Established firms must leverage the benefit of strong relationships with customer “communities” as they innovate to improve value.
While Gottlieb emphasized balancing commitments to care delivery and research in his approach to integration, Nancy M. Schlichting, CEO, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, approached the issue from a different angle, proposing that community obligations are critical to the effectiveness of healthcare delivery. “Healthcare is not a level playing field,” she said, reflecting on the special challenges of coordinating care in an exceptionally difficult environment. “We are a safety net organization: Fifty percent of the population in Detroit is either on Medicaid or uninsured. Poverty levels are very high. Mental illness and substance abuse are very high. Twelve percent of Henry Ford Hospital’s revenues are uncompensated.”
Yet, Schlichting noted that community itself can be part of the solution. “We also have to have much better collaboration with community organizations,” she said. “In Detroit, food, housing, senior services, schools, and churches are also part of our patients’ lives and can be influential in the improvement of the care delivery that we provide.” In Henry Ford’s community context, nonmedical solutions can be as important as or more critical than clinical care in improving overall population health. “We buy microwaves and we install ramps to make homes more accessible as much as we provide medications and other kinds of services,” Schlichting said.