President’s Reflections on 2020

January 14, 2021

January 6, 2021

In thinking about this column, I’ve been reflecting upon the many lessons learned from this past year – a year of loss and challenge and one that tested the resolve of every person I know. 2020 is a year that many of us would like to forget, but if we forget, we fail to appreciate the lessons a year like this brings us.

Here are a few of the lessons our work at HCIF taught us this past year:

1. Our work is about people.

Whether we are working with organizations to improve processes of care or collaborating to find innovative solutions to healthcare challenges, much of our work is based on trusted relationships. We are grateful for the connections people have made this past year in our Partnership for Patient Care programs, which fostered conversations and collaborations about numerous challenges facing the SEPA region’s hospitals and healthsystems. A participant in our Safe Table Program commented, “The Safe Table Program brings a dedicated team together striving for best possible outcomes, implementing evidence based practice, learning from each other and striving to improve care for their individual organizations.”

2. Healthcare has the ability to pivot, and pivot quickly.

For decades, healthcare has been known as the ocean liner too big to turn around.  Yet when it came to providing care in the face of COVID-19, healthcare was able to make immediate adjustments to meet patients where they are.  At HCIF, we quickly adjusted our programs to virtual formats and continued to deliver on our many goals.  For our CDC 1817 Program (heart disease prevention), we planned and hosted four virtual listening sessions in August and September with local community-based organizations to get feedback on community resource referral systems, especially in light of the impact of COVID-19 on their capacity.

3. We will not accept injustice as the norm.

2020 taught us that it is not enough to make statements about injustice. Achieving equity, whether in healthcare, or a society at-large, requires thoughtful reflection, conversation, and ultimately, action. Through our COACH program, we are committed to acknowledging trauma which may have been experienced as a result of structural racism, and the impact it can have on healthcare outcomes. In late spring, we launched an implementation strategy focused on trauma-informed and healing-centered practices for all participating health systems. Initial groundwork to support these health systems has involved providing case-making materials, establishing an Advisory Group of local and national experts, and developing an organizational planning tool. We also learned through our Immigrant Health Literacy Initiative the many barriers to care experienced by immigrants/refugees and identified strategies to overcome these barriers.

4. Quality matters.

Although COVID-19 was a central focus of healthcare news in 2020, quality of care remained the highest priority of our many healthcare partners. HCIF has collaborated with Capital Blue Cross for the past 5 years to support central PA hospitals in Leapfrog survey activities. This year, participating hospitals outperformed the national average in 26 out of 27 outcome measures. Despite the pandemic, program partners were committed to utilizing data for improvement – there was a 24% increase in the number of cases entered into our prostate cancer care (PURC) registry in 2020 and we completed a first-year data collection on custom variables for our opioid surgical stewardship (POSSE) program.

5. People are resilient.

In a year that brought a global pandemic, social unrest, and a hostile political environment, HCIF also experienced a major leadership transition.  My predecessor, Kate Flynn, retired in May after a 12-year tenure with the organization. I joined HCIF the day after George Floyd was killed and have mostly only interacted with the team virtually since I arrived.  The team has gracefully managed this transition, quickly accepting me into the culture and allowing me to find my way.  I am so proud and grateful the team has shown enormous resiliency in overcoming an incredibly difficult year.

Thank you to our partners for your incredible work on the front lines, for caring for the most vulnerable among us, and for continuing to show up each and every day to improve healthcare for all.  We look forward to our continued partnerships in 2021 and applying the lessons learned to all we do. Onward!

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