Clinicians lead the transformation to value; healthcare systems must support them

It's no secret that value-based care is here to stay. Value-based care has already proven effective for achieving better care, smarter spending and healthier people. Now we are challenged to implement strategies to achieve the desired outcomes for our patients as well as our providers and associates.

Historically, health systems have designed a sort of clinical hierarchy where everyone else played a supporting role. One of many changes the shift to value has brought about is an examination of these long-held conventions, which require us to ask how everyone can listen, collaborate and learn as an integrated team.

According to research by Bain & Company, physicians who feel engaged in the decision-making process within their organizations are more likely to participate in value-based payment models, which makes building integrated, collegial relationships between providers and administrators all the more important. Research also shows that nurses and other personnel who report being proud of their organization and believe in its commitment to quality and safety perform better on outcome metrics such as patient experience and safety.

Provider engagement – coupled with efforts to establish clear career paths and learning opportunities – is not only a means to attract and retain top talent; it's also an important strategy to drive better patient outcomes. We anticipate this approach will accelerate our progress toward another outcome objective: restoring the joy of our providers’ practice.

That's why Ascension recently embarked on an effort to re-imagine the clinical learning experience across our 2,600 sites of care in 22 states and the District of Columbia. This included the development of a plan for a nationally aligned clinical education community — a coordinated, structured approach to eliminate professional development disparities, increase care efficiencies, and empower our clinicians to practice at the top of licensure.

After taking a hard look at the significant variability in learning quality across our network, we realized it was time to leverage the size of our ministry and our commitment to innovation. This new design has allowed us to unlock quality learning and career progression opportunities for our clinical providers. It has also allowed us to harness the untapped expertise of individuals across our national clinical education community, resulting in a robust pipeline of clinical talent across the care continuum that helps us achieve exceptional health outcomes for patients at a lower cost.

We recognize that nurses are the lifeblood of our organization. Through a new national onboarding program that originated in one of our Detroit hospitals, we have begun to integrate experiential learning simulation and deliberate practice from the start. The intention is to develop more confident associates that will in turn increase satisfaction, decrease orientation time, increase retention and improve patient outcomes. The holistic program aims to bridge the gap between nursing school and clinical practice for newly licensed nurses and caregivers by listening, taking action and learning together. We have discovered that a coordinated and structured approach increases our effectiveness and efficiency.

But it's not enough to produce and support experts in each component along the care continuum. To truly achieve care excellence, system leaders must also be in the business of creating exceptional experiences for the people they serve and the people they employ. We think of the people we serve as just that: people, not just as patients, so that we can connect with and care for them – mind, body and spirit. We must also extend that same reverence and care to our providers, associates and partners who help people and communities all across the country. That's why we work hard to create a culture in which every person who walks through our doors — patient and provider alike — feels valued and understood, who knows that Ascension is where productive, inclusive connections are made.

We can achieve this transformational shift to value only if we invest in the talent of our people and partner with them on their professional journey – one that requires a commitment to lifelong learning, an aptitude for innovation and openness to new approaches. We have room to improve, but many health systems are on their way to realizing care excellence by empowering their providers, associates and partners to do what they do best: to deliver compassionate, personalized care to all.

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