For many of us working in health care today, population health is community health. As the Affordable Care Act moves our industry from volume to value, we are more focused on improving the health of our own little piece of the population. And while we stand ready to deal with the acute and symptomatic issues associated with health conditions, addressing the social determinants of health involves the entire community —and is not as easily accomplished. In each of our communities, we struggle to impact the environmental, cultural and social factors that, over a lifetime, have a measurable impact on the health of our communities.
No one knows this challenge better than Michael Everett, CEO of Scott Memorial Hospital in Scottsburg. Mike’s community and its current HIV epidemic has been the focus of national news stories since early 2015, resulting in Governor Mike Pence declaring a public health emergency in Scott County. This Executive Order requires the state to coordinate a multi-agency response, providing additional resources and tools to tackle the outbreak.
This epidemic reminds us that while we have little control over many of the social determinants of health, as health care providers we can assume a leadership role in population health by practicing meticulous standard precautions, including hand hygiene, use of personal protective equipment as appropriate and safe injection practices, among others. We can also improve population health by committing to—and participating in—initiatives that prioritize patient safety.
I am proud to be a leader of a hospital who actively participated in IHA’s Indiana Patient Safety Center Partnership for Patients campaign. The passion and goal of the campaign was to make patient care safer by decreasing hospital-acquired conditions by 40 percent and reducing hospital readmissions by 20 percent. As an association, not only did we pass a resolution asking all hospitals in Indiana to adopt a hard-stop policy for early elective deliveries, but we experienced hospitals coming together through patient safety coalitions to address regional safety needs, share best practices and work together on quality improvement projects. This was possible because our hospital leaders set aside competition to focus on their communities, an effort expressed with the rallying cry: “We don’t compete on safety.” By putting the needs of our communities first and focusing on acute episodes of care, we were able to significantly improve population health.
Finally, as we attempt to manage risk and improve the health of our communities, we must be aware of all threats to patient safety, including the emerging threat of cyber attacks on patient data. We manage risk in the health care community through long-tenured, evidence-based methods, but we are all playing catch up with our cyber community risk. We must realize cybersecurity is not a technology issue, but an organization-wide issue that we all must address. These bugs can have just as a devastating an impact on our patients and our communities as the bugs we examine under a microscope.
By continuing to collaborate, share information and set a higher standard for patient safety, IHA and its members can continue to lead the way in population health.
President and CEO
Clark Memorial Hospital