeholders – provider, patient, payer and purchaser – we really believe that the provider community should be proactively working to improve care.”

The concept behind the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative was to have the providers come together, regardless of who they work for, on improving patient quality, safety and value.

“We have cornerstones for our collaborative, which are basically to align and equip providers with performance improvement, to use data to affect change, and then to raise the standard of care across our state,” Evans said.

An unsustainable system

The need for such ecosystems is clear to Evans, and if individual hospitals are not already looking into such partnerships, they’d be smart to start now.

“The [current] national healthcare ecosystem is not sustainable, and we’re going to have to figure out how to provide services to communities anyway, so how do we do that?” Evans said.

“Obviously we’re going to need to improve the quality and the value and that is where a lot of the pressure is today. What we’ve done is said, okay, we should be leading that charge, not just reacting to that charge, but truly orchestrating and developing new care models and working on ways to create sustainable strategies,” Evans said.

One of the greatest problems with the current healthcare reimbursement model is that it has created healthcare silos, Evans said. “The hospitals, the physicians, the long-term care, everyone is chasing their own rainbow, and the net result is a lack of care coordination.”

To counter that, Iowa healthcare stakeholders work together in a variety of statewide healthcare initiatives.

“We had some statewide strategies to reduce hospital acquired infections,” Evans said. “We have a statewide strategy to improve cardio vascular and stroke care. The other thing is to focus on evidence-based medicine so that we’re doing the things that matter and will actually improve outcomes. We’ve had some success in driving state-wide improvement.”

Read the complete article here.