SAN DIEGO — Health care leaders from multiple disciplines came together early Monday at the Health Forum and American Hospital Association Leadership Summit to discuss how to better collaborate and integrate leadership among physicians, nurse executives, health care executives and hospitals.

During a panel discussion, John Combes, M.D., the AHA's senior vice president and chief medical officer, outlined the six integrated leadership principles for success approved by the boards of both the AHA and the American Medical Association.

Combes said there was a realization that "medical staff alone could not do this kind of work with leadership, we really need to partner as a team with other clinicians and executives.”

The six principles for success are:

  • Share your vision and create values and expectations that are similar. There must be a shared responsibility for all results.
  • An interdisciplinary structure that supports collaboration in decision-making, preserving clinical autonomy (defined as putting the needs of the patient first) is needed for quality patient care while working with others to deliver effective, efficient and appropriate care.
  • Integrated leadership at all levels and participation in key management decisions.
  • A collaborative, participatory partnership built on trust.
  • An open and transparent sharing of clinical and business information by all parties across the continuum of care.
  • Clinical information system infrastructure that allows the capture and reporting of key clinical quality and efficiency performance data and accountability across the system to those measures.

While it’s great to talk about integrating leadership and to reinforce the principles for achieving better harmony for better care, putting theory into action is another monster all together. Some facilities and geographic pockets are on their way to achieving the goal, but it’s going to take a larger effort, Combes said. “Organizations have been working on all of this for years and years, and have a great set of competencies. Our challenge now is to take these principles and create a curriculum, a development program for these team-based leaders,” Combes said.

Pamela Thompson, CEO emeritus of the American Organization Nurse Executives and former chief nursing officer of the AHA, said changes should begin at home. “The most important first step is having that individual conversation in your institution of do you want to do this? Can you get people aligned around this as a mission and the way you’re going to do work?”

Panelists agreed that those conversations need to take place before starting to determine what a standard curriculum might eventually look like. And all agreed now is an important time to get that process started.

“This is a very important responsibility we have as leaders, and also a great opportunity,” said Elizabeth Summy, executive vice president of the American College of Healthcare Executives.