UnitedHealthcare and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center (Connecticut Children’s) announced the results of an innovative three-year partnership to identify ways to create a more connected healthcare experience for children, families, and communities throughout Connecticut to improve health outcomes.
Innovation Destination Hartford discussed the relevancy of innovation in the healthcare industry and the importance of collaboration with key players involved in the UnitedHealthcare and Connecticut Children’s partnership:
- Paul Dworkin, Executive Vice President for Community Child Health at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center
- Donna O’Shea, National Senior Medical Director for Population Health Management at UnitedHealthcare
- Jacquelyn Rose, Manager of Connecticut Children’s Advancing Kids Innovation Program
INNOVATION DESTINATION HARTFORD: What does innovation mean to each of you and how does it factor into the work you do?
DONNA O’SHEA: At UnitedHealthcare, we pride ourselves on innovation and being forward-thinking in strategy. To us, innovation is less about what’s the latest and greatest and more about making things better. And when we talk about the healthcare experience, we know there’s a lot of opportunity for improvement.
UnitedHealthcare hosts innovation fairs and we encourage innovation in our employees—even ideas for simple things. It makes a big difference in the processes and can make a big difference in the healthcare system or in the patient being able to get what they need.
All of this leads us to how we need to recognize and work more closely with our provider groups, hospitals, and communities because the healthcare of an individual is bigger than just us. So how do we innovate to make getting what you need simpler?
PAUL DWORKIN: I often describe our work at Connecticut Children’s over many decades as the relentless pursuit of the answer to the question: How do we best strengthen child health services to promote children’s optimal healthy development?
Few programs or services are proven by research to enable us to achieve the outcomes we’re seeking, so we must rely instead on a combination of limited research evidence, expert opinion, and good intentions. We recognize that to answer the above question, we need new ways of doing things. We need new processes. We need new tools. We need new measures and metrics. And the only way we’re going to achieve this is through innovation.
We need innovative approaches. We need innovative methods. And we need innovative measures. Five years ago, when we formed the Office for Community Child Health, we recognized the imperative to include encouraging innovation in response to critical contemporary issues as one of the three major goals for the office.
That focus is what led us to the opportunity to partner with UnitedHealthcare and has made this partnership so exciting.
IDH: Tell us about some of the benefits of the partnership.
PAUL DWORKIN: There have been many benefits of the partnership, including generous funding which has enabled us to build out our infrastructure and support select community-oriented programs.
But I would say above and beyond has been the opportunity to encourage and support innovators, promote innovation in response to critical contemporary issues, and learn from the long history of innovation and the processes that UnitedHealthcare has implemented.
We obviously needed support and assistance in creating an infrastructure to support the main goals of the Office for Community Child Health:
- Provide technical assistance and help improve the effectiveness and the impact of our programs.
- Bring these community-oriented programs together, because we saw a lot of opportunity in terms of synergy, collaboration, and partnering.
- Build an infrastructure in which innovators with good ideas about critical contemporary issues can work with us to vet and pilot test their ideas, and bring the innovation to scale to create an impact—whether that’s locally, statewide, or even nationally.
UnitedHealthcare was willing to help support programs developed by the Office for Community Child Health that are in line with their goals.
One example is Educating Practices in the Community (EPIC), our program for bringing continuing medical education to healthcare providers, which we do in concert with the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut (CHDI).
Another example is the Maintenance of Certification program, which enables providers to meet their requirements for licensure and certification. That’s done through our Practice Quality Improvement initiative, which has also been supported by UnitedHealthcare.
We also used UnitedHealthcare dollars to create Jacquelyn’s position and recruit her to lead our innovation effort called the Advancing Kids Innovation Program.
IDH: Jacquelyn, do you want to talk a little bit about the work you’re doing?
JACQUELYN ROSE: Sure. I started in September of 2016. Prior to that, Dr. Dworkin and Scott Orsey, Senior Director of Operations and Strategy at the Office for Community Child Health, like to say they hung their innovation shingle and kind of expected the innovators to come. There was some engagement and some consultations were offered, but they recognized that to have the type of impact they wanted, the Office needed someone to manage the day-to-day operations and really build out the design and infrastructure for the program. That’s when they brought me on.
Like Dr. Dworkin mentioned, I manage the Advancing Kids Innovation Program. The mission is to partner with individuals and organizations developing and implementing innovative strategies to promote children’s optimal healthy development, strengthen families, and support communities. We recognize that children are part of many systems, and to best support them, you need to support all the systems with which they are connected.
We focus on three core components: Outreach and engagement, consultation and support, and data collection and analysis.
A lot of different support programs are available for businesses in Connecticut, but there’s not necessarily the same support programs for government or nonprofit organizations. So, we don’t discriminate based on that. If the innovator can frame what they’re doing as somehow promoting children’s optimal healthy development, we can have a conversation and identify some next steps.
One of the primary services the Advancing Kids Innovation Program has offered to date is called a Community Health Innovation Check-Up (CHICU). Over the past two years, we have done about 25 CHICUs. They are essentially a consultation session between an innovator and representatives from the Office with background and experience in program design, planning, implementation, evaluation, sustainability, and dissemination.
The piece I’m building out right now is around technical assistance, trying to determine how we partner with those innovators to implement the recommendations we provide.
IDH: What types of innovators take part in these consultations?
JACQUELYN ROSE: We’re interested in “social innovation,” so innovation designed to meet a social need or create social good. With that framework, it could really be anyone who has a good idea that can improve people’s living conditions.
I’m also involved with place-based initiatives, which is unique. It gives me the opportunity expand the types of organizations with whom we partner and help other organizations understand they have a role in promoting children’s optimal healthy development. We can come together collectively to improve many different things.
IDH: Dr. O’Shea, from your perspective, what are some of the benefits of the partnership?
DONNA O’SHEA: The Office for Community Child Health goals really dovetail with what we want to do—and what we need to do in Connecticut. As healthcare is moving away from a silo system, we are recognizing the need for more care coordination and management.
It made sense to find a partner that had the same kind of vision to help us answer: How do we connect things for our members and patients throughout Connecticut? And how do we set up a system to help them get what they need? As a big, national company, that’s difficult to communicate without having a partner with that same kind of vision.
So that part was an excellent fit for us, as well as this innovation piece. With any type of innovation, you need to get ideas from outside people and see what fits.
It’s been beneficial having a community partner that is part of a hospital system and has a connection to national community-type programs and children’s programs. It made sense to partner with this type of an organization rather than trying to recreate something and waste resources when the expertise was sitting right here.
PAUL DWORKIN: The business model is changing, and we are all evolving to a “population health model.” The belief that we are moving in that direction provides a very strong impetus for us to partner and do this together as effectively as possible.
So, there is a strong business reason for us to partner in that both payers and providers will ultimately thrive from a business sense if we keep our population healthy. And, the only way we are going to be able to do that is through designing and implementing helpful, successful innovations.
DONNA O’SHEA: I was thinking as you were talking Paul, in some ways that’s the “big I” in innovation. We’ve been talking mostly about the “little i’s”—projects that build up to the “big I.” And the “big I” is that the healthcare system is changing. We can’t sustain a fee-for-service environment anymore. We need to figure out a way to manage the population’s health, so we can have a much healthier population than we do.
The “big I” in innovation must change to make that work. Part of what must happen is we need to work better together. We need collaboration between the health plan and the hospitals, the community services, and the providers. We need to improve the provider program and then we need to coordinate with the community to provide that back up support and care coordination that patients need to lead up to the “big I” of population health management and value-based care.
PAUL DWORKIN: The types of innovation with which we are engaged include social innovation, which is different than traditional biotech innovation—which is also critically important. It’s not an either or, but it’s a very different process and requires very different strategies.
DONNA O’SHEA: As a national company, UnitedHealthcare needs to try new, innovative things. This partnership sets the stage to then say: This worked here. Dr. Dworkin is already doing that with many Connecticut Children’s initiatives, but we want to continue to promote those innovations beyond the success in Hartford and bring it to other communities that need it.
Interested in learning more about innovation efforts from the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center?
>> Read our feature story Connecticut Children’s Medical Center: Enhancing Innovation in CT
About Connecticut Children’s Medical Center
Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is a not-for-profit organization that serves as the primary pediatric teaching hospital for the UConn School of Medicine. Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health is a national leader in community-based prevention and wellness programs. Learn more at www.connecticutchildrens.org or follow on Facebook, Twitter @ctchildrens and @advancingkids, and Instagram @ctchildrensmedct.
UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. Learn more at uhc.com or follow on Facebook, Twitter @myUHC, and Instagram @unitedhealthcare.