Loma Linda University Health, Part of Health Systems Learning Group in Washington D.C., Presented Innovative Health Care Delivery in Low-income Populations

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Transforming unmanaged charity care into strategic, sustainable community health improvement.

The adoption of community based interventions that have shown to be effective will significantly improve the value of health services provided by Loma Linda University Health

The Health Systems Learning Group (HSLG), composed of nearly 40 U.S. based health systems, including Loma Linda University Health (LLUH), convened in Washington D.C. on April 4, 2013, to review a collaborative report on best practices and consider a call to action with the mission to improve health in low-income and other vulnerable communities. The formation of the HSLG and the production of an 80-page report were funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant.

A copy of the report can be found here: http://www.methodisthealth.org/files/faith-and-health/HSLGembargoedmonographApril42013.pdf

The HSLG members and select health care system CEO’s and representatives, co-hosted on April 4 by the White House Office and Health and Human Services Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, discussed the 80-page report, which is a culmination of 18 months of sharing best practices that focus on integrating the communities they serve as a critical partner in reducing chronic disease and improving quality of life, while saving money and lowering readmission rates.

Loma Linda University Medical Center-Murrieta’s (LLUMC-M) Chief Executive Officer, Richard Rawson, joined the group for the first time on this trip and was enthusiastic about working with the group and future prospects. “It has been an honor to work side by side with such inspiring, innovative people from some of the most impressive not-for-profit health systems across the country to find new ways to improve the health of the communities we serve,” he said.

“We look forward to finding opportunities to collaborate with our fellow health systems to create a bright future for the rapidly changing healthcare systems and to increase the health and wholeness of our local communities in the process. Whole person care has to be translated into whole community care; and this was an opportunity to connect, collaborate and catalyze the conversation.”

Ruthita Fike, Chief Executive Officer of LLUMC, was excited about the positive outcomes of this trip. “I am especially proud to see the leadership that Loma Linda University Health has provided in this nationwide movement,” she said. “The adoption of community based interventions that have shown to be effective will significantly improve the value of health services provided by Loma Linda University Health.”

The group has met three times over the last 18 months—they met in Washington D.C in September 2011 and in Loma Linda, CA in June 2012. Those in attendance from LLUH at this year’s meeting were Dora Barilla, DrPH, MPH, CHES, director of community health development at Loma Linda University Medical Center (LLUMC); Gerald Winslow, PhD, vice president of spiritual life & wholeness at LLUMC; Timothy Gillespie, DMin, faith and health liaison at LLUMC; Michael Knecht, MDiv, chief experience officer at LLUMC-Murrieta; and Richard Rawson, CEO of LLUMC-Murrieta.

The HSLG report confirms persistent health problems in communities challenged by poverty, poor education, inadequate housing, racism and other factors known as “social determinants of health” that are beyond the ability of any single provider-institution to address, even with expanded funding provided by the federal government. This first-of-a-kind study comes at a critical juncture as U.S. Governors decide whether or not to accept the expansion of Medicaid dollars as part of President Obama’s health care program. Attendees of the HSLG meeting addressed the opportunities that the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) presents to establish more effective population health practices within the social environments from which patients with the most complex health needs come. Key practices that align with the ACA include:

  •     Virtually all the key health systems in HSLG provide for populations in communities with significant health disparities in their geographic regions (e.g., Detroit, Memphis, Chicago). They also promote equity and justice as a key element of their core mission, and are building partnerships with diverse stakeholders to address determinants of health that contribute to disparities in both urban and rural communities.
  •     Key learning sites and partners in the HSLG will offer seminars focusing on areas in which they hold special expertise or are far advanced. For example, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit will offer their Equity Training for all partners, Advocate in Chicago will share lessons learned about building and nurturing robust partnerships with public health, Loma Linda will share their tools and skills in geocoding and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis will share about their work with faith-based networks.

According to HSLG partner Maureen Kersmarki of Adventist Health System in Orlando, Florida, the report affirms the necessity to see the social complexity of patients as an asset, not just a problem; the community as relevant partners, not just needs; and the money needed to address the issues is money already being spent—on less effective charity care.

Acacia Bamberg Salatti, Acting Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the Department of Health and Human Services, said, “In places like Memphis—where Methodist Healthcare has partnered with 500 congregations—the HSLG health systems have proven community scale innovations that lessen health disparities make economic sense, as well. The HSLG report provides evidence-based initiatives that transform unmanaged charity care into strategic, sustainable community health improvement.”

The HSLG members have committed to continue exploring approaches to dissolve the walls between healthcare and health, between hospital and community, and to find true cost savings in the process.

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Briana Pastorino
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