We’re pleased to announce that we’ve established a partnership with the California-based organization, Collaborative Consulting.
As we’ve looked to apply our work into practice – specifically using our tool to apply the 12 principles to community health work – we’ve asked ourselves whether we needed to become a consulting organization. However, just as we did with the symposium, we prefer to partner with like-minded organizations, rather than compete with them.
For the past seven years, Collaborative Consulting has been working with health and social services leaders to develop better systems for health in their communities. They’ve been at the very heart of the medical-social integration that is now getting recognition in the mainstream.
I spoke with Collaborative Consulting’s CEO, Lori Peterson.
Pritpal S Tamber: Hi Lori. Tell us a little about the landscape you’re operating in.
Lori Peterson: It’s transitional. Health systems in the US are confronted with declining income, the threat of financial penalties, and the overwhelming task of managing multiple priorities while preparing for an uncertain future defined by value-based delivery and reimbursement. Pair all that with the aging nation, rising rates of chronic disease, and greater acceptance of the importance of social risk factors, and the current system is being tested, to say the least.
Pritpal: Tough times. So, how are health care providers looking to respond?
Lori: Tough, yes, but also opportune to try something different. In the field – although it feels more like the trenches – we’re seeing amplified attention on the potential of cross-sector partnerships and collaborations as a way to address some of the challenges. These medical-social integrations are attempts to create a better health system, more responsive to people’s true needs. For instance, one health system partnered with a community-based organization to co-design a short-term respite program that made it possible for 200 homeless patients to be transitioned out of hospital, with 90% of them not requiring re-hospitalization and 30% being relocated to permanent housing.
Pritpal: Are you seeing payers form partnerships like this as well?
Lori: Yes. For example, one health plan engaged a community-based organization and a housing provider to create a community based care model to help individuals avoid a nursing home placement after a hospital stay. A second component of this program included helping people in long term care facilities to go back into their communities. They saw a 50% reduction in the total cost of care per member per month, a 60% reduction in hospital length of stay, and a significant increase in member satisfaction.
Pritpal: So, have you found a replicable model to this kind of work?
Lori: I stopped trying to create ‘The Playbook for Successful Partnerships’ some time ago! Although they seem generic, the issues that these partnerships seek to address are always unique to each community. To improve the health of a population, for example, we know that in many instances just having access to high-quality care won’t be enough; health is also shaped by nutrition, economic and living conditions, family relationships, and so forth. These things are always local. There is no bypassing the discipline of understanding the local context and experimenting with what may work within one’s own organization, across a network of partner organizations, and for the residents being served.
Pritpal: So, why has the idea of the ‘agency’ of the community interested you?
Lori: Cross-sector partnerships are beginning to achieve great results but, for long-term sustainability, we believe we need to move beyond provider-to-provider relationships and involve the community itself. This is an area loaded with potential, which many have recognized, but the stretch past recognition to doing something is tricky; it’s another layer of complexity to deal with. At Collaborative Consulting, we see the 12 principles to fostering community agency as a solid framework for starting – and we have clients that we think will be interested in applying them.
Pritpal: Why do you say that?
Lori: Beyond the idea of sustainability mentioned above, it’s common sense. Any health entity seeking to improve the health and well-being of a community knows, at some level, that to achieve that aim in the long-term will require developing genuine relationships with residents. These relationships will need to go beyond the outreach strategies that sit within ‘community benefits’ departments. Community residents will have to be embraced as fellow experts in their health and important participants in local decision-making. The good thing is that the ‘common sense’ of this also feeds into what it’ll take to sustain local partnerships.
Pritpal: So, if it’s so clear why’s it not happening everywhere?
Lori: Just because it makes sense doesn’t mean it’s easy. That’s, again, why we see the 12 principles, and the huge work that has gone into surfacing them, as important – it has the potential to help people start.
Pritpal: In your experience, what makes it so hard for people to start?
Lori: This brings me back to the landscape. The uncertain and overwhelming transition that the health system is going through makes it hard for people to embrace a new way of working. It’s all very well writers and pundits saying that our approach to health requires major transformation, not incremental innovation, but just saying it over and over isn’t helpful. People need help to implement new ideas. Implementation is always the key challenge in change. At Collaborative Consulting, we make it manageable by facilitating the dialogue around the challenges, helping people to see the opportunities, discovering the entry point from which this work can start, and building capacities to make implementation more of an everyday reality.
Pritpal: I totally agree. There’s no shortage of ideas; the challenge is making them a reality. Thanks for doing this interview. We looking forward to working with you.
Lori: Thanks, Pritpal. Likewise.
More on that in our next post.