A Strategic Approach to Defining Your Hospital’s Relationship with the Community

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HRT-thumb2Becker’s Hospital Review has a valuable article by Sabrina Rodak on defining your hospital’s role in its community. She offers three steps, courtesy of Cathy Fickes, RN, president and CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center in Los Angeles, on “determining how a hospital or health system can remain relevant in healthcare today.”

The first step Fickes recommends is to know your organization.

What is your culture? What is your mission? What is your vision? What are your values? For St. Vincent, it is a faith-based organization that belongs to the Daughters of Charity Health System in Los Altos Hills, Calif.

Fickes said they view their mission as “a ministry for the provision of care,” and therefore, they focus on serving the poor. That’s who they are. Who are you?

Second, she said you must know your populations.

Rodak writes, “St. Vincent Medical Center looks at three different populations — regional, national and international — based on the different services it offers. The hospital’s inpatient services attract patients from the region, and the majority of these patients have chronic conditions… Meanwhile, the hospital’s centers of excellence in cardiology, orthopedics and spine, neuro-otology, and transplants attract patients from across the country and world.”

Who are your patient populations? Who makes up your payer mix?

Finally, you must decide what kind of a relationship you want your organization to have with your patient populations.

Fickes explains, “The strategic planning process is part of your team-building process of listening to your doctors, your managers and directors, evaluating your patient population, and looking at the outside world and saying ‘Where do we fit in this world?’ A lot of analysis and soul searching goes into it, to say ‘How do we want to relate?’”

Because of its mission-ministry, St. Vincent is interested in its patients’ entire continuum of care and is currently “exploring how to market its strengths and how to work with physicians, payers, and accountable care organizations so patients are taken care of from before they enter the hospital until after they are discharged.”

Here, relationships and partnerships are proving to be vital, especially relationships with physicians. Fickes said St. Vincent relies on physicians to ensure that the patients don’t return to the hospital. “We offer a high level of expertise in dealing with patients who have chronic disease states. We bring in patients for the acute phase, and we work with physicians as we transition [patients] back out to the community.”

St. Vincent also relies on California and CMS’ dual eligible coordinated care program, which is centered around the Cal MediConnect program that “will coordinate medical, social, and mental health services for seniors and people with disabilities.”

Fickes concluded, “In strategic planning, we need to [think about] how to become a central part of the continuum of care for this patient population who is going to move into managed care.”

How does your healthcare organization define its role in the community? How has your role evolved among your patient populations over the last three or so years?

-by Pete Fernbaugh

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