Strategies for improving community well-being from 5 healthcare leaders

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Offering telehealth and mental health services, and addressing poor housing conditions, are among the ways hospitals and health systems are improving the well-being of their surrounding communities.  

Becker's asked leaders from healthcare organizations included on Fortune/IBM Watson Health's list of top hospitals for 2021 to discuss their strategies for bettering their communities. Below are their answers: 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Steve Bunyard. President of OhioHealth Dublin (Ohio) Methodist Hospital and OhioHealth Grady Memorial Hospital in Delaware, Ohio: There are numerous learnings that we started during the pandemic and are continuing now. One that stands out is the use of technology, specifically virtual health, that connects patients with their providers and specialists, via computer. We've seen significant buy-in from our providers and patients to connect virtually.  I think that will continue. And we've taken that further with online portals and an app.

Prior to the pandemic, Dublin Methodist Hospital, along with several other OhioHealth hospitals, were recognized on national most-wired surveys. We feel we are in a great place moving forward. And now our patients and providers are ready.

Todd LaPorte. CEO of HonorHealth (Phoenix): The pandemic reinforced our belief that care continues to migrate into ambulatory and virtual care settings where appropriate/possible, and as we get delegated more risk for patient engagement and utilization based on value-based contracting, we need to have more visibility and influence over social determinants of health. We expect to enhance our telehealth and mental health services faster than we thought a year ago. And workforce development is even more amplified as a critical success factor.

Mary Lou Mastro, BSN, RN. President and CEO of Edward-Elmhurst Health (Naperville, Ill.): Many people across all segments of the population are struggling with mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse and thoughts of suicide. We know there are many members of our community in need of services, perhaps suffering silently. Our mission is to reach them and their families to let them know they're not alone and that help is available through Linden Oaks Behavioral Health. We are working hard to combat the stigma associated with seeking assistance for a mental health problem. Through vigorous outreach programs, including public education, mental health first aid and collaboration with other healthcare providers and community partners, we are working to enhance the mental health of our communities. 

Kirk McCarty, MSN, RN. CEO of Sky Ridge Medical Center (Lone Tree, Colo.): As a CEO, I believe my job is to give our community, which includes patients and colleagues, guidance about their health, safety and well-being so they can make informed choices.  Access to mental health resources continues to be a challenge, so we are partnering with our behavioral health team at the Medical Center of Aurora to bring easily accessible, virtual presentations on topics such as bullying, vaping, suicide prevention to parents in our community through a school district partnership, as well as providing postpartum education and support groups to new moms. We are also exploring options for more intensive, outpatient therapy on our campus.

Tom Ozburn. President and CEO of Parkridge Health System (Chattanooga, Tenn.): In 2019, Parkridge Medical Center spearheaded the launch of the Orchard Knob Collaborative, a public-private community health initiative focused on improving social determinants, like poor housing conditions, that put our neighbors at unnecessary risk of poor health outcomes. We began by making repairs that addressed housing issues linked with hospital admissions and readmissions to five homes in the community. While the pandemic posed significant logistical challenges, we completed the first phase of repairs and are in the process of selecting the next group of homes for repair. We were also able to expand our focus by recruiting other community groups with specific areas of specialization to broaden our scope to include addressing food scarcity and the lack of green space in our neighborhood.

Paired with continued focus on community outreach to ensure our community has easy access to the essential healthcare services they need, uniting local organizations under the common goal of alleviating disparities of health linked with poor health outcomes will mark a significant change in the healthcare landscape in Chattanooga. I am confident that the Orchard Knob Collaborative will reconceptualize the role of a hospital in the community it serves. 

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