Health Collaboratives

Health collaboratives are cooperative partnerships and alliances established within the healthcare industry, involving various healthcare organizations, professionals, and stakeholders. These collaborations are designed to enhance the quality, efficiency, and accessibility of healthcare services. By working together, healthcare collaboratives strive to improve patient care, exchange valuable insights, and collectively address complex healthcare issues.

The health care landscape is constantly evolving, and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest changes and trends. One of the latest emerging trends are health collaboratives to deliver services for our most vulnerable. If you’re looking for a way to better work with your peers and improve patient care, then a health collaborative might be right for you. 

How the health collaborative uses and leverages data will be critical to the overall success. Data is often the glue that holds a collective health care system together and allows for effective population health monitoring. In this blog post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about setting up or joining a health collaborative. We’ll also provide some tips for getting the most out of this type of arrangement. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re already part of a collaborative, read on for information that can help you get the most out of this important partnership.

1. Start With the End in Mind

As with most data initiatives you want to start with the end goal. It is critical to understand what you want to get out of the project. The conversation should start with what problem(s) you are trying to solve. From there the question will evolve into how will data help us solve this problem. 

Taking it further you will want to determine what success looks like, all the way from a macro level to a tactical data level. Your technology partner  will use your end goals to help inform their recommendations.

Key questions:

  • Is this collaboration going to work together to solve a particular problem, and if so, how does data inform the discussion?
  • Do you want to have real-time conversations where data is needed to guide those discussions?
  • How will each member in the collaborative use the data?
  • Will we need to exchange data? If so, why? 
  • Will data need to be pooled together? If so, why?
  • Do we know which gaps in our data need to be addressed to achieve our goals?

2. Determine Data Definitions

One of the biggest challenges a health collaborative faces is agreeing to a common definition of what data means. Even simple data points will need clarification. For example, let’s say you want to collect the first name. Collectively you will want to agree on things like: Are we getting full legal names, are shortened variations allowed, what about nicknames, are we allowing all three? 

This can be a long process and it is okay to not have all the data points clearly defined. It is recommended to have these discussions as early and often as possible as they will be key to the success of the collaborative. Commonly these definitions may need to be altered or further refined as the collaborative grows together. 

Key questions:

  • Have we defined all the data points we are capturing across the collaborative? 
  • Do we need to define them all? 
  • What are the key data points that we need to define to start the project?
  • How much variance is acceptable for each data point?

3. Define Data Ownership

Another important question to ask is; who owns the data? This will be especially important should there be a shift in the collaborative, a change in funding, or if there is a review of the information. 

From a technology perspective data can be shared easily, however, any vendor will be beholden to whoever they have a contract with. This means that where the data goes, who gets the data, and who has access to the data are determined by the data owner. The vendor must comply. 

Key questions:

  • Does the leader of the collaborative need to own the data? 
  • If each provider owns their data, how does that impact the goals of the collaborative? 
  • What happens if there is a shift in the collaborative due to regulations, funding, or environmental changes? 

4. Configure for Flexibility

In most health collaboratives, no two providers do the same thing the same way. That means that flexibility to handle the different data gathering requirements is essential. However, the more flexible you make a system the greater the risk to data integrity. The other consideration is that if your system is too inflexible you may frustrate end users, have overly cumbersome workflows, and potentially end up with people not using the system at all. 

Depending on the goals set above you can set up a collaborative system that is flexible, but also captures common data points across the community. In addition, with advances in data warehousing it has become easier to pull together varied data fields into one collective source of truth. 

Key questions:

  • Do we need to have a centralized assessment tool?
  • Is there a common intake process or will each provider manage their own? 
  • Are care plans / service plans shared among providers? 
  • Does documentation have to be synchronized across the collaborative? 

5. Prioritize Security

This is one of the most important issues to discuss when looking at implementing a collaborative system. HIPAA and other privacy laws are there to protect your clients. This has created a framework where consent is needed to share Protected Health Information (PHI), and all providers have to make sure that their data is secured from outside threats. 

Key questions:

  • Do we need to see individual records or will de-identified data suffice? 
  • Will any data need to be seen collectively? 
  • If we are sharing PHI, do we have the appropriate consents in place? 
  • If we are sharing data do we have the appropriate MOUs in place among the network?
  • Is the data being secured at every provider level?
  • Is the data being secured as it is transmitted? 

6. Form a Data Management Team

For a health collaborative to be a success there must be a team set up to manage the data of both the individual provider and the collaborative overall. Implementing a system is just the first part – leveraging it to achieve the stated goals requires people to monitor and coordinate it. Regular meetings are recommended to facilitate communication, encourage feedback, and align and re-align on the strategic goals of the collaborative. 

Key questions:

  • What roles need to be on the team, and how will they coordinate with providers?
  • Do we have all levels of the health collaborative represented?
  • Are there regular meetings scheduled and what is the optimal cadence? 
  • What happens if data submitted is incomplete or non-existent?

A health collaborative can be an extremely valuable resource for improving population health and reducing costs, but it’s important to start off on the right foot. By keeping the above tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to forming a successful collaborative. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic or need help setting up your own collaborative, don’t hesitate to contact our team. We’d be happy to help!