Biweekly Briefing Articles

Thoughtful Collaboration Leads to Health Care Solutions

Hospitals are facing extraordinary challenges, so being thoughtful about how we tackle the big issues is more important than ever. The pace of what is coming at us every day is relentless. It’s not easy to have meaningful conversations with the right stakeholders at the right time. To truly take on the big issues we need to slow down and create space for deeper insights. That’s a key takeaway for me after attending the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) Congress late last month in Chicago, where I joined 5,000 health care professionals from around the country to discuss the leadership that’s needed for the challenges ahead.

I was moved by a presentation from Mick Ebeling, a world-renowned innovator who touts the idea that “nothing is impossible.” A big part of Ebeling’s success stems from his ability to convene diverse groups and make space for conversation, creativity, and solutions. I find that inspiring. There are many challenges facing hospitals — financial instability and staffing shortages, the stark rise in homelessness, and behavioral health issues among patients, to name a few — yet solutions are out there. The problem is, on the journey to finding them, we often get caught in fast-moving rapids and make reactive decisions, look for easy answers, or resort to finger-pointing.

Taking time for collaborative conversations makes a difference. We are seeing this approach at work with the delay in implementing Senate Bill 43. The new state law that went into effect this year expands the definition of “gravely disabled” and would have caused significant challenges for emergency departments in our region. By engaging community partners in thoughtful conversation, we achieved a delay until 2025 in San Diego County and 2026 in Imperial County. The time is allowing us to develop innovative ideas, plan more thoroughly, and be better prepared for implementation. Counties that chose to implement in January 2024 are now finding they also could have used more time to prepare.

Similarly, we’re tackling the issue of ambulance patient offload times by convening county emergency medical services, ambulance providers, firefighters, and hospitals across the region. We are taking time to come up with ways to support the intent of Assembly Bill 40, allowing ideas to emerge thoughtfully so we can transport and care for patients in the most appropriate way.

I left this year’s ACHE Congress feeling optimistic with this year’s theme, “Big ideas…make no small plans,” continuing to resonate. It reinforced my belief that we must intentionally create opportunities for collaboration and dialogue. There’s power in bringing together diverse perspectives to tackle complex challenges in environments where ideas — big and small — can flourish. It’s to the benefit of hospitals, our patients, and our communities.