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Linda Becker, President, NorthStar Network

Linda Becker, Chairman, Rochester General Hospital; President, NorthStar Network

By Linda Becker

Across the U.S. and around the world, businesses, governments and healthcare leaders realize the need to transform healthcare. New legislation and mandates cannot change the culture of a community or the trajectory of care or cost.

Recently I was invited to participate in a panel discussion as part of IBM’s Economic Development and Vitality Symposium in Washington, D.C., to share the dramatic story of how Rochester, N.Y., was able to transform itself in tough economic times through Smarter Care. It is an inspiring story of how to bring disparate groups together in a community to make a real difference for its citizens, and one that I am privileged to have been able to witness firsthand in my roles as Chairman of the Board of Rochester General Hospital and founder of a healthcare event and continuing education company called NorthStar Network.

If we truly want to transform healthcare here in the U.S. – and achieve the Triple Aim of improved outcomes, lower costs, and a better patient experience – it’s going to require people to work together to solve problems in new ways. It’s going to require new levels of business acumen in addition to clinical expertise. In Rochester, we have been able to make real and measurable improvements in the quality, cost and experience of care. For example, Rochester now has the lowest Medicare costs in the nation.

This has been accomplished by convening executives from across all strata – employers, payers, providers, government, education and inspiring their organizations – to collaborate on community projects that meet the unique needs of our residents.

We have convened community leaders nine times in the last three years to inspire them to think differently about health and healthcare. During the most recent “Cracking the Code on Healthcare” event held in June, IBM’s General Manager of Public Sector, Dan Pelino, addressed hundreds of leaders, offering a number of proactive ideas. One that has resonated across the community is the reality that with the massive amount of information available today, the best clinicians will not need to know the answers to every question, but rather, they will need to know what questions to ask.

Using information and information technology has helped to create the common ground and identify key initiatives that can make a difference and move the needle in the right direction.

These efforts have been led by the Rochester Business Alliance Health Care Initiative with representatives including large employers, insurers, healthcare providers, patient advocate groups, and public sector representatives. Here are two examples of what can happen when a community collaborates, crosses boundaries and acts in the interest of the greater good.

The Rochester Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO)

This community-wide health information technology effort focuses on improving the quality of patient care and realizing health system efficiencies by facilitating the sharing of clinical information with patients as they move through the health care system.

Currently over 850,000 patients have given permission for their care providers to view their clinical information through the RHIO. In 2011, the National Health Collaborative recognized the Rochester RHIO as one of the 12 leading health information exchange efforts in the country. The RHIO saves the community more than $4,000,000 annually.

Eat Well. Live Well.

Originally piloted in 2006, the Rochester Business Alliance partnered with regional supermarket leader Wegmans to offer the Eat Well. Live Well. challenge to local employers with the goal of improving the health of the local workforce. In total, more than 200,000 employees from 436 local organizations have participated in at least one challenge over the past six years

Over the years the program has expanded to address the negative impacts of hypertension on population health. At the heart of the program is a registry of nearly 130,000 hypertensive individuals. To our knowledge, this is the largest community-wide wellness program in the world. The program has received national recognition, including a Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Prevention Efforts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Working together is the only way to deliver Smarter Care and increase the business acumen of healthcare professionals. We believe it is the power of human collaboration in the pursuit of a common goal that leads to transformative change.

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