Developing a clinically integrated physician network and creating a population health management strategy for a Medicaid population with comorbidities — these were two of many projects from the 2015–2016 AHA Health Care Transformation Fellowship. Sixteen health care leaders participated as fellows, examining hot topics with expert faculty and sharing feedback, while working on transforming care delivery at their hospitals and health systems.

Clinically integrated network in Kansas

Bobby Olm-Shipman, president and CEO of Saint Luke’s South Hospital in Overland Park, Kan., has worked on laying the groundwork for a clinically integrated physician network. “We want to helpkeep our physicians independent, but also align them. We’re focused on delivering higher quality and higher value of care,” he says. Health system leaders asked physicians: What is the value proposition? What key elements of a clinically integrated network are needed to be successful?

Saint Luke’s conducted a gap analysis and worked to get everyone on the same page for quality and value. It took six months of conversation and education, Olm-Shipman says. “It’s about developing partnerships; [then] the patients and health system win, and so do providers.” He adds, “If an organization does not demonstrably improve quality and value, it’s in trouble.”

Saint Luke’s has focused on standardizing clinical pathways on the inpatient side, Olm-Shipman says. “Now we’re working on the ambulatory side and broader continuum,” he explains. “Integration is the theme for our board. We have to integrate our whole delivery system — hospital, employees and the entire clinical network.”

The health care transformation fellowship provided “dedicated time to pull back and sit down with a group of executive colleagues, to speak candidly and receive and offer critique and comments,” Olm-Shipman says. The presentations at fellowship meetings were “top flight,” he adds.

Population health management in New Jersey

Jennifer Velez, senior vice president, community and behavioral health, at Barnabas Health in West Orange, N.J., worked on developing a population health management strategy for the Medicaid population in Newark. This ongoing project is focused on patients who access primary and behavioral health services, to improve their health outcomes, facilitate follow-up care and encourage active adherence to care plans. “For patients with serious mental illness, multidisciplinary, hands-on engagement is critical for success,” Velez explains. Challenges with active patient engagement in an urban setting differ from those in a suburban setting, she adds.

According to Velez, “When undergoing complex system change shifts that involve patient behaviors and require health care providers to work differently together … health care leaders have a responsibility to ensure that aspirational goals can be achieved with flexible and practical implementation plans — but innovative thinking is key.”

By participating in the fellowship, “my work was greatly enhanced by the active discussions with other fellows around common challenges — notwithstanding that the size and location of our hospital systems differed considerably,” Velez says. “There is a willingness and an appetite to test ideas that will improve health care delivery and outcomes.”

Applications for the 2016–2017 AHA Health Care Transformation Fellowship are due June 1. For more information, visit www.hpoe.org/hctfellowship.

Cynthia Hedges Greising is a communications specialist with the AHA’s Health Research & Educational Trust.