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October 5, 2022

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Stabilizing Hospital Medicine Performance through Effective Clinical Partnerships

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In today’s demanding healthcare landscape, hospital and healthcare system leadership often face growing urgency and pressures to solve critical clinical and operational headwinds. With staffing challenges, throughput barriers, continued complications from the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of effective service line integration – to name but a few – these pressures are burdensome and additive to the existing responsibilities of running effective healthcare facilities. When facing these issues, facilities and systems may consider aligning with a clinical services partner to be an effective and efficient option to ensure outstanding clinical and operational performance.

One such example may be found in the story of a 267-bed facility in central Alabama that partnered with TeamHealth to bring a higher level of hospital medicine service to the community.

Seeking Clinical and Operational Advancements

Before embarking on a partnership, this facility encountered many hurdles common to efficiency, including difficulty in aligning hospitalists with hospital goals and culture. Leadership sought a shift to a performance-based model that prioritized their core goals: quality, safety, efficiency and collaboration. TeamHealth’s nationwide hospitalist program began partnering with the facility in 2021 and, together, the team has since implemented many clinical and operational enhancements that have stabilized departmental performance.

Transitioning the Partnership

With any structural changes to a clinical program, teams will face challenges. While incumbent retention is always a priority when transitioning a partnership, TeamHealth and the facility also understood the necessity of placing the right clinicians and leadership in place to grow the program. As new clinicians came on board and incumbent clinicians continued in the program, the focus shifted from simply staffing the program to implementing innovative solutions to improve performance and meet facility goals.

Placing a Strong Leader

Strong, effective leadership has never been more important. Leveraging a national recruitment platform, as well as a deep bench of internal leaders, TeamHealth identified a hospitalist leader with the needed skills and experience to take ownership of the program and create a culture of collaboration and accountability. Through both formal training and coaching, the hospitalist leader was equipped with the skills and support to create a strong partnership with hospital leaders as well as lead a cultural transformation among the hospitalists that led to improved alignment and engagement.

Achieving Team Accountability

TeamHealth leaders take a data-driven approach focused on achieving measurable results. Partnering with hospital leaders, TeamHealth leaders set tangible goals that were cascaded to the front line. TeamHealth national leaders in performance improvement, including hospitalist physicians and nurses trained in performance improvement, supported the program’s success with both in-person presence and virtual support. Physicians and nurses were engaged in care and process redesign and data and were held accountable to measurable improvements. Hospitalist leadership implemented staffing changes to improve capacity and demand matching. This allowed patients to be seen faster and with fewer delays and resulted in improvements in key metrics, including significant improvements in early discharges.

Accountability measures included increased transparency with non-blind metrics, which help clinicians see areas for improvement and enact necessary adjustments. This accountability was key to building trust and accountability among the team members and standardizing expectations from all clinicians.

Strengthening Collaboration and Communication

Throughout this tailored transition process, TeamHealth maintained open communication with facility leadership through frequent in-person and virtual meetings intended to align goals, measure progress and remove barriers to improvement.

This collaborative approach extended down from leadership to individual team members. With daily touch-points among team members and external departments, the program has shifted to a culture of collaboration and consistency. Hospitalist leaders partnered with nursing, case management and other hospital departments through regular meetings with nursing directors and managers. Hospitalist leaders also meet regularly with key specialists to ensure effective integration. One example of the innovative and collaborative efforts of the team is the use of a single “call phone”, put into place by the facility medical director. The single call phone has greatly improved the collaboration with nursing staff, and it also increases hospitalist experience by streamlining communication.

Sustaining a Successful Partnership

TeamHealth’s expertise in hospital medicine is supported by a team of highly experienced, skilled and knowledgeable leaders supported by advanced data analytics and robust operational resources. Strong hospitalist leadership, a collaborative culture and ample performance improvement support has led to a track record of seamless partnership transitions. Although change is difficult, we consistently hear from our new hospital partners how fortunate they feel to benefit from the increased alignment and performance as a result of their partnership with TeamHealth.

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