We can only move upstream if we go together. That’s a truth I often repeat as I work with Upstreamists who are paddling against the current to transform care in their communities. Lately I’m seeing the evidence of it more clearly than ever — in the form of the learning collaboratives that HealthBegins supports across the country.
Learning collaboratives are more than just groups of colleagues conversing with each other as they do parallel work. At their best, they’re organized, goal-oriented support networks of trailblazers who drive measurable improvements by sharing insights, tools, and encouragement exactly when needed. And they’re a crucial, growing piece of the movement for upstream care.
At HealthBegins, we’ve found that there are certain practices that make collaboratives more or less effective — which we’ll detail in our webinar next week.
One factor that often gets overlooked: place. In the past, health care has organized learning collaboratives by disease, patient population, or other categories. But I’ve come to believe that great power lies in place-based, goal-driven learning collaboratives, where hospitals and community partners that share regional upstream goals work side by side to achieve them. I believe we’ll see even more of these upstream learning collaboratives in the future.
So it was much to my delight that I recently met one devotee of learning collaboratives in not one but two groups.
I met Dee Warrington first in Richmond, Virginia, where she was participating in a statewide (place-based!) upstream learning collaborative that HealthBegins recently launched with the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. I ran into her again the very next week in Baltimore, at a meeting of organizations in the federal CMS Accountable Health Communities model, which we also support through technical assistance and trainings.
“For me, there’s really no better way to address specific areas and start to move the transformation upstream than through a collaborative,” said Dee, who oversees government programs at Ballad Health, an integrated health system spanning northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia.
Dee has already benefited from the collaboratives in tangible ways. Once, her peers’ support gave her the confidence to raise concerns about the wording of patient screening questions that Ballad Health was considering. Other times, she has felt free to call up colleagues from Rocky Mountain Health and elsewhere to bounce ideas around.
So far there’s been no problem building trust between institutions and even sharing information about failures, Dee said. Why? “We’re all thirsty. We are all thirsty for those lessons learned.”
As HealthBegins continues to build and nourish learning collaboratives across the country, we’re excited to chronicle what works and what doesn’t — and to share that learning with you. We’d also enjoy hearing from you. If you have ideas on best practices, please tell us.
Also, a reminder: A number of you wrote us to voice your excitement last month when we announced our goal to build an armada of Upstreamists by training 25,000 of them in the next two years. If you’d still like to participate in achieving that goal together, please let us know!
Lastly, I want to close with an acknowledgment of the tremendous contributions of Kaiser Permanente CEO Bernard Tyson, who passed away earlier this month. He led Kaiser to adopt an approach to care that serves as a national model — and then pushed the organization to reimagine care again in order to address community conditions such as housing and food insecurity. We at HealthBegins send our condolences to those who worked closely with him. And just as his bold leadership will be missed, we Upstreamists must recommit to keep that vision alive.