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Equalizing Health System / Community Group Asymmetry (01:46)

The best partnerships exist between equals. Given the asymmetry between large health care systems and community groups, how can health care leaders bring in the voice of the community group as an equal partner?

Work with other partners who do it well, such as your local health department, says Joneigh Khaldun, adding that “just coming together, holding hands, going together to the community, is helpful.”

For example, the Detroit Health Department is working with the city’s hospitals on their community health needs assessments. The health department, already engaging the community in various ways while working on their own community health assessment, suggested working together with the hospitals. “Why don’t we all go together and engage the community?”

“You can partner with folks who you may think are doing a better job, and that’s okay,” say Khaldun.

Another way to equalize that partnership is with health system boards and advisory groups, says John Ayanian, “bringing community members, community leaders into that process so that it’s not just an occasional consultation, but that a number of them are at the table, speaking to the needs of the community when the health system is making its decisions about where to allocate resources, where to develop programs.”

Michael Englesbe adds that when the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) started offering grants, one of their requirements was to have patients at the table when drafting grant proposals. “When I wrote my first one, I thought that was crazy,” says Englesbe. “And now it’s an expectation. Slowly we’re learning about how important that boots-on-the-ground voice is.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Essentials of High-Performing Organizations, held at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, July 25, 2018.

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