"We've been doing a lot of work on readmissions, but now we realize we have to bring in other relevant providers into the equation to help us," said Joe Valvona, corporate director of operational effectiveness for Catholic Health Partners in Cincinnati, which has about 25 hospitals.
"It's not just that our hospitals can't do it on their own. But we need to get community resources, like skilled nursing facilities, but even some local health centers and I go so far as to say churches and schools ... to look at the populations they serve –any community resource that's out there that is touched by or involved with healthcare is an opportunity to collaborate, even drug stores, pharmacies."
That of course is the opposite idea of what a hospital or physician's role has historically been—a resource for treating people when they get sick enough to need acute help.
Some attendees acknowledged that they face formidable obstacles in persuading their leaders to spend money now to keep the general population in their cities and communities healthy. And many health leaders remain skeptical.
Blair Sadler, former CEO of San Diego Rady Children's Hospital and now an IHI senior fellow, said that about half of healthcare executives are "hanging on to their old revenue streams for as long as possible. But they are like Thelma and Louise, going over the cliff. The other ones have the courage to say we have got to do the right thing, even though in so doing, we'll earn less money, because to not do it is unethical."