Keys to Successful Hospital-Community Health Center Partnerships
May 09, 2014 | By: Guest Blogger
is President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Community Health Centers. She previously served for
17 years as Vice President of Integrated Delivery Systems for The Hospital & Healthsystem
Association of Pennsylvania.
1: Mutual Respect and Understanding
“You don’t have to invade each other’s
governance to partner. Create a joint partnership steering committee that
allows each organization’s executive teams to meet regularly, prioritize, and
bring information back to the boards.”
the guidance from Jackie Leifer, national expert on hospital and
community health center collaborations, during a recent joint educational
program offered through a partnership between the Pennsylvania Association of Community
Health Centers, The Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, and
Hospital Council of Western PA focusing on establishing successful
hospital-community health center partnerships.
gets to the heart of one of the biggest partnership challenges I hear from both
hospitals and health centers: “hospitals are accustomed to a great deal of
control in partnership arrangements and health centers have strict, unwaivable
From my experience, it’s clear that individual
preferences and requirements do not have to be obstacles to good partnerships.
One key to
forging successful partnerships is to mutually respect, understand, and honor
hospital and community health center requirements.
2: A Three-Way Win
So what is
a successful partnership? It’s when you can confirm that the partnership has
created a “three-way win”—a win for the hospital and/or health system; a win for
the health center; and most importantly, a win for the community and patients
partnership models range from working together on the development of a new
health center or health center site to meet the needs of the underserved, to
residency programs and teaching collaborations, to leasing of personnel or
services, to emergency department care coordination, and to development of
Accountable Care Organizations.
hospital-community health center partnerships optimize the health center
benefits of fairer payment for primary care services, the 340B drug discount
program, Federal Tort Claims Act coverage, National Health Service Corps and
state loan repayment, and the Vaccine for Children Program.
They build on the
health center model of care that offers coordinated medical, dental, and
behavioral primary health care services to individuals and families to help
them get well and stay well.
hospital-community health center partnerships should result in:
services to more patients, or an ability to maintain existing services that
were in jeopardy
care coordination with a reduction in duplication of services
financial stability and strength of both partners
key to successful partnerships is creating a three-way win.
3: A Framework of Trust
there are certainly defined types of partnerships between hospitals and community
health centers, it’s clear that how they evolve is very individual; and that as
trust builds and positive outcomes are validated, more opportunities for
productive partnership present themselves.
example, Carolina Health Centers developed a medical home referral
collaborative model with Greenville Health System. Over time it has evolved to
the point that a health center is located on
the hospital campus and a health center care coordinator works with hospital emergency
department staff and discharge planners to help individuals without an
established medical home to secure one.
hospital and health center worked together to align incentives. The community
health center offers same day primary care at the hospital location, allowing
patients who present at the emergency department and screened as not having an
emergent condition the option of treatment in the hospital emergency (and they pay
for the screening exam and treatment) or referral to the community health
center (where they do have to pay for the screening exam).
there were some initial concerns from hospital emergency department staff and
private physicians, the hospital emergency department director is now the
strongest advocate for the partnership. Community physicians are pleased
because the community health center refers patients with an established medical
home back to the hospital. And patients have a say in the care they receive.
key to successful partnerships is a establishing that framework of trust, along
with a focus on patients and improving the health of the communities.
world of health care into which we have all been thrust is forcing providers
across the continuum to learn how to better work with one another. The incentives
aren’t yet totally aligned, but are moving in the right direction. Hospitals
and community health centers, both critical resources in the community, need to
move in the right direction as well.
Association of Community Health Centers and The Hospital & Healthsystem
Association of Pennsylvania are committed to helping hospitals and health
centers interested in partnership to explore the options and opportunities.
membership organizations are working better together just as you are, and we’re
here to support your efforts through education, resources, and advice. We
welcome your questions on potential partnerships and collaborations so that,
together, hospitals and community health centers can work to not only survive,
but thrive, in this new world of health.