Performance improvement teams are an integral part of how hospitals are incorporating collaboration for the clinical future. Some hospital teams look into how they can better handle specific medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure or diabetes. Or, they focus on particular processes within their facility, such as a specialized physician team on readmissions.
The 187-licensed-bed Portneuf Medical Center, in Pocatello, Idaho, also has what it calls a physician roundtable that advises and is involved in day-to-day administrative and clinical concerns. In one instance, the group acted as an intermediary regarding an issue brought up by an emergency department physician about what he termed a "broken referral process" from critical-access hospitals, where a physician was not following up with referral sources in a timely manner. This operational issue was discussed by the roundtable, and ultimately addressed by the physician's practice manager, says Norman Stephens, president and CEO.
Sometimes, the results of physician team collaborations set the stage for new opportunities. For instance, Seton Medical Center Harker Heights has established a roundtable that CEO Matt Maxfield, FACHE, says was especially needed to coordinate independent physician groups when the hospital system built a new $100 million, 83-staffed-bed hospital in the central Texas area of Harker Heights, which held a grand opening last month. The physician advisory group was pivotal for reviewing and making suggestions for the new hospital, developing medical staff bylaws, and approving a physician recruitment plan.
The Seton Healthcare Family, which includes five medical centers and is a member of Ascension Health, is affiliated with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Seton had a joint venture with LHP Hospital Group Inc. to build the new hospital. The joint venture's governing board includes representatives from LHP—a Plano, Texas–based company that owns, operates, and manages acute care hospitals through joint ventures—and Seton, as well as a board of trustees composed of physicians and community members.
The physician roundtable meets monthly to discuss any areas of concern involving physicians and administrative staff. "You have a representative of each house of medicine. It was truly by design that we were trying to get the representation of all different departments and primary care representation as well," Maxfield says. The multispecialty groups included physicians from Austin Heart and King's Daughters Clinic, medical groups in Texas whose doctors were closely involved in planning for the new hospital. The groups focused on service and culture, as well as clinical development and operational issues.
"It's a team collaborative effort, with complete transparency over the last two years," says Charles R. Day, MD, chief of staff at Seton Medical Center Harker Heights. "It's fair to say the local physician team has been quickly integrated into the management culture. The organizational structure encouraged physicians, who played a role in building this hospital and had a say about moving the dirt to what kind of MRIs to buy."
Seton Medical Center Harker Heights set the stage for collaboration before ground broke, and it plans to sustain that culture now that doors are opening. "We have had a physician team through the development of this hospital, the design, and my hope that it continues that way," says Maxfield.
This article appears in the July 2012 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.