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The power of hospital community buy-in

January 29th, 2013

by Raymond Hino

Are there big changes on the horizon for your organization in 2013? As healthcare leaders we all know that to influence positive change we need to obtain buy-in from each of those constituency groups that will be affected.

Who does that include?

How about our employees, medical staff, volunteers, boards and, of course, the community that we serve?

Recently, I was talking to a former board member who remains very dedicated to our institution about the major changes it will be going through in the next 12 months. Among other things, our institution will be completing a major building project and installing a new health information system, including a Meaningful Use compliant electronic medical record.

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The former board member suggested the board of directors' buy-in is the key to success or failure.

He wisely pointed out that CEOs who exclude the board of directors from major decisions set themselves up to "take all of the heat" if a project does not go as planned. On the other hand, if the board is involved in the decision, then they become vested and share in the outcome, good or bad.

His astute observation reminded me that the same is true in working with the communities we serve. That is why I have long been an advocate of keeping our customers in our local community as actively involved in hospital decision making as possible.

One of the best ways to achieve community buy-in is through the creation of a citizens advisory committee (CAC).

To form an effective CAC, hospital leaders must select the right members. The first requirement is genuine interest in helping our hospital improve. I will accept anyone on my CAC that is interested in what is happening at our hospital and is willing to put forth the effort to make a difference for our patients.

I also prefer and encourage diversification for the committee members. Representation on the CAC may include geographic (some of my advisory committee members drive from as far away as two hours away to attend this meeting), ethnicity, major employer groups, church groups and other constituency groups.

Moreover, I think of committee meetings as belonging to the members, not to me. While I participate each month with a report on what is happening at our hospital, along with a report of our goals for the future, they set the agenda.

I have found this approach really works for hospitals that are trying to engage their communities. I have found it successful for gaining support for tax measures, hospital changes and in explaining the hospital position on rumors in the community. I believe you will have equal success at your institutions

Raymond Hino, MPA, FACHE is vice president of Healthcare Advisory Services, Inc and a board member of the Health Research & Education Trust. Previously, he served as Chief Executive Officer of Mendocino Coast District Hospital in Fort Bragg, California.

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