Improving health, care and value are the tenets of the Triple Aim. Transformative improvement is challenging, but possible. This kind of transformation requires community partnership that, in turn, demands collaboration, communication and culture change.

In practical terms, health care leaders know that transformation will take our best efforts as well as the time, energy and insights of our health care teams: managers, clinicians and nonclinical staff. This important goal is impossible without working together with patients, families and many different community organizations. Ensuring access to care for all is a prerequisite for health, and engaging in shared purpose with the communities we are privileged to serve is crucial for achieving the Triple Aim goals.

Earlier this year, the AHA released the “Leadership Toolkit for Redefining the H: Engaging Trustees and Communities,” a culmination of months of work by two AHA committees — the Committee on Research and the Committee on Performance Improvement. This comprehensive resource outlines important themes identified through community conversations across the country. The report offers action plans for hospitals and health systems that are moving toward population health, by identifying health needs within communities and addressing social determinants of health. In redefining the H, hospitals must forge community collaborations that:

  • Appropriately allocate resources and define a shared responsibility for improving community health.
  • Bring insight, perspective and support from the community into the hospital boardroom as hospital leaders consider paths for transformation.
  • Enter into strategic partnerships for improving community health and health outcomes.

The AHA offers a variety of resources and guidance for hospitals and health care systems, no matter where an organization is on its transformation journey. The Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence initiative continues to provide exceptional tools and educational materials for hospitals and health systems to accelerate performance improvement. Topics include improving teamwork and communication on health care teams; increasing diversity of hospital leadership, board and staff while building a culture of diversity and inclusion; engaging patients and families to improve the patient experience; and highlighting population health initiatives in U.S. hospitals. HPOE.org features a searchable archive of AHA guides and articles as well as other relevant resources and references.

Written materials are just the start. HPOE webinars are expected to draw nearly 5,000 participants in 2015. Speakers this year have shared examples of innovative care practices related to eliminating health care disparities; using community health needs assessments for strategic planning; ensuring access and high-quality care for LGBT patients; and building a culture of health.

The AHA’s Health Care Transformation Fellowship is an intensive nine-month program with learning retreats, webinars and coaching calls for health care leaders who are working to help their organizations implement innovative delivery and payment system transformation models. Each fellow designs and implements a project that addresses the needs of his or her organization, with guidance from fellowship faculty, AHA staff and program attendees.

As our field evolves, hospitals and health systems are exploring different paths to transformation. No matter the path, providing high-quality health care and cultivating healthier communities go hand-in-hand, moving us toward achieving the Triple Aim. Engaging our communities will help to make this transformation possible.

Jonathan B. Perlin, M.D., Ph.D., M.S.H.A., chair of the AHA board, is chief medical officer and president of clinical services at HCA, Nashville, Tenn. Visit the Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence website at HPOE.org.