By Keith C. Kosel, PhD, MHSA, MBA, Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation
This question initially brings to mind many possibilities such as connection to the latest 5G cellular service, a new super-fast internet provider, or maybe one of the many new energy suppliers jockeying for market share from traditional utility companies.
While all of these might represent legitimate opportunities to improve one’s community, here we are talking about a different concept; specifically, whether your community is ready to have a Connected Community of Care (CCC) to advance whole person health.
The image of a CCC may seem obvious. After all, we all live in communities where we have some connections between hospitals, physician practices, ambulatory care centers, and pharmacies to name just a few. But here we are talking about a broader sense of connected community that includes not just healthcare organizations, but social service organizations, such as schools and civic organizations and community-based organizations (CBOs) like neighborhood food pantries and temporary housing facilities.
A true CCC links together local healthcare providers along with a wide array of CBOs, faith-based organizations and civic entities to help address those social factors, such as education, income security, food access, and behavioral support networks, which can influence a population’s risk for illness or disease.
Addressing these factors in connection with traditional medical care can reduce disease risk and advance whole person care. Such is the case in Dallas, Texas, where the Dallas CCC information exchange platform has been operating since 2012. Designed to electronically bring together local healthcare systems, clinicians, and ancillary providers with over a hundred CBOs, the Dallas CCC provides a real-time referral and communication platform with a sophisticated care management system designed and built by the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI) and Pieces Technologies, Inc.
Long before this information exchange platform was implemented, the framers of the Dallas CCC came together to consider whether Dallas needed such a network and whether the potential partners in the community were truly ready to make the commitments needed to bring this idea to fruition.
As more and more communities and healthcare provider entities realize the tremendous potential of addressing the social determinants of health by bringing together healthcare entities and CBOs and other social-service organizations, the question of community readiness for a CCC is being asked much more often. But how do you know what the right answer is?
Before looking at the details of how we might answer this, let’s remember that a CCC doesn’t don’t just happen in a vacuum. It requires belief, vision, commitment? and above all? alignment among the key stakeholders. Every CCC that has formed, including the Dallas CCC, begins with a vision for a healthier community and its citizens.
This vision is typically shared by two or more large and influential key community stakeholders, such as a large healthcare system, school district, civic entity, or social- service organization like the United Way or Salvation Army. Leaders from these organizations often initially connect at informal social gatherings and advance the idea of what if?
These informal exchanges soon lead to a more formal meeting where the topic is more fully discussed and each of the participants articulates their vision for a healthier community and what that might look like going forward. This stage in the evolution of a CCC is perhaps the key step in the transformation process, as while all stakeholders will have a vision, achieving alignment among those visions is no small feat.
Many hopeful CCCs never pass this stage, as the stakeholders cannot come to agreement on a common vision that each can support. For the fortunate few, intrinsic organizational differences can be successfully set aside to allow the CCC to move forward.