Blog Post
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Health Care’s Problems Too Big to Handle Alone

November 20, 2019

By Sunita Mutha, MD, FACP, Director of Healthforce Center

The challenges facing health care are too big for individuals or individual organizations to handle alone. Solving these problems requires collaboration among payors, plans, foundations, educational institutions, and health care systems in both the safety net and commercial sectors. It requires health care leaders to see themselves as change agents working together toward similar goals.

In my experience, the quote from Stephen Covey, “change happens at the speed of trust,” applies. When groups of people come together on a regular basis, to identify and solve problems, they have the power to have an impact on their staff, their organizations and the field. It starts with curiosity and vulnerability — a willingness to listen and be open to others. We have to create spaces for dialogue that allow new ideas to rise from the group.

This approach has been effective in the 26 years of our organization’s existence, and most recently we’ve seen evidence of its success from evaluations of two of our longest running leadership programs: the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) Health Care Leadership Program and the Clinic Leadership Institute. I am proud to say that alumni of these programs are making change within their organizations and the field:

  • 95% of CHCF Health Care Leadership Program alumni have led or directly influenced change within their organizations
  • 82% of CHCF Health Care Leadership Program alumni have led or directly influenced change in the health care field.
  • 88% of Clinic Leadership Institute alumni said their influence as a leader has improved since their participation in the program
  • 89% of Clinic Leadership Institute alumni said that the program contributed to an increased commitment to the healthcare safety net

Networks of change agents help us move from idea to action.

Another CHCF program, the California Improvement Network (CIN), which Healthforce Center manages, brings together health care leaders from across the state to address some of the most urgent issues in health care today. Within two years, the network enabled a federally qualified health center, Golden Valley Health Centers, to implement a new, full-fledged medication-assisted treatment program. Their organization now has a substance-use disorder treatment program that is integrated into the care system.

CIN has also inspired and shaped multiple programs throughout the state to reduce burnout in the health care workforce, including one at HealthCare Partners, one of the largest and most well-established networks in Southern California. CIN has even shaped the strategic direction of a statewide collaborative, the California Quality Collaborative by shifting their focus from predominantly commercial providers to the safety net.

Change is underfoot in California. With a new governor, a new health czar, a new health and human services secretary, we’re at a turning point with an opportunity to create policies that express our values. As a society, we need to be clear: we’re committed to protecting the health and well-being of people. I think we’re ready to make decisions that are good for the whole and not just for the individual. But, we can only do it together. 

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About Sunita

Sunita Mutha, MD, FACP, is the director of Healthforce Center at UCSF. For over a decade, she has been engaged in transformational leadership in health care with a special focus on emerging leaders and inter-professional training.