4 ways the role of hospital associations is evolving

I came across a quote recently by Craig Bruce, which says, "Never question the relevance of truth, but always question the truth of relevance."

As an association healthcare leader, I find myself thinking a lot about truth and relevance these days.

The truth is that the healthcare industry continues to experience transformational change. The truth is that trends such as the consolidation of insurance providers and healthcare systems, the creation of new business models, and the shift from volume to value are dramatically changing the landscape. And it's happening at warp speed.

While these truths are extremely challenging, it creates unprecedented opportunity for hospital associations to serve in ways that make the organizations more relevant than ever to its members. But this requires hospital and related associations to be willing to undergo their own transformation.

At the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA), we are up to the challenge. OHA is driving frank discussions with members about industry evolution, Affordable Care Act impact, and how to best meet their needs through game-changing member services. Four priority areas have emerged: predictive analytics, cross-industry collaboration, price transparency and advocacy.

1. Using data to improve patient safety and quality of care. Our members are committed to quality, but often only have their own data for benchmarking. As patient outcomes and readmission factors become a larger responsibility for hospitals, we have an ability to be the safe repository for competitive institutions to share and analyze patient data and to create improvement strategies.

We receive comprehensive data from our members. While it's proprietary, we aggregate the data to create reports to help meet members' needs. We are using sophisticated processes to drive down hospital-acquired incidents of harm. In fact, we have used this data to reduce incidents by 55 percent in Ohio.

We are focused on creating new ways to leverage data to benefit our members. We are providing innovative technology tools that make it easier for hospitals to submit their information. This allows us to reduce central line infection rates, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, sepsis, and other critical issues impacting our members.

2. Crossing industry lines for ongoing collaboration. We all know that community health issues, such as obesity and infant mortality, require collaboration to achieve long-term improvement. Additionally, reducing hospital readmissions requires improved transitions of care between hospitals, pharmacies, rehabilitation facilities, and social services.

In conjunction with our centennial celebration this year, OHA announced the formation of the Institute for Health Innovation. The Institute is based on collaboration. It is dedicated to providing resources to develop and implement strategies focused on accelerating healthcare quality improvement, integrating transitions of patient care, and advancing community health. The Institute has already launched a new statewide quality improvement initiative to reduce sepsis in Ohio.

OHA also has the ability to be the facilitator of collaboration because our day-to-day interaction with policy makers across the spectrum of state agencies and healthcare coalitions puts us at the nexus of conversations that may not happen inside each hospital. Associations are neutral parties that can provide the savvy and project management expertise to drive collaborations among competitor institutions and organizations.

3. Navigating price transparency for consumers. A constant challenge for the healthcare industry is price transparency. State legislatures and consumer advocacy groups are demanding that certain information be made available to patients prior to treatment. OHA's role is to help members understand that transparency isn't going to be a choice – and to devise options that will best serve the patient, while addressing hospital concerns.

A major hurdle to achieving meaningful price transparency is that there is no such thing as a standard price for healthcare services and procedures. Hospitals and other providers can't know ahead of time if a patient will have any complications along the way. A healthy young adult facing knee surgery likely will not require the same level of care as an older adult with diabetes having the same surgery.

In addition, legal and contractual requirements limit the ability of providers to share certain information with the public. Given those concerns, OHA is exploring solutions that are truly consumer-focused and that will provide meaningful information to them to allow for more informed decision-making about their health care choices. However, these solutions will require the participation and cooperation of other health care stakeholders, including payers, who often have access to important information that providers do not.

4. Advocating with a united voice for change. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act means 800,000 Ohioans are newly insured this year through the federal exchange and Ohio's expanded criteria for Medicaid eligibility. As the government becomes an even larger part of our member hospitals' payer mix, the state legislature and Congress are constantly looking to put program guardrails and cost controls in place.

While each member hospital has its own priorities and agenda, the association's advocacy role is growing in value to members when it comes to tracking, understanding, and influencing the new ways policy makers are working to redefine how healthcare is delivered and financed.

At OHA, we will be steadfast in our truth and dedication to evolve to meet the rapidly-changing needs of our members so that they can continue to provide quality patient care for Ohioans...and that is the true test of relevance.

Mike Abrams joined OHA in February 2012 as president and CEO. He leads a team of 65 associates, supports a 20-member Board of Trustees, serves on a variety of health care and hospital taskforces and committees, and works with 1,900 members of 10 OHA affiliated societies. During 2012 Mike worked with the Board and OHA staff to develop a new, three-year strategic plan focused on a mission to collaborate with member hospitals and health systems to ensure a healthy Ohio. Launched in late 2012, the new plan outlines a bold strategy to focus primarily on advocacy, economic sustainability and patient safety and quality for Ohio hospitals. He works closely with hospital and health system executives and leaders to assess health care trends and review policies impacting the industry.

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